07/20/2015 10:48AM

Fornatale: Marlaire proves his all-star status

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It was a big week for 61-year old contest player Michael Marlaire. Early in the week, he was named to the NTRA's NHC Tour All-Star team on the strength of his four top 10 Tour finishes in the first half of 2015. On Sunday, he went one better, earning his fifth top 10 finish by winning outright on  NHCQualify.com.

To sweeten the deal further, Marlaire, Director of the NASA Research Park at NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, also earned a $10,000 Breeders' Cup Betting Challenge seat in the process. The result was perfect for Marlaire, who had already earned two NHC spots and was just playing for more Tour points and the BCBC spot.

Marlaire picked seven winners in the 12-race sequence, at one point hitting three of four with double-digit winners:  Cali Thirty Seven ($10.20) in Monmouth's ninth, Fusaichi Red ($12.20) in Monmouth's 10th, and All About Ashley ($16.80) in Belmont's ninth. In the last race Marlaire blocked second-place finisher Dana Reiss by selecting War Destiny ($8.40) in Del Mar's fourth.

Reiss won't be complaining too much about getting blocked for the outright win as he still gets a sizable reward for second. He played in his first National Handicapping Championship in 2015 and appropriately enough, the horse who propelled him to qualify this weekend was Been Here Before ($20.60) in Monmouth's eighth race. He also had All About Ashley -- the second-longest price in the sequence -- among his five winners.

John Agnello and Matthew Ache also won seats to Las Vegas and were very deserving. The top four were $10 clear of fifth in the full 271-player field.

Bombs away in BCQualify

On Saturday, BCQualify.com sent two players to the BCBC in a tournament that featured higher-than-usual scores as a result of a sequence where eight of the 12 races had double-digit winners. The overall winner was Derek Dickson.

Dickson's path to victory underlined the idea that you should never give up in a contest until it becomes mathematically impossible for you to win. He was pretty much buried heading into the eighth contest race when he managed to reel off five straight winners in a row, including Hatta's Appeal ($19.20) in Belmont's 10th.

The temptation from there for a lot of players would have been to try to get back to the top in one fell swoop, with a cap horse, but DIckson chipped away. After connecting at 3-1, 4-1, 9-2, and 5-2, he was heading to the BCBC.

John Downie took a very different approach. He hit with prices early, including Heaven's Runway ($22.60) in Delaware's eighth and Capital Fellow ($22) in Delaware's ninth. He found himself out of the money heading to the last but got there with place points on a bomb, 27-1 shout Catalina Bonita, who paid $19.60 to place even with the favorite winning.

Saturday NHCQualify.com

Rank Name Score
1 Michael Marlaire $105.90
2 Dana Reiss $98.60
3 John Agnello $93.60
4 Matthew Ache $93.20

Marlaire wins a BCBC seat and an NHC seat. Reiss, Agnello, and Ache win NHC seats.

Saturday DRFQualify.com

1 Donald Healy $103.50

Healy wins a $3,000 seat to the Sept. 19 Gulfstream Park live-bankroll contest, along with $500 in travel expenses.

Sunday BCQualify.com

Rank Name Score
1 Derek Dickson $134.80
2 John Downie $126.10

Sunday DRFQualify.com

1 Chris Larmey $88.20

Larmey wins a $3,000 seat to the Sept. 19 Gulfstream Park live-bankroll contest, along with $500 in travel expenses.