06/01/2015 11:15AM

Fornatale: McMahan makes his winners count


Eight players won their $10,000 entry fees to the Breeders' Cup Betting Challenge on Sunday on BCQualify.com.

The field was topped by Kenneth McMahan. McMahan, whose wife Jeannie King is also an accomplished tournament player, backed just three winners in the 12-race sequence but he made them count: Hammers Terror ($15.20) in Churchill's eighth, Ganesh ($32.80) in Gulfstream's eighth, and Captain Moss ($18.40) in Belmont's ninth.

The National Handicapping Championship tour winner from last year, Eric Moomey, continued his impressive run, finishing fifth overall. Moomey took full advantage of the fact that the two-stage qualifying format that BCQualify.com used this month means players have to finish in the top 10 percent as opposed to the more typical top 2 percent needed in online contests.

"I wasn't able to find too many viable longshots on the card," he said, "so I just stuck with solid mid-priced contenders. It worked out perfectly.  You just have to take what is offered."

This year's Breeders' Cup Betting Challenge could be critical in determining who wins this year's NHC tour, a fact that is surely not lost on Moomey. He too backed three winners in all: Echale Salsita ($22.80) in Monmouth's ninth, Amarachi ($16.40) in Churchill's 10th, and Captain Moss.

Another well-known name to advance to the BCBC on Sunday was 2011 National Handicapping Championship winner John Doyle. The former IBM executive relied heavily on a proprietary software platform he has been developing to make his selections. He went into the last two races, both at Santa Anita, needing a few points to secure qualification.

"The favorites were logical, so I was close enough in the standings where I thought I could play a solid alternative to the favorite and if one wins and the favorite wins the other race I have a chance," he said. "I probably should have just played both favorites, but thought each was a little too short. My alternatives were offering better value. I got lucky when both my choices ran second and the favorites won. It was barley enough to capture the last qualifying spot."

Doyle might have gotten a little lucky -- but sometimes, to paraphrase Lefty Gomez, it's better to be lucky than good. The best contest players know that you have to be lucky and good.

Also qualifying on Sarday were David Bajorek, who won a seat to the to the September 19 Gulfstream contest on DRFQualify.com as well, John Kolodzej, Allen Harberg, James Metzger, and Robert Felty.

Three earn NHC seats

On Saturday on NHCQualify.com, three players earned seats for the National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas, to be held at Treasure Island in January. The field of 233 players was topped by James Nace with a score of $116.80, 2.4 times the intital bankroll of $48 in the 12-race, all-mandatory, $2 win-place contest.

Nace backed four winners, the two longest prices being Desert Dynamo (limited to $42 to win for the contest) in Santa Anita's sixth and Force the Pass ($20) in the anchor leg, the Grade 3 Penn Mile from Penn National. That winner vaulted Nace's score up $28 and into the top spot overall.

Joining Nace in Vegas will be Todd Stark, whose contest on Saturday was a tale of two halves. He was blanked in the first six races and had quite a mountain to climb at that point. He picked up place points in the seventh leg, then got back into things in a hurry with Desert Dynamo. From there, he also collected in the next four races, including catching the last two winners, Catch a Flight in the Grade 2 Californian at Santa Anita and Force the Pass.

The third qualifier from Saturday was Lee Geraghty. She had seven collections overall including Desert Dynamo. This will be the ninth year in a row Geraghty has won her way into the NHC -- an impressive achievement to say the least. She has an impressive tournament resume overall, including a third at the Fall Classic at the Orleans, where she won $49,000.

Saturday NHCQualify.com

Rank      Name    Total

1              James Nace        $116.80

2              Todd Stark          107.20

3              Lee Geraghty     105.60

All three win seats to the National Handicapping Championship, plus a four-night hotel stay and a $500 travel allowance.

Saturday DRF Qualify.com

Rank      Name    Total

1              John Fisher         $107.20

Fisher wins a $5,000 entry to the Gold Cup Betting Challenge at Santa Anita at the end of June, plus a $500 travel allowance.


Sunday NHCQualify.com

Rank      Name    Total

1              Kenneth McMahan         $97.10

2              David Bajorek    84.90

3              John Kolodzej    84.80

4              Allen Harberg    84.70

5              Eric Moomey     83.10

6              James Metzger 80.70

7              Robert Felty       79.80

8              John Doyle          75

All eight win their full $10,000 BCBC seats, plus a $500 travel allowance

Sunday DRFQualify.com

Rank      Name    Total

1              Philip Ciprello     $96.50

2              David Bajorek 91.50

Both win seats to the $3,000 September 19 Gulfstream Park live-bankroll contest, plus a travel allowance of $500.