05/25/2015 10:07AM

Fornatale: Moomey scores first-round knockout

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He's back, and he's not giving up his National Handicapping Championship Tour crown without a fight. Eric Moomey won the NHCQualify.com contest on Saturday, vaulting himself toward the top of the leaderboard. A full accounting of who is where on the leaderboard will be available later this week.

Going into the weekend, Moomey was sixth on the NHC Tour. He'd already claimed an online tour win, earned another third-place finish on NHCQualify.com, and gotten an all-important second-place finish in an onsite event at Treasure Island in Las Vegas over Kentucky Derby weekend. In fact, if not for some shrewd play by former NHC champ Rich Goodall at Treasure Island, Moomey surely would be sitting atop the tour standings right now.

Last year at this time, Moomey hadn't done anything significant on the tour. He won Belmont's onsite event in June and went on to take the tour. He's surely in a great spot now, having weathered the early challenges of players like the current tour top four of Ryan Flanders, Jonathon Kinchen, John Nichols, and Roger Cettina.

In Saturday’s contest, Moomey backed four winners, including a cap horse in the first leg, Frazil in Belmont's fifth race. Frazil paid $80.50 on the tote board, but his price was limited to $42 on the win end for contest purposes. He also had two other place horses, and that money would come into play late.

In mythical-money contests, longshots early are worth more than longshots late – especially cap longshots like Frazil. Later on, plenty of people will play a horse like Frazil simply because they are far down on the leaderboard and need the points a bomb will provide. But to play a horse like Frazil in the first leg of a contest, you either need to genuinely like the horse or simply understand the strategic advantage of playing such a runner. Moomey is as aggressive as they come, and he had a huge edge right away, essentially turning a 222-player contest into a five-player contest right out of the gate.

He backed anther price, Fake Dreams ($41.80) in Monmouth's ninth and showed his keen understanding of tour strategy by going for the outright win – and the 25 percent points bonus that goes with it – by hitting a chalky late double with Red Vine ($3.80) in Monmouth's 11th and Go West Marie ($3.40) in Santa Anita's sixth.

Moomey wasn't the only top 10 tour player to score in Saturday's contest. Robert Crowe, fifth on the tour as of last week, and Anthony Kite, seventh, also delivered strong efforts.

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Crowe earned his second NHC qualification by finishing second to Moomey, and Kite, already double qualified, ended up improving his tour standing with his sixth-place finish. Crowe also qualified for Santa Anita's $5,000 buy-in live-bankroll contest at the end of June on DRFQualify.com. Both Crowe and Kite are in strong positions going forward. The top five players on the tour as of July 31 each earn a $10,000 prize, and Crowe and Kite are certainly in the mix for that and could contend for the tour championship with a win or two somewhere along the line.

Also winning their way into the NHC on Saturday were former trainer Eric Boyd and veteran contest player Cheryl McIntyre. Boyd had all the same winners as Moomey but no additional place points.  McIntyre looked in trouble early after missing Frazil but kept grinding and ended up backing six winners, including Fake Dreams and the chalky late double.

Saturday, NHCQualify.com
1. Eric Moomey, $148.60
2. Robert Crowe, 140.80
3. Eric Boyd, 133.60
4. Cheryl McIntyre, 127.80
5. Dane Moore, 120.80
6. Anthony Kite, 100.20
Crowe, Boyd, and McIntyre win seats to the NHC, plus a $500 travel voucher.

Saturday, DRFQualify.com
1. Robert Crowe, $156.60
Crowe wins a $5,000 seat to the June 27-28 Santa Anita Gold Cup Betting Challenge, plus a $500 travel allowance.

Sunday, BCQualify.com
1. Carl Rasak, $147.80
2. James Metzger, 117.40
3. Chad Schexnayder, 116.70
4. George Chute, 115
5. Allen Harberg, 110
6. Alexander Zito, 109.50
7. Eugene Cahalan, 108.60
8. Alan Klanfer, 108.50
9. Gary Johnson, 108.50
10. Amy Brantley, 107
11. Eric Boyd, 104
12. Bill Downes, 102.60
13. Bill Zvara, 101.20
14. Todd Stark, 101.20
15. Gunther Blankenship, 100.80
16. John Fisher, 99.20
17. Donald Healy, 99.10
18. Amy Brantley, 98.50
19. Sergio Ramirez, 97.60
20. David Bajorek, 97.40
21. David Basler, 97.40
22. Stephen Thompson, 97.40
23. Sally Goodall, 96.30

Sunday, DRFQualify.com
1. John Farrar, $123.90
2. Gary Johnson, 121.70
Both win $3,000 seats for the Sept. 19 Gulfstream Park live-bankroll contest, plus $500 in travel money.