04/24/2014 10:59AM

Fornatale: No Derby, no problem on a busy weekend for contest players


There are fewer high-quality races this weekend than usual – a function of the racing calendar with so much activity slated for next weekend at Churchill Downs and elsewhere in conjunction with the Kentucky Derby. But in a sense, that makes this the perfect weekend to play in a contest, especially if you’re a new player looking to get his or her feet wet in the tournament world. That’s because from a contest player's point of view, the quality of the racing matters less than competitiveness of the fields and the thrill of competing directly against each other.

The races for the NHCQualify contest on April 26 have been announced:

4:17    Tampa Bay 8
4:26    Aqueduct 7
4:57    Aqueduct 8
5:20    Tampa Bay 10
5:28    Aqueduct 9
5:30    Santa Anita 4
6:00    Santa Anita 5
6:18    Hawthorne 8
6:30    Santa Anita 6
6:48    Hawthorne 9
7:00    Santa Anita 7
7:18    Hawthorne 10

As is usual on NHCQualify, contestants must place one $2 win-place bet in each of the 12 mandatory races listed above. Qualifiers typically put up scores around 2.5 times their initial bankrolls, though those numbers can skew higher or lower depending on a number of factors, including field size and the specific run of the races that day.

Entries cost $165 with a maximum of two entries per player. The top finishers secure entry into the National Handicapping Championship, to be held in January 2015 at the Treasure Island in Las Vegas. Winners also receive a four-night night stay at the Treasure Island and a $500 travel voucher. For Saturday’s contest, four seats NHC seats are guaranteed to be in the prize pool, and that number could increase to six based on participation.

Contestants must have a current NHC Tour membership to play. The $50 fee is payable to the NTRA at www.ntra.com/en/nhc/become-a-member.

The top 10 perent of finishers on Saturday – and in all NHCQualify contests – will receive NHC Tour Points. Here’s a look at the current NHC Tour leaderboard:

1 Brett Wiener 9239*
2 Bill Wilbur 8749*
3 William Shurman 8410*
4 Sally Goodall 8241*
5 Dan Flanigan 7519*
6 Wayne A. Collier 7380*
7 David Snyder 6668*
8 Stephen Diaz 6598
9 Christopher Larmey 6582
10 Jim Meeks 6456*

* indicates that player has already qualified for the finals

NHC Tour participation this season is way up over last year. So far this season there are 3,165 tour members. Last year at the same time the number was 1,610. That’s an increase of an amazing 96.6 percent and it demonstrates the explosive growth that's happening in tournaments across the industry.

:: Click here to purchase a copy of “The Winning Contest Player” by Peter Thomas Fornatale

In other contest news this weekend, BCQualify.com will be running a one-day event on Sunday, April 27, using the same format as Saturday’s NHCQualify contest. Entries are $190 each and up to four full Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge spots will be awarded, based on participation, with a guarantee of two BCBC spots. Qualifiers also receive a $500 travel allowance. The Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge is the premier live-bankroll handicapping contest in the world, a counterpart to the NHC for players who prefer the live-bankroll format.

Over at PublicHandicapper.com, the PublicHandicapper Prep contest wraps up this weekend. Here is the current leaderboard, with four races left to play (numbers in parentheses represent wins/races played):

1 S Tanwongprasert (10/46)  $163.20 
2 Groveland Horses (10/47)  $161.20 
3 mpierson  (13/48)  $152.00 
4 rocco    (9/48)  $138.80 
5 gerry cigar  (15/48)  $137.00 
6 mattglass78  (10/48)  $135.00 
7 gcp123   (9/48)  $134.00 
8 Hipp   (9/48)  $134.00 
9 pickerz1226  (9/48)  $134.00 
10 g-bird   (10/33)  $133.60

Players can already sign up for the biggest of PublicHandicapper’s contests, The Public Handicapper Challenge, which starts next weekend. As always, entry into the Public Handicapper Challenge is free and you can win entry into the NHC. For more about the Public Handicapper Challenge, check back in this space next week or go to PublicHandicapper.com.