02/29/2016 12:25PM

Fornatale: Pedigree play lifts Costello

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Saturday’s NHCQualify.com contest started with a bang when Faufiler took to the Sand Springs at Gulfstream, paying $27.80. Three of the four players who eventually qualified for berths in next January’s National Handicapping Championship backed the Flaxman Holdings-owned filly: Kevin Costello ($134.60), Craig Hom ($105.20), and Ruben Mendez ($98.80). The fourth qualifier, George Chute who ran second overall, managed to accrue $123.20 without the head start. He backed an impressive eight winners in the 12-race sequence, including the last four winners cold.

But the day belonged to Costello, a 47-year old vice president of sales who has been a racing fan since 1990. As a pedigree-oriented player, he had no choice but to play Faufiler. “Having a Six Perfections offspring in a one-mile turf race at 12-1 is a gift from dear God,” he explained, referring to the mare who won the 2013 Breeders' Cup Mile. “I felt Faufiler was better than her two prior U.S. starts suggested, and felt as a closer, she had gotten bagged on a slow pace in at least one of those races. I was willing to give her another shot, especially at that price.”

Another key for him was 9-2 Easter Indy in the ninth contest event, a state-bred race at Oaklawn. “I was shocked she wasn't 2-1 or lower, seeing how well she had performed in state-bred stakes, how much of the competition seemed to be allowance and claiming level, and how she might improve second off the layoff,” he said. “She really put me in the driver's seat when she won.”

In a funny way, a lack of full preparation probably helped Costello on this day. But that doesn’t bother him. “There is the old adage 'better lucky than good,' ” he said.

Like many players, Costello typically will play two entries on days when he has a conflicted opinion in several races, i.e., two horses he likes in one race. On Saturday, his opinion was torn in half of the races so a second entry seemed a no-brainer. He purchased his second card before checking the scratches when lo and behold, three of his conflicts resolved on their own. Had he realized that, he would have stuck to one entry. And it was his second entry that won.

Having two entries did come in handy though. “I had told some friends prior to the contest that I thought the best chances to get prices would be in the first five legs,” he said, “and I thought there was a lot of chalk in the second half that just wasn't going to lose.”

This line of thinking helped him, because after getting Faufiler early on, he was comfortable staying the course and grinding chalk in the middle of the card. At one point he had five winners in a row, the longest of which was Easter Indy, whom he thought should have been shorter anyway.

The second entry helped a lot in Gulfstream’s 13th, the 10th contest event. “I really liked two horses in the race -- Cite, the winner, and Remembering Mickey, a well-bred 25-1 shot who could've easily vaulted a lot of people past me.”

He originally had Cite on his first entry, which stood at $45 and the longshot on his second, which was the leader at $96. He realized he should switch those around, knowing that his first entry would be near the lead if Remembering Mickey won, and he’d be in great shape padding his leading total if Cite won. “I figured I could use this as a hedge,” he said. “Either horse would've gotten me to $109 on the respective tickets with two races left, which was a very secure place to be.”

In the last race, he already had the protection of his top choice, Basmati. “I realized I’d win anyway if Basmati won so I could take a shot with a price horse who had run competitively behind Basmati twice in order to block another path for other players to pass me.” Too Fast to Pass got the job done and Costello simply padded his winning total. We’ll hear more from Costello later this week on DRF.com.

Mendez, who nabbed the fourth spot, will also be featured on DRF.com this week. He also played two entries on Saturday, the first of which he won via a free Twitter contest via @DRFTournaments.

“I’ve always wanted to qualify for the NHC since it was created,” said the 34-year-old credit analyst. “Pre-recession, I played in about six tournaments a year online and in-person. Post-recession hasn’t been as generous when it comes to buying tournament entries, so it was just wonderful to have won the @DRFTournaments retweet contest for my first entry!”

Four win BCBC spots

On Sunday, 258 players competed in a sold-out event on BCQualify.com, with the top four earning their $10,000 seats to the world’s premier live-bankroll contest, the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge. The qualifiers were Jack Jenkins ($116.10), Cheryl McIntyre ($107.50), Patrick Gianforte ($101.90), and Gary Johnson ($100.70). Jenkins, a 37-year old small-business owner from Gainesboro, Tenn. will also be profiled later this week.

Also this weekend, four players won their way into the Ultimate Betting Challenge, a live-bankroll contest held at Gulfstream and Santa Anita on March 19-20. Qualifiers won their $4,500 buy-ins plus a $500 travel allowance. On Saturday, James Riley ($98) and George Chute ($97.20), who also won an NHCQ seat, won in, and on Sunday, Louis Filoso ($109.90) and Blake Jessee ($100.70), got seats. Jessee, the racing manager for Looch Racing Stable, is one of the eight players featured in the current Daily Racing Form tournament ad campaign.