04/18/2016 11:37AM

Fornatale: Pettit off on another streak


Joe Pettit was the star in the Daily Racing Form contest universe on Saturday, annexing both a seat to the National Handicapping Championship on NHCQualify.com and a berth in Santa Anita's Preakness Challenge on DRFQualify.com.

Pettit, a 48-year old businessman who owns the Key West Hat Company and Almost There fishing charters, is no stranger to winning in bunches. Last August, he went on a major tear, winning four of the five online contests he played in, as well as earning a second in the prestigious Saratoga tournament.

"It was hard to get motivated after that run last August," he said. "It spoiled me."

Pettit had a tough beat last weekend. He was playing from a concert, 10-feet from the stage with the band cranking. He was in fourth heading to the anchor leg and ended up switching off his initial pick, the eventual winner.

"Lesson learned , don't bother playing if you don't have time to watch it seriously," he said. "This week I was at home concentrating on the contest."

Multi-tabling -- playing in more than one contest at once -- is an important weapon in Pettit's arsenal. "I usually will play a couple of common horses on two different entries  if I consider them standouts," he explained, "but my main reason for playing two entries most of the time would be a weakness in figuring out the pace setups in some of the events."

In these instances, he'll cover himself by playing two horses he likes from opposite ends of the pace scenario, i.e. one frontrunner and one closer. "Because I am using two in the race I am not afraid to use a big price and it is surprising how many times it pans out," he said.

Pettit is now double-qualified for the NHC and has his sights set elsewhere. "Being able to double qualify this early in the year will allow me some options for focusing on some of the other events," he said.

Douglas Draper punched his ticket for the NHC by running second in the same event. Draper was one of the best stories at the 2016 NHC, playing in memory of his father, a fellow contest player, and making a run on day one.

The third-place finisher on NHCQ Saturday, also headed back to Vegas, is 2015 NHC champ John O'Neil . O'Neil, a fan favorite and all around good guy, has been playing in contests more in 2016 after a health scare last year.

On Sunday on DRFQualify.com, four players won their way into Monmouth's June 4 Pick Your Prize event: Brett Wiener, Pedro Pons, Shea Harrod, and William Moran. All four win their $2,000 bankroll and a $500 travel allowance.

Metairie, where the winners are

At Keeneland on Sunday, Rick Broth won the Grade One Gamble, a popular event on the NHC Tour. Broth got to the top by keying the longshot winner of Keeneland's nightcap, the Argentinian-bred Kasaqui. "I loved the breeding," Broth said. "If you know about that breeding you'll also know the alarm code to break into my house."

Broth was exhausted after the contest but will be profiled later in the week on drf.com. For the win, he'll keep his $22,468 bankroll, plus $10,000 extra in cash, an NHC seat, and a seat to the Breeders' Cup Betting Challenge.

The strategy of going all in at the end of a live-bankroll contest has proven to be very effective. It seems particularly effective if you happen to be from Metairie, Louisiana. That's the home of two-time BCBC winner Patrick McGoey, and it's also where the second-place finisher from the Grade One Gamble, Wayne Krause, lives.

He believes it's not an accident that so many contest players come from his state. "It's a tough place to handicap, New Orleans, especially back when," he said, "so a lot of us came up the hard way, looking for angles."

Krause, 74, is technically retired but he helps out every day at his son-in-law's restaurant, Porter and Luke's. He had $1,500 heading to the last and made three $500 win bets, all on price horses, including Kasaqui.

"He was an unknown and it was a wide-open race," said Krause. He'll be going to both the NHC and the BCBC as well.

Speaking of Louisiana, Bryan Wagner made a triumphant return to the contest scene on Sunday, finishing sixth and netting an NHC seat and a BCBC seat. Wagner, the 2009 NHC Tour champ, had been ineligible the two previous years because his wife, former NHC champ Judy Wagner, is on the NTRA Board of Directors. That rule was changed for 2016 and both Wagners are now able to participate.

Wagner, 72, felt a little bit of pressure heading into the weekend, "After they changed the rules, we felt that if one of us didn't qualify, we'd have been really embarassed," he said. "So we got that monkey off our back."

The trend of racing industry people having success in contests continued with a great showing by 29-year old Philip Shelton. Shelton finished third and will receive both major seats. He works as a recruiting and investment analyst for Taylor Made, plays in the Keeneland contest regularly under the aegis of his father, Bobby Shelton, a local attorney.

"Ultimately, as a handicapper, it's all about trying to capitalize on these big pool days," he said, "especially with the added incentive of getting to go to the NHC and BCBC."

Also qualifying for both the NHC and BCBC were Al Roehl (fourth) and Peter McFarland (fifth). Michael Mulvihill gets an NHC seat for running eighth.