06/10/2015 8:55AM

Fornatale: Prairie Meadows event has appeal


When one thinks about on-site events on the National Handicapping Championship Tour, a few come to mind: Santa Anita’s series of live-bankroll events, the New York Racing Association’s two-day mythical-money contests, Monmouth Park’s popular small-bankroll contests.

But the tour also consists of smaller events. Prairie Meadows in Altoona, Iowa, is hosting one such event, a two-day live-bankroll tournament Saturday and Sunday.

There is no entry fee for the contest. Players must put up a $500 live bankroll and will compete for two seats to the NHC, plus cash prizes. Naturally, players must be members of the NHC Tour to be eligible for the seats.

“Like most racetracks, we have everyday players, many of whom are heavy hitters who dream big,” said Prairie Meadows’s program coordinator Bob Nastanovich, a Daily Racing Form contributor. “The money at the NHC is just insane these days, and this is an excellent opportunity for our local players to get a shot at it.”

More than $2.3 million was awarded at this year’s NHC, and that number is expected to climb to $2.5 million for 2016. Another part of the appeal for Prairie Meadows is to increase ontrack handle and attendance next weekend.

“It will be interesting to see who shows up in addition to our regular players,” Nastanovich said, “whether it’s players from the tour or just horseplayers looking for a new opportunity. It’s a chance for players to dream big beyond just a normal day.”

Prairie Meadows has hosted some form of handicapping contest going back at least eight years, but its new format debuted last year. Each player must place 15 wagers on each day of the tournament. Players must wager at least $20 on each live race from the host track. Permitted wagers are win, place, show, exacta, quinella, trifecta, and superfecta, but players are not allowed to make more than one wager per live race.

Additionally, players may wager on any of the simulcast races available at Prairie Meadows on the contest dates. On those races, a minimum of $10 must be wagered, and the bets allowed are limited to win, place, and show. Players are not allowed to make more than one wager per simulcast race.

With players having to make so many wagers, bankroll preservation can become an issue. “It’s really a money-management contest,” said Nastanovich. “One horse can win it for you, but since you have to play certain races, you need to make sure you have the bankroll to play your strongest opinion.”

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Last year’s contest was over early when a participant crushed a superfecta and coasted to victory. But live-bankroll contests typically are won much later on. “If you persevere and see something you like midway or toward the end, then you really have to go for it and try to kill it with one big play,” said Nastanovich.

Another benefit of a live-bankroll tournament is that you don’t need to finish in the money to have a good day. Players can keep whatever money is left at the end of the contest. You could turn your $500 into $1,500 and miss the prize pool, but you still would have made $1,000 on the weekend.

To sign up, contact Aric Rasmussen at Prairie Meadows at Aric.rasmussen@prairiemeadows.com, (515) 967-8556 or (515) 710-9611.