01/05/2015 12:19PM

Fornatale: Same picks help player score in two contests

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Last weekend on NHCQualify.com, six more players won their way into the National Handicapping Championship. The NHC is the country’s premier handicapping contest and will be held at Treasure Island in Las Vegas from Jan. 23-25, with more than $2 million in purses on the line.

The biggest stories out of the contest belong to Joe Pettit, of Sugarloaf Key, Fla., who topped the field of 249 entries with a whopping final score of $184.40, and Jose Suarez, of Hollywood, Fla., who finished third with $147.40 but simultaneously won a seat to the Gulfstream Park/DRF Raise Your Game Handicapping Challenge over on DRFQualify.com.

As many players are aware, there was a nearly unheard of pick five carryover at Santa Anita on Saturday due to several big prices coming up in the sequence. Pettit had two of the Santa Anita bombs on his card, both price-limit horses. Empowering Force, in Santa Anita’s second, paid $48 to win, and Athens took the fifth, paying $62.20. Both winning mutuels were restricted to $42 for contest purposes.

Those weren’t Pettit’s only hits, either, as he was on Trini Boss in Gulfstream’s 11th race ($26) and then caught place horses in the last two legs of the contest (Q’Viva and Callback) at Santa Anita. The final score of $184.40 was an impressive 3.8 times the initial bankroll of $48 in the 12-race, $2 win-place format – a score that will win almost every time.

Suarez started the contest with a bang. He hit 48-1 shot Noble Prince in Gulfstream’s sixth race. And while that mutuel was limited to $42, it’s always extra valuable to hit a big price in the first race of the contest, when no one is playing longshots just to try to keep up with the leaders.

Things quieted down for Suarez after that, and it briefly looked like he might not qualify despite his head start. But he grabbed place points in Gulfstream’s 10th and 11th races with Ami’s Flatter and Scorched Cat, then came back with another capper, Athens.

Joining Pettit and Suarez in Vegas will be Shadron Walton, of Austin, Texas (second place, $149.40); Michael Ray, of Las Vegas (fourth place, $144.80); Justin Keywood, of Mississauga, Ontario (fifth place, $144); and Gary Tennyson, of Hesperia, Calif. (sixth place, $135.40).

For the full scoreboard, check out http://www.nhcqualify.com/leaderboard.aspx. There are two more last-chance contests to qualify for the 2015 NHC on Jan. 10 and Jan. 17. To sign up, go to https://www.nhcqualify.com/buy_advanced.aspx.

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

Four qualify for DRF/Gulfstream event

As mentioned above, Suarez also was among the four players to win $3,000 buy-ins for the DRF/Gulfstream Park Raise Your Game Handicapping Challenge. That live-bankroll contest will take place at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 28. Prizes will vary depending on participation, but assuming 100 entries, there will be $53,500 in cash prizes, five spots to the NHC, two full $10,000 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge entries, and three partial $2,500 entries to the BCBC awarded. Up to 200 entries will be allowed, so those prizes could double if there is full participation.

Suarez played the same entry on NHCQualify.com and DRFQualify.com. That’s the simplest approach to the relatively new but increasingly popular tactic of “multitabling,” – playing in more than one event at once. The logic is that you’ve done the work on the 12 races anyway, so why not maximize your success for no extra effort if you have a good day? That’s exactly what happened to Suarez.

Also qualifying for Gulfstream on Saturday were overall winner Robert Crowe ($150.60), of Loomis, Calif.; third-place finisher Ed Reidy ($126.80), Gibsonia, Pa.; and Kevin Kreiser ($125.40), of Wernersville, Pa.

On Sunday, there was another qualifying event on NHCQualify.com. Three players advanced to the Raise Your Game Challenge: Anthony Kite ($97), of Princeton, N.J.; Mike Kappel ($95.20), of Belleville, Ill.; and Ronald Milchhoefer ($94.20), of North Riverside, Ill.

Familiar names reach Round 2

The final contest in the DRF family of tournaments last weekend was a Round 1 event on BCQualify.com for the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge at Keeneland. As usual, since these events reward consistency and advance the top 10 percent of finishers, there were an awful lot of familiar names on the leaderboard.

The field of 253 was topped by Kevin Willett, of Hastings, Neb., who scored $118.20. Eric Bialek, profiled just last week, continued his good run, finishing third with $103.40.

Last year’s NHC Tour was well represented on the leaderboard, with four of the top 10 advancing to the second round: Eric Moomey, Brett Wiener, Bill Wilbur, and Sally Goodall. Other familiar names include former NHC champ Jamie Michelson Jr., Kevin Geraghty, former trainer Gary Johnson, and last year’s winner of The Big One contest at Laurel Park, Shawn “Spike” Turner.

For a look at the leaderboard, check out http://www.bcqualify.com/leaderboard.aspx?cid=124. There’s another Round 1 event Sunday. Sign up at https://www.bcqualify.com/buy_advanced.aspx.