12/22/2014 12:48PM

Fornatale: Six qualify for NHC at NHCQualify.com


Six players won seats to the National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas on Saturday on NHCQualify.com. The qualifiers were Steven Critelli Sr. of Floral Park, N.Y.; Kevin Geraghty of Mission Viejo, Calif.; Russell Priola of South Wales, N.Y.; Phil Hoedebeck of Wichita Falls, Texas; William Moran of Maple Shade, N.J.; and William Blake Jr. of Albany, N.Y.

The field of 391 players was led by Critelli who dominated the first three-fourths of the contest before cooling off late. Critelli backed six of the first nine winners, including Council Oak ($31 to win) in the fifth race at Fair Grounds. That was enough for $120.60 in total bankroll. That’s pretty much exactly 2.5 times the initial bankroll of $48, which is right around the average winning score for this 12-race, $2 win-place format.

Geraghty finished just behind Critelli with $120. He had an up-and-down day. He backed Council Oak, added Reconfigure ($22.80 to win) in Gulfstream’s seventh, and nailed the last three winners cold – Jonrah ($10.40) in Gulfstream’s ninth, Alex’s Vision ($6.80) in Tampa Bay’s 10th, and Sandiva ($10.60) in Gulfstream’s 10th.

Priola sprinted out of the gate and then idled – he backed four of the first five winners and managed just two place horses from there. Still, that was more than enough on this day as he ended up $112.60 thanks to Dubai Ski ($5.20 in a dead heat) in Gulfstream’s fifth, Not Enough Cats ($14) in Tampa Bay’s sixth, as well as Council Oak and Reconfigure.

Hoedebeck managed to qualify without hitting any particularly big prices. He was remarkably consistent in building his total score of $97.80. He had Not Enough Cats early on, and in the middle of the contest he picked three winners in a row – Lily’s Jackie Boy ($5.20) in the seventh Fair Grounds, Sky Flight ($11.40) in Gulfstream’s eighth, and Cee ’n O in Tampa Bay’s ninth ($10.80). On the bubble going into the last two, he came up with both winners – Alex’s Vision and Sandiva.

Moran ($95.80) picked six winners of the 12, and Blake ($88.40) got there largely on the back of Council Oak. Todd Schmitt of Point Pleasant, N.J., missed qualifying by just $3, despite failing to make a pick in the eighth race at Fair Grounds. That should be a reminder to all contest players of why it’s a good idea to always put in default picks at the start of a contest.

For full standings, click here.

Two qualify for Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge

On the same set of races over at BCQualify.com, Robin Buser of Delran, N.J.; and Ming Meyer of Parker, Colo.; both won seats to next year’s Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge at Keeneland.

Buser started off in an unusual way – with a dead-heat winner in Gulfstream’s fifth, Hard to Port ($4). From there, Council Oak, Reconfigure, and Jonrah helped built a winning total of $107.60.

Meyer, whose husband Curtis also is active on the tournament scene, was the leader at last year’s BCBC at Santa Anita for a long while. In fact, she and Curtis briefly held the exacta spots on Day 2. She becomes one of the first qualifiers for next year’s event. She had the other half of the heater in Gulfstream’s fifth, Dubai Sky ($5.20), and went on to pick four other winners as well – Reconfigure, Lily’s Jackie Boy, Cee ’n O, and Alex’s Vision.

For a full look at the leaderboard, click here.