02/12/2015 1:51PM

Fornatale: Up to six spots available in NHC qualifier


There are two events in the Daily Racing Form family of contest sites Saturday. The first takes place on NHCQualify.com, the official online qualifying site of the National Handicapping Championship. Buy-in costs $165, and up to six spots to the NHC will be awarded. Qualifiers also will receive a $500 travel allowance and a four-night stay at Treasure Island in Las Vegas.

NHC Tour points will be awarded to the top 10 percent of finishers. At year’s end, the top 150 players on the tour who haven’t already qualified for the NHC will earn a berth. In 2015, five of the 10 players at the NHC final table had qualified this way.

Also on Saturday, DRFQualify.com will be hosting a qualifier to the $100,000 Santa Anita Handicapping Challenge. Contestants can buy in for $80, and up to four players will win their $3,500 buy-in to Santa Anita’s two-day live-bankroll contest, set for March 14-15. Qualifiers also will receive a $500 travel allowance.

Here are the races for both contests (all times Eastern):

4:20    Tampa Bay 9

4:30    Gulfstream 9

4:39    Oaklawn 6

4:50    Tampa Bay 10

5:00    Gulfstream 10

5:00    Santa Anita 4

5:20    Tampa Bay 11

5:30    Gulfstream 11

5:30    Santa Anita 5

6:00    Santa Anita 6

6:09    Oaklawn 9

6:30    Santa Anita 7

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It’s a shorter contest time-wise than is typical, clocking in at around two hours and 10 minutes. It’s a perfect day to go lean and mean, with plenty of players having evening plans for Valentine’s Day. As usual, Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita Park have post times scheduled on top of one another, but with the typical delays, that usually sorts itself out.

The races themselves are a good mix, with two maidens and six turf races in all. The lone graded stakes is the fifth contest event, the Grade 3 Hurricane Bertie at Gulfstream Park (6 1/2 furlongs on dirt). The up-and-coming More Than a Party (5 for 11, $160,460) takes on a hard-knocking field of older fillies and mares, including My Pal Chrisy (11 for 48, $857,668) and Centrique (12 for 39, $444,595).

There are also two listed stakes, the Copper City at Gulfstream Park (race 11) and the Essex Handicap at Oaklawn (race 9). In the former, nine older fillies and mares go a mile on turf, and seven-time winner I’m Already Sexy looks like the one to beat, with Granny Mc’s Kitten and Kitty Wine figuring to take money as well. The latter will be run at 1 1/16 miles on the main track and features eight runners, the most famous of whom is Ride On Curlin, who ran second to California Chrome in the Preakness and won his first start off the bench last month.

The anchor leg of the contest is a bit unusual – it’s a full-field downhill turf sprint for 3-year-old maiden special weight fillies at Santa Anita. It’s a really cool contest race. While a couple of the runners have obvious claims, it’s easy to make a case for several longshots. Players who are within a cap horse at the end should have a few runners to choose from.

DRF’s Dan Illman and Matt Bernier will be covering both contests and some of the specific races as well via live streaming video at live.drf.com. Tune in at 12:30 p.m. Eastern for racing analysis from coast to coast.

Sign-up for both contests, as well as free past performances, are available at NHCQualify.com and DRFQualify.com.