07/21/2014 3:02PM

Fornatale: Slim margins at weekend contests


BCQualify.com is sending three more players to Santa Anita for the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge. Sunday’s contest was won by Robert Wicklein of Laurel, Md., who bested the competition with a score of $110.90. Things were very tight at the top of the pack. The second-place finisher, John Conte of Oceanside, N.Y., finished with $109.80, and the third and final qualifier, Kenneth McMahan of Valencia, Calif., ended up with $109.40. The unlucky fourth-place finisher was Jose Raphael of New Bedford, Mass., who finished with $108.80.

In addition to a travel allowance, the three qualifiers receive a $10,000 buy-in to the BCBC, $2,500 of which goes into the prize pool. The remaining $7,500 acts as a live bankroll.

McMahan put things into perspective on Twitter shortly after the contest: “Sometimes 60 cents is worth $10,000.”

Wicklein’s big winners were Beautyinthepulpit in Saratoga’s eighth race, who paid $15.80 to win and $8.80 to place, and Stormy Novel in Monmouth’s 11th race, who returned $16.60 and $8.20. He also scored with three single-digit winners to claim the victory.

Conte, a former NHC champ and “Horseplayers” TV show star, got to his total a different way. In Del Mar’s first, he backed a cap horse, She’s Flush, who paid the full $64 allowed by contest rules. Late in the contest, he made a shrewd double move, taking the points with Stopchargingmaria in the CCA Oaks ($7 combined win and place) because he knew he had a longshot to play in the nightcap – Hard Rumor ($18.60 to win and $9.80 to place).

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McMahan has had a strong season on the NHC Tour, already qualifying for Vegas, and before this weekend’s action he was sitting 26th in the first-half Tour standings. His day played out much like Conte’s. He had She’s Flush and made the same double move at Saratoga, nailing the last two races and narrowly holding on to the third and final spot at the BCBC.

Three qualify for NHC in Vegas

Saturday saw action on NHCQualify.com as three players won seats to the contest world’s marquee event, the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas. Joe Jarvie of Renton, Wash., won by open lengths. He backed five winners overall and totaled an impressive $147.40 on the day.

Edward Ramsey of Sacramento, Calif., was second with $128.80. He picked three winners who each paid more than $20 (Big Trouble in Saratoga’s seventh, Somali Lemonade in the Diana, and Sawyer’s Hill in Del Mar’s third).

Gary Gristick of Lebanon, Pa., qualified third with $114.80. He also backed Big Trouble and Somali Lemonade at Saratoga and padded his total with Devilish Love in Saratoga’s eighth ($15.40 to win) and with meaningful place points from Pyrite Mountain in Saratoga’s ninth ($5.50) and Footstepsinbronze ($11) in Del Mar’s third.

Competition returns this weekend

The action returns at both NHCQualify.com and BCQualify.com next Saturday, July 26. At BCQualify, there is a special offer that new and/or inexperienced players should find particularly appealing. The buy-in is only $40, and the purse is guaranteed to total at least $8,000 in site credit at BCQualify.com, NHCQualify.com, or DRFBets.com.

You also can play the same set of races over on NHCQualify. They’ll be running another standard-format contest with a $165 buy-in and at least three NHC seats on the line.