01/07/2016 11:01AM

Fornatale: Still time to qualify for NHC


Contest players are going to be hearing the phrase “last chance” a lot between now and when the National Handicapping Championship begins in three weeks at Treasure Island in Las Vegas. The good news is that even if you’re on the outside looking in, you still have a few opportunities left to qualify for a chance to win your share of $2.5 million.

Two such opportunities are this weekend. On Saturday, NHCQualify.com is hosting an event with a $250 entry fee and five guaranteed spots to the big dance, though more seats might be available if there is a large field.

On Sunday, NHCQualify.com action returns to DRFBets.com. As contest director Jordan Goldberg said, “The DRF Bets Last Chance NHC Challenge is perfect for players who have yet to qualify or who want to grab that second seat before it's too late.”

The DRF Bets contest – available to DRFBets members – is an all-optional-race, real-money contest with three NHC seats on the line. Note the difference between live-bankroll, where you can invest all of your bankroll at any time, and real-money, where the bets made are actually placed through the tote, but the bankroll is fixed. A side-effect of the bets being made with real money is that there is no price cap.

Participation requires a $100 registration fee. From there, players must make 10 win wagers of $10 each on races at Aqueduct, Gulfstream, or Santa Anita.

It should be noted that no NHC Tour points are available in either of these two contests.

David Gutfreund, who won the DRF Bets last-chance contest ahead of the 2015 NHC, described the formula for victory perfectly: “The whole point of that format, with 10 bets and no cap, is to have the highest-priced winner and then support it with a little something.”

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To enter the DRF Bets contest, go to www.drf.com/final-last-chance-challenge. In the past, several new players have signed up and won right away, so sign up for your NTRA membership (www.ntra.com/membership/) and get started today.

Also on Saturday, there will be one contest each on DRFQualify.com and BCQualify.com. Another interesting wrinkle is that a $700 bonus will be added should a player qualify on both NHCQualify.com and DRFQualify.com this weekend. The DRFQualify.com contest has a buy-in of $95, and up to two seats to the Gulfstream-Santa Anita $4,500 live-bankroll contest on March 19-20 will be awarded.

The BCQualify.com contest marks the return of the popular two-stage qualifying format, where players must finish in the top 10 percent of a first-round event to advance to Round 2 on Sunday, Jan. 18. Saturday’s first-round event has a buy-in of $110 and a maximum of 320 entries.

Here are the races for Saturday’s contests (All times Eastern):
3:50 Aqueduct 8
4:00 Santa Anita 2
4:05 Gulfstream 9
4:20 Aqueduct 9
4:30 Santa Anita 3
4:35 Gulfstream 10
4:55 Fair Grounds 6
5:00 Santa Anita 4
5:05 Gulfstream 11
5:23 Fair Grounds 7
5:30 Santa Anita 5
6:00 Santa Anita 6

The entire sequence takes a little more than two hours. It has only three turf races, but pedigree-oriented players will be pleased to see two maiden special weights in the mix. The highlight from a fan standpoint is the Grade 2 Fort Lauderdale (the fourth contest event), where Lochte puts his three-race winning streak (all by open lengths) on the line against a competitive field that features Heart to Heart, All Included, War Correspondent, and Takeover Target.

To play in any of the contests, simply navigate to the contest sites and select the tab that says “purchase entry.” Free DRF classic past performances will be available on all the sites as well.