04/27/2015 8:47AM

Fornatale: Sukanick has reason to party


Last year on the NHC Tour, Jacqueline Sukanick made a name for herself. She ended up with a top-five finish for the year with help from her son, former NHC Tour champ Brent Sumja. This year, Sukanick had been a little quiet, with just one top 10 percent tour finish on her ledger over at NTRA.com.

That changed Saturday, when Sukanick won her way back to the National Handicapping Championship finals by winning the NHCQualify.com contest.

Last year, the most common arrangement between mother and son saw Sukanick help with the handicapping side and Sumja in charge of tournament strategy, but this was different. With Sumja traveling, the work of navigating through the contests fell on Sukanick’s shoulders. At the start of the day, she was as concerned with a party she was hosting for family friend, Devin Gregg.

“I knew it was a big day for all of us, and I was going to be driving the tickets around and setting up for a huge party,” Sukanick said. “I was thinking most people would feel more pressure getting a party set up for 50 people, but compared to the tournaments, the party was a breeze.”

Sukanick deftly maneuvered her way to the top of the NHC leaderboard. She backed five winners, the longest-priced of which was the cap horse Rerun in Gulfstream’s ninth race. Sukanick’s only regret on the day was not using the horse on both of her tickets. “I was a little frustrated when I hesitated in using Rerun on both entries and eventually put him on just the lower of the two tickets,” she said, “but we had a very solid day nonetheless.”

Sumja, who arrived at the party just in time to see Rerun’s win, was impressed with how Sukanick has progressed as a player.

“Going into the last race, her selection was no longer a matter of strictly capping,” he said. “She called on all her learning from the past year's tour chase and told me exactly which horses we owned and which we could take. Not only did she get every detail correct, but she was down to a choice between four horses and picked the winner.”

That winner, K Thirty Eight in Santa Anita’s seventh, gave her a huge score of $151.40 and kicked off a night to remember.

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Joining Sukanick in Las Vegas out of the NHCQualify.com contest will be Jeannie King, Keith Fenton, and last year’s third-place NHC finisher, Matthew Ransdell. But the contest world also was paying close attention to the third-place finish of Ryan Flanders. Flanders, already double-qualified for Vegas, gains critical tour points and is now in a virtual dead heat for first on the tour with Jonathon Kinchen, who as recently as a month ago looked like a clear tour favorite. For his part, Kinchen remains undaunted. “Everything is still good,” he said. “This is going to make me focus more."

Seeman wins BCQualify.com event

Ken Seeman was having a solid tournament season going into last weekend – he had four top 10 percent finishes in online NHC Tour events. But the highpoint of his contest year came Sunday, when the NHC veteran won the BCQualify.com contest, securing his $10,000 seat to the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge.

Seeman’s win was proof of the old tournament axiom that it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. Through six races – half the contest – he had tallied just $6.40. But then he went on a tear, connecting with Take Issue ($31.60) in Aqueduct’s eighth, Holy Invader ($20.80) in Aqueduct’s 10th, and Rocko’s Wheel ($10.20) in Santa Anita’s sixth. But he still needed to get something out of the anchor leg, Santa Anita’s seventh, and he just managed to do so when his selection, Smoove It, got place money in a four-horse photo.

The other big story from Sunday was Sean Nolan. Nolan played the same selections in the BCQualify.com contest and the DRFQualify.com event. He ended up second on BCQualify.com, earning a BCBC spot, and he was the winner on DRFQualify.com, where he won his way into the Sept. 19 Gulfstream Park live-bankroll contest. He invested $280 on the day and walked away with $14,000 worth of prizes in terms of seats and travel allowances.

The third seat for the BCBC at Keeneland went to third-place finisher Steven Nemetz. Earlier this month, Nemetz’s wife, Wendy Long, won her way into the NHC on NHCQualify.com. Nemetz’s BCQualify.com score caps a strong month for the Long-Nemetz household.


Saturday, NHCQualify.com
1. Jacqueline Sukanick, $151.40
2. Jeannie King, $134.10
3. Ryan Flanders, $133.10
4. Keith Fenton, $126.90
5. Matthew Ransdell, $109.60
All listed besides Flanders win seats at the NHC finals. Flanders is already double-qualified and was playing for tour points only.

Saturday, DRFQualify.com
1. Christopher Larmey, $115.10
2. Bruce Dagostini, $115.00
Both receive $4,000 seats to the Santa Anita Betting Challenge, to be held Preakness weekend, plus a $500 travel allowance.

Sunday, BCQualify.com
1. Ken Seeman, $106.30
2. Sean Nolan, $102.40
3. Steven Nemetz, $101.80
All three receive seats to the $10,000 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge, plus a $500 travel voucher.

Sunday, DRFQualify.com
1. Sean Nolan $102.40
2. Roland Arroyo $100.20
Both win $3,000 seats to the Sept. 19 Gulfstream contest, plus a $500 travel voucher.