03/28/2016 2:31PM

Fornatale: Sumja adds Rainbow 6 to NHCQ win


Who says that contest players don’t bet? This past weekend, three of the guys featured in The Winning Contest Player -- Brent Sumja, David Gutfreund, and Duke Matties -- took down the Rainbow 6, which paid $89,456, at Gulfstream Park. The stories of all three will be featured in a DRF article later this week.

Sumja’s achievement was the most impressive of the three because he paired it with an outright win on NHCQualify.com. Sumja, a former trainer and the 2014 NHC Tour champ, had a lot on his mind Saturday. He was preoccupied not only with the Rainbow 6, but also because his friend (and former boss) Tom Amoss had a horse in the Louisiana Derby. Unfortunately for Amoss, his horse, Mo Tom, got a rough trip for the second straight start. Still, if he ends up in the starting gate on the first Saturday in May, Sumja will be there with Amoss to cheer him on.

“Tom is my best friend in racing,” Sumja explained, “and I got so caught up in the emotion of the race and the ride he got, that I actually forgot the last race of the NHCQualify was also coming up.”

Sumja had put in Mo Tom as a default pick already, but that result didn’t matter as he was already clear from picking four winners and two place horses in the 12-race sequence, the longest being the cap horse S’marvelous ($42.40 tote) in Fair Grounds’s seventh race, the New Orleans Handicap.

He is thrilled to be going back to Vegas and in a position to consider a run at becoming the first-ever two-time NHC Tour champ. “I clicked on the leaderboard and saw my name on top and now my dogs think their daddy is in serious need of professional help,” he said of his winning celebration.

Joining Sumja in Vegas will be second-place finisher Daniel McCormick and third-place finisher James Covello. McCormick did just about as well as you can do early on – he picked five of the first seven winners, all at square prices (9-2, 6-1, cap, 8-1, 8-1). From there, he coasted in. Covello, a horse owner who will profiled later this week, had four winners, three of which came in a row in events four through six: S’Marvelous, Rose Dancer ($31.80), and Take the Stand ($18.00).

Honorable mention goes to unlucky Daniel Desena, who suffered a tough beat on NHCQ. Desena must be feeling a bit cursed as this is now three years in a row where he has run fourth in an NHCQ event where three seats were awarded. Had just a few more players entered any of those contests, he’d have qualified for the NHC.

“This is my best early-season finish,” he said, “and hopefully I can build on it. I usually don’t get serious about contest play until the fall since my kids have so many spring and summer activities, but I’m going to be more aggressive now with my contest credit and Tour points.”

A full leaderboard is available at http://www.nhcqualify.com/leaderboard.aspx.


Also on Saturday, six players won their full $10,000 seats to the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge out of Round Two of the popular two-stage qualifying format. Players had to put up $100 to play in Round One and the top 10 percent of entries advanced to Saturday’s contest.

The qualifiers were: Dan Wilde, Chris Larmey, Robert Gilbert, Michael Bailey, Jeff Bussan, and Michelle Sakowicz. Four of the six used S’marvelous, the lone cap horse, but the beauty of a format where six of 81 players qualify is that you can also advance without the capper.

Bailey had four winners and two place collections. Rose’s Dancer was his biggest winner and he received $21.40 in crucial place points from Telling Tony in Gulfstream’s 10th. Bussan had three winners, one of which was Rose’s Dancer, and added Bibbo ($18.80) in Gulfstream’s 10th, as well as place points on Dream Dance ($14 to place) in the Fair Grounds Oaks.

Wilde and Larmey will also be profiled later this week. For a full scoreboard, as well as a detailed accounting of everyone’s plays in the contest, check out http://www.bcqualify.com/leaderboard.aspx.