09/22/2014 12:07PM

Fornatale: Three contest rookies earn their way into NHC


The first ever restricted-to-rookies NHCQualify.com contest is in the books and three new players have won their way to the National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas. The overall winner was Fabian Sultan of Miami, Fla., whose score of $124.40 put him $13.60 clear at the top of the field of 405 players total. Sultan picked an impressive seven of the 12 winners in the all-mandatory sequence, ranging from a low of Chiselled ($6.20) in Churchill Downs’s ninth race to a high of Bigger Picture ($16) in Belmont’s 10th race.

Running second with $110.80 was Charles Bloom, another Floridian, from Wellington. Bloom selected six winners in total and had success early, in the middle, and late. He started with a place horse and two winners, grabbed Ocala Jim ($11) in Belmont’s sixth and hit the late double cold with the Bigger Picture and So Good to Go ($12) in Arlington’s ninth, the anchor leg.

Joining Sultan and Bloom will be Christian Hendrickson of Culver City, Calif. Hendrickson ended up with $109, just $2.40 clear of unlucky fourth-place finisher Brady Huenefeld of Lakeside Park, Ky. Like Sultan, Hendrickson selected seven winners in total, including firsts in four of the last five contest races. Hendrickson’s selection in Churchill’s ninth race, Examen, was a late scratch so he received the post-time favorite, Bern’ James Bern, instead. Bern’ James Bern placed, adding $2.20 to Hendrickson’s total – not enough to be the difference maker but without those points he would have only just held on by 20 cents.

Unrestricted action returns to NHCQualify.com for a huge day of racing next Saturday, Sept. 27. Sign up today at http://www.nhcqualify.com/leaderboard.aspx.

The field is also set for next Sunday’s round 2 event on BCQualify.com. The third first-round sold out, as did the first two, meaning that eight full $10,000 entries (plus a travel allowance) to the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge will be awarded next weekend.

The final 32 qualifiers were led by the most famous name in the history of the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge – Patrick McGoey of Metarie, La. McGoey, of course, won the BCBC in both 2011 and 2012, in each instance by going all-in on the Breeders’ Cup and besting tournament mainstay Christian Hellmers.

McGoey ended a chalky day with $89.90. He got there by picking seven winners, the longest of which was Distorted Beauty ($12.80) in Belmont’s seventh. Patrick’s brother Frank, who he credits with helping get him involved in tournaments in the first place, also advanced an entry to round two.

McGoey spoke eloquently about the appeal of contests in "The Winning Contest Player."

"I have been playing fantasy football and poker with my buddies for 20 years and racing just for 10," he said. "There really is no comparison between the games.  While you can play all three from the comfort of your home, horse racing is so much more exciting than pulling for football players to score or catching a card on the river.  Nothing is better than watching your horse come down the stretch and win a close race. And the payouts for a winning bet in horse racing can be tremendous.”

With his two entries in round 2, McGoey will be looking once again for one of those tremendous payouts come Breeders’ Cup time. Others who won multiple entries into next Saturday’s event include two other players from Metarie: John Holmes and  Steven Young, who now has three entries total. Paul Kimos of Philadephia and A.J. D’Agostini of Chandler, Az., also won second entries to round 2.

Other notable names who won spots in round 2 include Michele McSweeney of Dania Beach, Fla., who finished in the money at the BCBC last year, and Larry David of Santa Rosa, Calif., a multi-time NHC qualifier who famously has the Daily Racing Form logo tattooed between his shoulder blades.