03/18/2016 12:26PM

Fornatale: Three former champs focused on NHC

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Three former National Handicapping champions won their way to the 2017 NHC last weekend: Eric Moomey (NHC Tour), Rich Goodall, and Steve Wolfson, Jr. Moomey and Goodall won in on NHCQualify.com. Wolfson, Jr., qualified out of the DRFBets.com contest.

Moomey, the 2014 Tour champ, is a goal-oriented player. He doesn’t just set goals for himself, he makes sure to share them with others. “To be successful in the world of horse racing or any gambling endeavor it is important to be accountable,” said the U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel. “Sharing goals can be a key to success.”

Last year he had three goals: to defend his Tour championship, to win at least five events worth $10,000 or more, and to win $100,000 at a major tournament. He ended up second on the Tour, and met his second goal, but the six-figure win eluded him. “That reminded me that handicapping contests are a difficult and humbling game,” he said. “I will carry that goal forward with me in 2016.”

Moomey keeps copious records of his contest and cash play with the goal of forcing him to be honest with himself so he can keep improving. His other main goal in 2016 is to take one of his strong suits – consistency – and develop it even more. “I was surprised to find when I reviewed my year that only five of 12 months in 2015 were profitable,” he said. “There are games I excel at and others I do not.  In past years I have focused primarily on my competition. This year I will be focusing on myself as a player.”

That means focusing more on game selection and shifting his focus a bit. Yes, he’ll look to increase his overall ROI, but he’ll also look for more consistency from month to month. Moomey is also the latest contest player to prioritize the horses themselves. “If I have the good fortune of capturing a major contest prize, I plan to donate a significant portion to worthwhile aftercare programs,” he said.

Rich Goodall won the NHC back in 2008, but you’re as likely to see his name on the leaderboard now as ever before. Both he and his wife, Sally, are fixtures at tournaments around the country and especially at the NHC. Goodall thinks we will someday see a two-time champ. “I predict that it won’t happen until you have at least 25 past champs,” said the 72-year old retired attorney. “The players get better and more contest-savvy every year.”

Even though the Goodalls live in Vegas, Rich doesn’t see the NHC being a home game as advantageous. “The NHC Finals draw so many of our friends together in the world’s best city,” he said, “but it interferes with my usual routine of hermit handicapping. Still, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

With both Rich and Sally now qualified for 2017, the pressure is off to some degree. “The NHC Championship is the big elephant in the contest room,” he explained. “Now that we’re both in we can plan our travel with more of an eye towards the vacation portion of the equation instead of worrying about getting in.”

Steve Wolfson Jr., a 48-year-old high school teacher in government, is a handicapping contest specialist. Given his family history, it should come as no surprise that his knowledge of breeding is strong. “A lot of my contest plays lean very much on breeding,” he explained, noting that his knowledge comes primarily from a lifetime of following the game. “I’m very mathematical so I try to quantify what the breeding means. It’s not set up on a matrix but I’m always thinking about how much I value the breeding in relation to the odds.”

A format like DRFBets, where players can pass races and hone in on their area of specialty, appeals to him. Last Saturday, his three winners in the no-cap, real-money, all took advantage of his breeding knowledge. “All three of my collections were maiden and/or turf races,” he said.

The opportunity to be selective isn’t the only reason he likes to play on DRFBets. “I like the real-money aspect of the contest because you can do well and get paid,” he explained. “It’s very frustrating to really focus on a contest and have some good picks and miss the cutoff for a seat and have nothing to show for it and possibly miss out on betting those horses.”

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Sunday marks the final opportunity this month to win in to the Round Two contest next weekend on BCQualify.com. Players, who put up $100, must finish in the top 10 percent on Sunday to secure their place in the Saturday, March 26, Round Two contest. From there, up to eight players will win their full $10,000 buy-ins to the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge, the world’s most prestigious live-bankroll contest. Sign up now at https://www.bcqualify.com/buy_advanced.aspx. Here are the races that will be part of the contest:

4:00    Santa Anita 2

4:05    Gulfstream 8

4:19    Oaklawn 5

4:30    Santa Anita 3

4:35    Gulfstream 9

5:00    Santa Anita 4

5:05    Gulfstream 10

5:14    Oaklawn 7

5:30    Santa Anita 5

5:35    Gulfstream 11

5:42    Oaklawn 8

6:00    Santa Anita 6