08/03/2015 11:30AM

Fornatale: Top four start off with a 'gem'

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It was all about the Benjamins in Sunday's NHCQualify.com contest. In a free contest that attracted a field of nearly 2,000 players, Benjamin Coppola of Manahawkin, Nev., finished up best of all with $157.40, and Benjamin Beychok of Baton Rouge, La., landed the fourth and final qualifying spot with $115.50. Also advancing to the National Handicapping Championship were Caitlin Findlay ($151.90) of Franklin, N.J., and Josh Montes ($116.90 ) of Long Beach, Calif.

All four started the contest off with a bang -- Iamagem in Gulfstream's sixth race. Iamagem went off at nearly 55-1 in the $6,250 claimer, though her price was limited to 20-1 on the win end for contest purposes ($64 total win-and-place). Many contest players have a knee-jerk reaction to big overcap horses like Iamagem, thinking they're not getting "value" because of the cap on such a long odds horse.

But in contest play, the natre of value changes -- the tournament is its own little ecosystem. Within the confines of the contest, an overcapper like Iamagem can be way more valuable than the 20-1 you actually receive on your scoreboard, because many fewer players will play these types, especially early on. When you can move up with less company, that's the same as winning more.

There's another lesson from Iamagem as well: A longshot early in a contest is way more important than a longshot late. The reason? Later on, many will be playing the horse simply because of the price. If you're $63 down going to the last, logic dictates you must play a capper. But early on, you play the cap horse because you like the cap horse.

Coppola's win was an impressive one. This was only a 10-race contest and he managed to take his $40 bankroll and multiply it by a factor of nearly four. He did so with three winners and eight collections in the 10 races, the second-longest price being Yet Anotherkafwain ($22.80) in Del Mar's first.

According to last year's NHC program, Coppola has qualified for the NHC once before, back in 2012. That same year, Ben Beychok's brother Michael won the whole thing. Ben Beychok  will be playing in the NHC for the third time according to the program.

Knowles picks up BCQualify win

Saturday's BCQualify.com contest was a credit-builder and it was won by a new player, Brian Knowles of Phoenix, Ariz. Knowles was recently introduced to contest play by NHC Players' Committee chairman Chris Larmey, and he was hot on Sunday. He picked six winners, including the last five in a row. His longest price came early on with China Girl Lover ($33.60) in Del Mar's first.

For his efforts, Knowles will receive $1,200 in site credit in the DRF family of tournaments, where he'll have an excellent chance to win his way into the National Handicapping Championship and/or the Breeders' Cup Betting Challenge. A total of $4,500 was awarded in Sunday's credit-builder, which was contested by 100 players.

Honorable mention to William Ortega of El Paso, Tex., who managed to get both his entries in the top 10. Ortega used a smart approach with his two cards, playing his strongest opinions on both and spreading in other spots. He'll collect $500 in site credit between the two entries.

SATURDAY BCQUALIFY.COM RESULTS

Rank Name Score Prize
1 Brian Knowles $146.80 $1,200
2 Mike Park $143.90 $700
3 Frederick Cipriano $127.40 $600
4 Zahir Daya $109 $500
5 Tony Calabrese $102.70 $400
6 William Ortega $101.90 $300
7 Ken Orchard $96.80 $200
8 William Ortega $93.90 $200
9 Randall Cote $90.60 $200
10 John Agnello $90.10 $200

SATURDAY DRF QUALIFY RESULTS

Rank Name Score
1 John Verdin $110.60

Verdin wins his $3,000 buy-in for the Sept. 19 Gulfstream contest plus a $500 travel voucher.

SUNDAY NHCQUALIFY.COM RESULTS

Rank Name Score
1 Benjamin Coppola $157.40
2 Caitlin Findlay $151.90
3 Josh Montes $116.90
4 Benjamin Beychok $115.50

All four win seats to the National Handicapping Championship, to be held at Treasure Island in January.