01/08/2016 2:03PM

Fornatale: Tour points give 39 players entry to NHC


The back door to the 2016 National Handicapping Championship is now closed. In the end, 39 players punched their tickets to Las Vegas by finishing in the top 150 on the NHC Tour. The cutoff for the top 150 was 8,567 points.

The tour is a yearlong series of qualifying contests for the NHC. Players finishing in the top 10 percent of contests receive tour points, and the larger the field, the more points are awarded. NHC Tour rules use a player’s six best scores in NHC qualifying events, and at least one of those must come at a live venue (i.e., not online). The top 150 players on the tour who haven’t directly won their way into the NHC qualify via the tour.

The idea is to reward consistency and fuel player participation. In this way, the tour 150 pays for itself and has been a tremendous success. At last year’s NHC, five of the top 10 players qualified via the tour, including the overall winner, John O’Neil.

Chris Littlemore was the highest tour finisher to qualify via points, ending up in 36th place with 12,547 points. His best finish in 2015 came in Woodbine’s August contest, where he was sixth, but he got even more tour points for his 20th-place finish in the season-long Del Mar online contest because of the much larger field in that event.

There are many well-known names among the tour qualifiers, including two past NHC champions, Brian Troop (2010) and Michael Beychok (2012). Troop used a combination of live and online scores to get there, including two top 10 percent finishes in Del Mar’s online contests and a 12th at Monmouth Park. His biggest points collection came with a seventh at NHCQualify.com last March. Troop made a run at becoming the first two-time NHC champ last year, reaching the final table and finishing ninth.

As for Beychok, he got valuable tour points this summer at Saratoga and added five online scores, including a ninth-place finish in an online event worth 2,154. Beychok, believed to be No. 1 on the career earnings list for tournament players with more than $1 million, will be back in Las Vegas to pad that total.

Ken Seeman, one of the most successful and consistent players in NHC history with three top 15 finishes, will be in the field once again thanks to the tour. Seeman earned 2,773 points for finishing seventh in Aqueduct’s November contest and added five online scores.

One surprising name among the tour qualifiers is tour veteran Joe Koury. His name is surprising because he won a major tournament this year, the Players’ Challenge in South Dakota. But the Players’ Challenge offers a choice between a Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge seat and an NHC seat, and Koury, knowing that he was in a great position to qualify for the NHC via the tour, chose the BCBC seat.

The tour 150 also was good to Daily Racing Form’s own contest site Publichandicapper.com. PH founder Scott Carson gutted out a 13th-place finish in the final online qualifying event, just enough to put him over the top. His 90th-place finish in the Public Handicapper Challenge, which last six months and is free, also was critical to his success. He earned 2,355 points for that effort.

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Dan Camoro played in the 2014 NHC because he qualified by winning the Public Handicapper Challenge. Camoro once again proved to be the master of qualifying for the NHC without spending much money. He got in via the tour this time, and three of his six scores came in contests with no buy-in: two NTRA free contests, where he was 70th and 28th, and the Del Mar November online contest, where he ended up 96th.

Two contests Sunday

There are two contests in the DRF universe on Sunday. On BCQualify.com, players can put up $110 to compete in a Round 1 event for the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge. Players who finish in the top 10 percent in Round 1 will advance to Round 2 on Sunday, Jan. 18.

On DRFQualify.com, there is a qualifier for the Gulfstream-Santa Anita Ultimate Betting Challenge. The buy-in is $95, and up to two $4,500 seats will be awarded, with one guaranteed.

Here are the races for Sunday’s contests (all times Eastern):
3:35 Gulfstream 8
3:50 Aqueduct 8
4:05 Gulfstream 9
4:20 Aqueduct 9
4:30 Santa Anita 3
4:35 Gulfstream 10
5:00 Santa Anita 4
5:05 Gulfstream 11
5:23 Fair Grounds 7
5:30 Santa Anita 5
5:52 Fair Grounds 8
6:00 Santa Anita 6

To start your journey to the BCBC, go to https://www.bcqualify.com/buy_advanced.aspx. To win your way into the Ultimate Betting Challenge, go to https://www.drfqualify.com/buy_advanced.aspx. As always, free DRF classic past performances are available on the contest sites.

William More than 1 year ago
Peter, do you have a full list of qualifiers by any chance? Curious of the total #.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
At the moment I have around 504 individuals, about 110 of who m have two entries for around 614 entries. Last year was 606 I believe. PTF
Robin Buser More than 1 year ago
Ahh yes, I have many fond memories of past battles for Tour Point qualification. In fact, of my 6 NHC Berths, 2 came courtesy of the NHC Tour. However, it must be noted that the conditions for qualification have varied widely over the years. For example, when I got in back in 2009, the rules provided point qualification for only the "Top 6, Not Already Qualified". Can you imagine that presently? Funny that I recall "cheering on" my closest competitors during the waning weeks of competition that year in hopes they would qualify outright and "get off my back" for one of the few coveted Tour Point spots! Later, in 2012, I lamented ending up just shy of #100 in points in the year BEFORE eligibility was expanded to the present 150 cutoff. Man, that felt like getting stuffed at the goal line on 4th down & inches. I dusted myself off and have been fortunate enough to make it back in successive years thereafter. I'm sure the rules will continue to evolve with the times and provide many more fond memories on the Tour in the future.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fantastic stuff, Robin. Tx for sharing. Always great to get a historical perspective on this stuff. PTF
Mark Mcguire More than 1 year ago
happy new year Pete.!!!!!.... how I love the back -door .! my absolute favorite way to qualify for the N H C...just wanted to give a shout out to a couple good friends joe koury & randy Bauer, both needed to travel & score precious points on new years weekend ,to get back on the happy side of the top 150...congrats boyz.!...Mike McIntyre pulled off the Houdini of tricks ,qualifying on points ,then adding a second entry on the first tournament of the year .!!...congrats to all horseplayers on a great 2015..It's been a pleasure watching & cheering for all of you.!...bubbling with excitement only 2 weeks before I get to see some of the greatest. people of all time ...YES PETE ,THAT INCLUDE YOU
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great stuff, Mark!! We have to find some time to hang out in Vegas for sure, should be a blast. That's a great point about Mike -- I'll try to find a way to write about that or at least relay that story on the podcast. I have a story about Randy coming up in the couple of weeks. Tx for reading and commenting. PTF