08/11/2014 11:52AM

Fornatale: Two Canadians take off in NHCQualify contest


Players from north of the border were well represented at the top of the NHCQualify.com leaderboard in Sunday’s contest. Terry Wraight from Oakville, Ontario, and Steve Nemetz of Vancouver, British Columbia, hit an all-Canada exacta – er, exactor – atop the standings. Both earn seats to the National Handicapping Championship to be held at the Treasure Island in Las Vegas from Jan. 23-25. Joining them in Vegas will be third-place finisher Andy Muhlada of Lawrenceburg, Ind.

Wraight’s day started slowly, but he got off the mark in the fifth contest event with Harlan’s Honor in Monmouth’s eighth race – a horse also backed by Nemetz and Muhlada. Harlan’s Honor, an overlay off the morning line of 6-1 in a listed sprint stakes on the turf, was an unknown quantity on turf. But the two-year old bay filly had a few things to recommend her, including a hot trainer-jockey combination. According to numbers printed right under the past performance in Daily Racing Form, Cathal Lynch and Frakie Pennington had combined for 38 percent winners through a relatively robust sample size of 119 runners.

Wraight went on to back Bellarada ($18.80) in Arlington’s 8th and Days Ride ($15) in the anchor leg, Saratoga’s 11th, for a total of $101.40, enough to win the overall contest.

Nemetz finished strong to get second, cashing in three of the last four contest races. He had Joya Real ($13.20) in Monmouth’s tenth and Life’s Reward ($10.20) in Arlington’s ninth. Going into the last race he still needed points. He landed on longshot Tiz Yankee, who looked like the winner before being run down by Days Ride in deep stretch after the rider lost an iron. Still, the $11.80 in place points were enough. Had Tiz Yankee held on, Nemetz would have finished first. In this contest, there was no difference between first and second so it didn’t matter. But at the NHC, an incident like that could cost up to $500,000 – such are the vagaries of handicapping contests.

Muhlada, who set much of the pace in the contest, cashed in the first five contest races. He backed Bellarada and Life’s Reward ($10.20) in Arlington’s ninth race for a total of $93.30, enough to hold off Robert Zostautas of Schenectady, N.Y., who was an unlucky fourth with $90.90.

Familiar names atop BCQualify leaders

Thirty-one more players gained entry into the Round 2 BCQualify.com contest on Saturday afternoon in a popular event that attracted 298 entries.  John Fisher of Houston, Tex., finished first overall with $140.70. As usual, there were many notable names going through including former NHC champ Jim Benes, current overall year NHC Tour leader Brett Wiener, and last year’s second-place BCBC finisher Kevin McFarland to name just a few. A pair of Long Islanders were desperately unlucky not to advance: Kevin “the Brooklyn Cowboy” Cox of Oceanside, N.Y., and Douglas Schenk of West Hempstead, N.Y., missed qualification by a mere twenty cents.

Next Saturday, Aug. 16, will be the third and final Round 1 event. Entries cost $110 and the top 10 percent of finishers will advance to Round 2. The top eight finishers in Round 2 (assuming full participation) will win entry into the $10,000 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge, the most prestigious real money, live-bankroll contest.

The second round will be held on Travers Day, Aug. 23, and is shaping up to be one of the more interesting online contests of the year with an all-star cast competing on Saratoga’s biggest day.

Top two have quiet weekend in Spa Betting Challenge

Meanwhile, in the Saratoga Betting Challenge, TonyAccetturo fired and missed twice this weekend but still is in first place with $6,486. Second-place Tallodawa had a quiet weekend as well but remains in second with $5,660. Jmanmetsfan1 made a big move this weekend, hitting the Pick 5 on Saturday for $3,444.50 and winning the weekly prize of a Daily Racing Form hat.

DRF’s Formulator twitter account (@DRFFormulator) is ineligible to compete for prizes but is playing for honor. DRFFormulator made a nice move on Sunday, crushing an exacta box to get into contention.

It’s still not too late to join the competition – new players would start next weekend with $600. Players can wager between $50 and $250 on any accepted bet at Saratoga on Saturdays, Sundays, and closing Monday through the end of the meet. The winner receives approximately $200 in credit at the DRF store, DRF Bets, or DRF contest sites.

Here is the current top ten: