09/09/2014 3:35PM

Fornatale: Two new free contests provide berths in NHCQualify contest

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Entries open Tuesday for two new free contests on NHCQualify.com. The first one runs on Thursday and will feature the NHCQualify debut of the All-In format, where all picks must be in before the first race and can’t be changed once the tournament starts. The contest allows one entry per person and will be limited to 1,000 players. The top 10 finishers will receive an entry into the Sept. 27 NHCQualify.com event where they can win an entry to the $2 million National Handicapping Championship.

In some ways, the All-In format is the purest form of contest, as it’s all about who ends up with highest bankroll based on selections -- there is no reaching for prices late because you fell behind early. You just put in your picks and let them ride. There is another benefit as well, as NHC Qualify honcho Ken Kirchner explained: “Clearly there are many players whose lives don’t allow for them to sit through a three-hour contest. This levels the playing field for them. They can do their handicapping once, put their selections in, and let the chips fall where they may.”

Here are the races for Thursday's contest:

2:49 Gulfstream 4
3:09 Belmont 5
3:10 Laurel 5
3:41 Belmont 6
4:10 Laurel 7
4:13 Belmont 7
4:25 Gulfstream 7
4:40 Laurel 8
4:45 Belmont 8
4:57 Gulfstream 8

Free DRF classic past performances are available to all entrants. To sign up for this free chance to win an entry on NHCQualify.com, check out https://www.nhcqualify.com/buy_advanced.aspx.

On Sunday, Sept. 14, NHCQualify will feature a new format called Points4Picks. In this unique contest, mutuel prices are not relevant. As the name suggests, contestants simply receive points for their picks. If your selection wins, you get 20 points. If your selection runs second, you get 10 points. If your selection is third, you get 5 points. Highest scores win.

“This contest puts the premium on finding winners,” Kirchner said. “For those handicappers that don’t feel comfortable picking 10- and 20 to 1 shots, this format gives them the ability to be rewarded for picking winning horses at lower prices.”

At the same time, Kirchner doesn’t think players will be able to succeed by only picking favorites. “Favorites still lose 67 percent of the time," he said. "So favorite players may win one-third of the time but the reality is that it will probably take more points than that to win.”

Keep in mind also that price horses will still have a lot of value under these rules because players who select winning price horses will move up while the favorite players stand still.

As with Thursday’s event, this free contest allows one entry per person and will be limited to 1,000 players. The top ten finishers will receive an entry into the Sept. 27 NHCQualify.com event. You can sign up now for both contests at https://www.nhcqualify.com/buy_advanced.aspx.

Contestants do not have to be members of the NHC Tour before signing up for these free contests. However, should they finish in the top 10, they will have to sign up for a $50 tour membership before competing in the NHCQualify.com Sept. 27 event. To sign up now, go to https://www.ntra.com/en/signup/.

Recent technological improvements have allowed NHCQualify to move into this new area – holding contests during the week that can accommodate this number of players. Kirchner hopes this is only the beginning. “This continues our efforts under DRF to improve the premium tournament experience that players are receiving online," he said. "We anticipate making additional changes in the coming months that will upgrade the operations and performance of our contest sites.”