10/02/2014 1:56PM

Fornatale: Two-for-one opportunity at Santa Anita

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If you’re looking to qualify for the $10,000 buy-in Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge, you’re running out of chances. But if you get yourself to Santa Anita’s Autumn Handicapping Challenge this Saturday and Sunday, you can qualify for the BCBC and go one better – you can win a seat to the National Handicapping Championship as well.

Santa Anita Director of Marketing Nate Newby ran four successful live-bankroll contests during the winter-spring season and this event was a natural outgrowth of those. “I’m a big fan of contests and want to continue to see them grow,” Newby said. “They’re good for everybody because they drive handle and provide great value for the players.”

Since Santa Anita will be hosting the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge at the end of the month, it only made sense to make the prizes for this event Breeders’ Cup-centric. “We thought it was a great opportunity to lead up to that,” Newby said.

Assuming full participation of 100, players, there will be $100,000 worth of seats and prize money awarded with no further takeout. Players can buy in for $4,000 total, with $1,000 going to the prize pool, and $3,000 acting as a live bankroll where players will keep whatever amount of that is left at the end of the day.

All Santa Anita races may be played as part of the contest with win, place, show, exacta, and trifecta wagering allowed. Players must play at least four races a day with a minimum of $250 in each of those. Total handle for each day must be at least $3,000.

Newby offered a brief assessment of the field, highlighting a few of the players who have top chances.

“Christian Hellmers is in. Kevin McFarland is in. Both of them are always right there at the top of the leaderboard,” Newby said. “Damian Roncevich is flying in from Hawaii. He was the champion from our spring series. He won two of the contests outright and the $25,000 bonus.”

Other players to watch include Duke Matties and Dennis Decauwer – both known for their live-bankroll prowess. Neither has signed up as of this writing but both are expected to play. Newby also highlighted some unnamed, dark-horse candidates. “We’ve got some new faces as well,” Newby said, "a couple of bigger cash players who are jumping in the tournament side for the first time. It’ll be interesting to see how they do.

The prizes are impressive. A total of $30,000 in cash will be split among the top three finishers ($18,000 to first, $8,000 to second, and $4,000 to third). The first four finishers will receive full rides to the BCBC. The first four will also get NHC seats. The fifth through eighth finishers get a $2,500 transferable buy-in to the BCBC, but will have to provide their own bankrolls. The day one leader gets an expenses-paid VIP trip to Las Vegas.

If you want to test yourself against the best handicappers in California, and have a great opportunity to win in to the two most important contests there are, get yourself to Santa Anita on Saturday. For more information, including the chance to sign up, check out: http://www.santaanita.com/events/santa-anita-autumn-handicapping-challenge/#.VC1zxPldXMy