07/27/2015 1:38PM

Fornatale: Wilganowski has BCBC in his sights


Like most horse-racing handicappers, David Wilganowski's interest in betting was sparked by early success. "One of the early trips I made to [Sam Houston Race Park in 1996], I hit an $8,000 superfecta," he told the NTRA last year, "and one week later, I hit a $1,500 trifecta. I was hooked."

It took Wilganowski a few years to get into to contest play, but last year, as an NHC Tour rookie, he managed to earn two qualifications for the National Handicapping Championship. This year, he's set his sights on the Breeders' Cup Betting Challenge. He won his way into the prestigious live-bankroll tournament on Saturday on BCQualify.com.

Wilganowski took an old-school approach in the mythical $2 win-place qualifying contest -- he was looking for prices and bombing away. He had collections in only four races and only managed two winners, but that only speaks to the power of playing longhsots. You don't have to be right very often to be successful.

He blanked on the first three races before connecting with $19 worth of place points on Orino in Saratoga's eighth. Three races later, he accrued more place money with Antinanco in Del Mar's second, who returned $14.20.

With three races left, Wilganowski still had plenty of work to do. A cold double across Del Mar's fourth and fifth help him accomplish it. Spin Forty ($23.20) and Unusual Taste ($32.60) returned $453.80 for $2 when combined in the pari-mutuel pool. For Wilganowski, they meant a $10,000 entry to the BCBC.

Also qualifying for the BCBC in Saturday's contest was longtime fan Basil DeVito, who earned his second entry to this year's event. Players are only allowed one entry in the BCBC but you can still win more than one because they are transferable.

The BCQualify.com format was a little different last weekend, with a higher-than-usual buy-in but a more favorable seat-to-entry ratio. It attracted a field of 87 players.

Two get NHC spots

On Sunday, on NHCQualify.com, two players won their way into the National Handicapping Championship. Howard Schwartz and Kevin Willett topped the field of 183 entries. According to the printed program from the 2015 NHC, both men have qualified once before, back in the 2012 event.

Schwartz's path to victory was similiar to Wilganowski's on Saturday -- not a lot of collections but he made them count. He got on the board early on with Summer Breezing ($8.20) in Saratoga's seventh. But his most important hit was cap horse Face of the Winner in the eighth at Saratoga. Face of the Winner paid $47.40 on the tote but that total was limited to $42 for contest purposes. Heading into the last, Schwartz was in touch but still needed a little magic. When Cuppa Joe crossed the line first, returning $22 to win, Schwartz was on his way to back to Las Vegas.

Cuppa Joe proved critical to Kevin Willett's day as well. He was in deep water with three races left but forged his way into contention with Far Out Kailee ($22.20) in Del Mar's third before connecting with Cuppa Joe. He was also helped out by place points on Brando's Birdman in the penultimate race. Technically, he still would have qualified without the $4.40 he got back there, but it might have been harder for him to play Cuppa Joe for fear his price wouldn't be long enough to get him where he needed to be in the end.

Saturday BCQualify.com results

1 David Wilganowski $113.40
2 Basil DeVito $112

Both win $10,000 seats to the Breeders' Cup Betting Challenge plus $500 travel vouchers.

Saturday DRFQualify.com results

1 Evan Barshack $133.30

Barshack wins a $3,000 seat to the Sept. 19 Gulfstream Park contest plus $500 in travel.

Sunday NHCQualify.com results

1 Howard Schwartz $110.10
2 Kevin Willett $101.60

Sunday DRFQualify.com results

1 David Mullin $104.50

Mullin wins a $3,000 seat to the Sept. 19 Gulfstream Park contest plus $500 in travel.