10/24/2016 1:02PM

Couple of pros dominate BC Qualify event

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A pair of well-established contest players finished atop the BCQualify leaderboard on Sunday and DRF Tournaments: Amy Brantley ($180) and Paul Shurman ($146.20). Four other players also qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge in the sold-out event: Michael Edwards ($137.70), Ronald Carroccio ($135.80), Richard Meister ($132.90), and Christopher Skinner ($128.50).

Brantley blew the field away. She started strong with Barbara Beatrice ($33.20) in Santa Anita’s opener, and caught another price in Santa’s fourth with Student Body Left ($19.80). On either side of that she caught the two big prices in the sequence, Dragon Bay ($64) in Belmont’s seventh, and Le Cat Warrior ($63) in Belmont’s nightcap.

Shurman, the 2011 National Handicapping Tour champion, connected early with Barbara Beatrice and kept things rolling with The Truth Or Else ($19.80) in Keeneland’s seventh. Then he collected in the last three events with Student Body Left, Le Cat Warrior, and place points on Easter Fever ($10.40) in Santa Anita’s fifth.

That race would be prove to be the critical one as the anchor leg so often is. Edwards and Meister had the winner, Filly on Fire ($10.80). Carroccio didn’t, but he’d built enough of a cushion with Barbara Beatrice, The Truth Or Else, Student Body Left, and Le Cat Warrior that it didn’t matter.

But things got really interesting with the sixth and final qualifying spot. Sixth ended up as a dead heat between Skinner and 2015 NHC Tour champion Jonathon Kinchen. They picked the same number of winners (four), which is the first tiebreaker. The second tiebreaker come down to total points of just those winners and that’s where Skinner won the day. The $15.20 he back from Roca Rojo at Belmont being greater than the $10.80 win return on Filly on Fire. There will be a piece on the anatomy of Kinchen’s dastardly beat later in the week.

On Saturday, in an NHCQualify event on DRF Tournaments, two players won their way into the National Handicapping Championship: Robert Gilbert ($129.20) and Paul Thorson ($128.90).

Gilbert was in fantastic shape just a third of the way through the 12-race sequence. He started off with a bang with Pat on the Back ($55.60), and he caught a cap horse, Archanova ($64), in Keeneland’s seventh. There were just two tiny collections from there: $3.20 in place points from Richard’s Boy, and $6.40 from Avalanche, both at Santa Anita.

Thorson was in great position after seven races. His biggest winner was Archanova, but then he went back-to-back with Ami’s Holiday ($25) in Keeneland’s eighth, and Acceptance ($18.20) in Santa Anita’s fourth. From there, the quiver was empty, but it didn’t matter one bit. Playing defensively, he didn’t hit again, but still had enough to hold off third-place finisher Michael Pirrung ($122.70), who was in a good spot with two to go but whiffed.

In other NHC qualifying news from the weekend, Roger Cettina won his second spot in an online contest on Sunday. Cettina probably has the most impressive overall resume in the history of the event, with two six-figure seconds. His path to qualification this time around was interesting: two big prices and that was it.

Also on Saturday, Brian Johnson ran up the score in a DRF Tournaments contest and won a seat to the Gulfstream Conquer the Crown event in the process. His total of $182 came from six collections. He had Pat on the Back, Archanova, and collections in each of the last four contest events as well.

Tournament action resumes on DRFT this Wednesday with feeders, credit builders, and match-ups building up to the big contests on the weekend. Sunday is the final opportunity to qualify online for the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge and Saturday there will be an NHC qualifier as well.