02/27/2017 2:15PM

Former NHC champ among UBC qualifiers

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Familiar names topped the DRF Tournaments on Sunday, with Kevin Costello winning a $7,000 seat to Del Mar’s big summer contest, and Ryan Scharnowske and Paul Matties Jr. punching their tickets for the upcoming Ultimate Betting Challenge.

Last weekend on DRFT, Costello nearly won both a Keeneland Grade One Gamble seat and a seat to the Wynn Challenge (he was bubbled in the latter). Now the third-year contest player is set for another major tourney run based on his romp on Sunday. He tallied $92.80, more than $35 clear of his nearest competitor. He cashed in seven events overall, with his longest price being Ender ($22) in Gulfstream’s ninth.

Scharnowske exploded on the contest scene last year, going on to a third-place finish worth $125,000 at the National Handicapping Championship. He finished best with $83.80. Later on in the contest, he had a stretch of four double-digit collections in five races, the longest of which was Allidoisdreamofyou ($15.60) in Oaklawn’s eighth.

Matties, of course, was the overall winner of the 2016 NHC, where he also made handicapping contest history by being the first player to ever legally wager on himself – in addition to the $800k he received for first, he cashed an extra $10,000 by placing a $100 bet on his own number at 100-1 in the Treasure Island sports book.

Matties was off poorly at least two lengths on Sunday – he managed only one puny place collection in the first five races. From there he avoided traffic and made a sharp middle move into the moderate pace set by his competition. He scored in five straight races to put himself in qualifying position and held on despite missing the last two legs (though 15-1 Harlan’s Girl in the anchor leg appeared to be a defensive pick).

On Saturday, three players won their way into the Horse Player World Series, with its expected seven-figure prize pool: Matthew Parsons ($82.40), John Malone ($76.40), and Alvin Thumlert ($74.40).

Parsons overcame an icy start – zero points in the first third of the contest – to win impressively. He picked Honorable Duty ($17.80 win-place combined) in Fair Grounds’s eighth, the Mineshaft Handicap, to get on the board. Two small collections followed as he crept up the leaderboard, eventually seizing control with Enterprising ($11.80) in the Fair Grounds Handicap, Girvin ($26.80) in the Risen Star, and wrapping things up with Regal Kitten in the anchor leg, Gulfstream’s 13th.

Malone took a different path to qualification. He got off the blocks well, connecting with King of Diamonds ($12.80) right off the bat. He collected in eight of the 12 races, including with six in a row at one point. His biggest prices were Cash Prize ($25) in Santa Anita’s fourth and Farrell ($14.40) in the Rachel Alexandra at Fair Grounds.

Thumlert used a blended approach. Like Parsons, he started cold before picking himself up in the middle of the contest. In one stretch, he had four double-digit collections including Honorable Duty, Cash Prize, Morticia ($10.40) in the Melody of Colors at Gulfstream, and Dahlia Azul ($18.20) in Santa Anita’s fifth.

Also on Saturday, two players won their way into Keeneland’s Grade 1 Gamble in a sold-out DRFT event: Robert Masterton and Chris Larmey.

Masterton was best overall, blowing the field out of the water with a score of $125. As it turned out, the $86.80 he had halfway through the contest would have been enough to get him a seat even if he’d blanked the whole second half. But he kept going, and by the contest’s quarter-pole, he was in great shape with $107.80. He closed out in style by connecting with Regal Kitten in the anchor leg.

Larmey, who was featured in an article on DRF.com on Friday, ended up second with $84.40. He managed just four collections but he made them count: G.I. Girl ($31.20) in Tampa’s ninth, place points on International Star ($8.60) in the Mineshaft, Dahlia Azul, and Girvin.

Contest action returns to DRFT on Wednesday with a full slate of feeders, credit builders, and match-up events for upcoming major tournaments. Next weekend’s headliners are qualifiers for Keeneland, Monmouth, and the Wynn next Saturday, and the upcoming Horse Player World Series and Ultimate Betting Challenge on Sunday. For all the information, go to tournaments.drf.com.