12/04/2014 10:26AM

Fornatale: Claiming Crown key to Saturday contest

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On Saturday, NHCQualify.com will host a mega-qualifier – up to 10 seats to the National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas will be awarded. The buy-in is higher than usual at $400, but players get a favorable 26-1 player-to-seat ratio.

With less than two months until the NHC, Saturday’s contest might mark the best chance left for players to qualify for the country’s premier handicapping contest, where players will attempt to win their share of at least $2 million.

Here are the races for the contest (all times Eastern):

2:30    Gulfstream 5 (1 1/16 miles, turf stakes)
2:45    Aqueduct 6 (6 furlongs, dirt, statebred allowance)
3:00    Gulfstream 6 (1 mile, dirt, stakes)
3:14    Aqueduct 7 (1 mile and 70 yards, dirt, statebred allowance)
3:29    Gulfstream 7 (5 furlongs, turf, stakes)
3:43    Aqueduct 8 (6 furlongs, dirt, stakes)
3:49    Tampa Bay 8 (6 furlongs, dirt, stakes)
3:58    Gulfstream 8 (7 furlongs, dirt, stakes)
4:18    Tampa Bay 9 (6 furlongs, dirt, stakes)
4:27    Gulfstream 9 (1 1/16 miles, turf, stakes)
4:48    Tampa Bay 10 (1 mile, turf, claimer)
4:57    Gulfstream 10 (1 1/8 miles, dirt, stakes)

The contest starts at 2:30 p.m. and ends at 5 p.m., meaning this is about as early a contest as you’ll see on these sites. The sequence is all East Coast, with the Claiming Crown at Gulfstream Park the centerpiece. Nine of the 12 races are stakes races, and the six Claiming Crown races each have 14 horses. 

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The spacing of the races should be excellent, but players should be aware that Tampa Bay Downs is notorious when it comes to sticking to its published post times. As always, it’s a good idea to have default picks entered for all the races in advance so there’s no danger of getting shut out.

Hopefully, the weather will cooperate at Aqueduct. It may rain, but since racing has moved to the inner track and the weather should be warm enough, this shouldn’t cause too many issues for players.

To sign up for the NHCQualify contest, go to: https://www.nhcqualify.com/buy_advanced.aspx.

On Sunday, BCQualify.com will host its second event of the new season. The buy-in is $190, and up to four seats to the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge at Keeneland will be awarded, depending on participation.

In an article earlier this week, Paul Shurman spoke about the relief he felt in qualifying for next year’s BCBC so early in the process. Sunday’s contest gives players an excellent chance to join him at racing’s premier live-bankroll handicapping contest.

To sign up, go to: https://www.bcqualify.com/buy_advanced.aspx.