02/26/2018 12:40PM

Fornatale: Four earn spots in Horse Player World Series


On Sunday, four players won their way into the Horse Player World Series on DRF Tournaments – Kevin Jones, Jack Gruska, Thomas Labordo, and Vincent Damelio. The HPWS is a mythical money tournament taking place at the Orleans in Las Vegas on March 8-10.

Jones’s total of $77.50 was best in the 87-entry event. He cashed in an unusually high eight of the 12 contest races, with his biggest hit being Ten Twenty Nine ($22 win-place combined) in Aqueduct’s ninth race.

In a day without a lot of high prices, it was all about cashing early and often. Gruska ($74.50) and Damelio ($67.20) each cashed in eight contest events as well with a mix of different horses, the longest price between them being Gruska’s pick of Miss Azul ($19.80) in Oaklawn’s fourth race. That runner also was key for Labordo ($70.40), who got to his qualifying total with six hits overall but had four cashes that resulted in double-digit returns.

The fifth- and sixth-place finishers each received site credit – James Politano ($63.40) and Daniel McCormick ($60.90).

There were two other featured games on DRF on Sunday. One saw tournament stalwart David Nelson best a field of 10 to win his $3,000 seat for Keeneland’s Grade 1 Gamble in a special added event. He chipped away with six collections for a total of just $55.30 – a score still nearly $10 clear of second. That’s a testament to the power of how much easier it is to get through a lot of times against a smaller field.

That same dynamic was it play in NYRA’s Gotham contest qualifier, where $55.70 was enough to seize the victory for Corey Brown. He bested a field of 15 entries with eight cashes, the longest being Backstretch George ($12.10) in Aqueduct’s ninth. Brown turned his $60 entry into a $500 buy-in for the Aqueduct contest on March 10.

Saturday’s headliner was the originally scheduled qualifier for Keeneland’s Grade 1 Gamble, which attracted a field of 15 entries. The winner was Michael Castagnoli ($67.40) who cashed in five races overall. His returns of the most consequence were Florida Boys ($35.80) in Oaklawn’s sixth and Economic Model ($17) in the Grade 3 Hal’s Hope at Gulfstream.

The second through fourth finishers won site credit – Kevin Willett, Jonathon Kinchen, and Agustin Quirch.

Contest action resumes on DRFT on Wednesday with a free chance to start your journey to the World Championship of Handicapping. The WCH is DRF’s big money online contest with no takeout in the finals. Look for feeders and qualifiers for the WCH on the DRF Tournaments’ website, including next weekend’s Grade 1 qualifier. You can buy into the Grade 1 for $580, and one in 10 players will win their $5,000 seats. Many players choose to win into the Grade 1’s through Round 1 contests – which happen every operating day – that send one in seven forward to the Grade 1’s for an entry cost of $95.

Next weekend’s other featured game is a last-chance qualifier for the Ultimate Betting Challenge, a live bankroll contest held at both Gulfstream and Santa Anita on Sunday, March 11. Sunday’s qualifier costs $400, and one in 15 will win their $4,000 buy-ins for the UBC plus $500 in travel.

For a full list of everything happening at DRF Tournaments, go to tournaments.drf.com.