01/23/2017 3:34PM

Last weekend produces seven NHC qualifiers

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Seven players won their way to the National Handicapping Championship this weekend in the final two days of online qualifying. The NHC, the world’s richest and most prestigious handicapping contest, starts this Friday at Treasure Island in Las Vegas.

Three players won in on Saturday: Richard Pernici ($77.40), Mark Urbanski ($71), and Daniel Dalfiume ($66.40).

Pernici got off to a hot start, cashing in six of the first eight contest events. His biggest-priced winner came right off the bat when he collected the maximum place points allowed for Graphite Strike in Gulfstream’s eighth. Graphite Strike, who went off at 37.90-1, crossed the wire third but was elevated to second when Contractor Jak drifted out late and got disqualified. He paid $25.60, reduced to $22 because of the place cap.

Urbanski was put up in that same race with Black Eagle ($16.80 win-place combined) and he collected in the second contest race with Enchanteresse ($12.20). He still needed a late hot streak – he cashed in three of the last four races – to get his Vegas seat.

Dalfiume also used Graphite Strike, then went cold for a bit after, missing with his next five picks. Like Urbanski, he was hot late. He cashed four times in the last six races and the $11.60 he received back from Guest Suite in Fair Grounds’s 11th was enough to put him over the top.

On Sunday, Timothy Stupka ($85.70), Lorne Weiss ($85.10), Edmund Teicht ($83), and Robert Ruocco ($75.70) got in just under the gun. The last three got there with the help of Smartified ($34.60), the longest-priced winner in the sequence, in Oaklawn Park’s seventh race. Stupka managed to finish best overall despite not having Smartified. He collected in seven races total, with his longest prices being Sol the Freud ($20.50) in Aqueduct’s sixth and I Shod the Sheriff ($19.40) in Gulfstream’s 10th.

In the BCQualify round two event, the scores were decidedly lower, a logical by-product of there being a 45-player field as opposed to the 107 entries in the NHC contest. Players had to win their way to round two by finishing in the top 10 percent of round one events held throughout the month, including on Saturday.

Four players won their way into the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge out of round two. They were led by Bill Shurman ($69.40), who made a remarkable comeback. Shurman started the contest cold, going zero for his first eight selections. From there, however, the 14-time NHC qualifier was nearly perfect. He had four collections for a total of $69.40 and a trip back to the BCBC.

Joining Shurman will be Menas Philippides ($65.20), 15-time NHC qualifier Sally Goodall ($63.50), and Eugene Cahalan ($60.70). Shurman and Goodall took the path that involved Smartified. Philippides and Cahalan got there without the benefit of that high-priced winner.