12/19/2016 1:06PM

McIntyre remains hot in NHC Tour

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Cheryl McIntyre continued her amazing year Saturday, finishing best in an NHC Qualify event via DRF Tournaments [tournaments.drf.com] and quite possibly sewing up the National Handicapping Championship Tour in the process. She finished with $127.80, tops in a field of 275 entries.

Heading into the last race, McIntyre was tied with tour veteran Sean Nolan. She would have reclaimed the tour lead – grabbed from her last weekend by relative newcomer Tony Zhou [http://www.drf.com/news/zhou-has-become-terminator] – with a top-six finish. But she was set on finishing first and taking the winner’s bonus to truly secure her position at the top.

The anchor leg was a restricted claimer for 3-year-olds at Los Alamitos. McIntyre looked to separate from Nolan and the rest of the pack by picking the odds-on favorite, Forest Blue. Nolan went with 13-1 longshot Pete’s Play Call.

Forest Blue took the lead in the stretch, but 31-1 outsider Zarqua Star angled out late and was making a big run. In the end, Forest Blue – and McIntyre – held on by a nose for the victory. Pete’s Play Call was third, but no one passed Nolan for the second slot.

It was another clutch performance from McInytre, who also has garnered meaningful points this year at Laurel, Keeneland, Woodbine, and Saratoga. She’s a true road warrior on the NHC Tour.

Tour scores are calculated based on a player’s six best scores. The more participants in a contest, the more points will be available. Unofficially, McIntyre will collect 3,594 points with the win, thus increasing her overall tour score by 1,584 to 19,898. Zhou is now 1,200 behind. He needs a score of 2,919 to pass her. To do that, he will need an outright win in an online contest with 167 entries or a win in the New Year’s Day Monmouth contest if it draws enough of a crowd (about 74 entries will be required for the necessary points to be available).

Note that there is precedent for a player winning the tour on the last day at Monmouth. This was how Eric Moomey [http://www.drf.com/blogs/fornatale-moomey-takes-down-nhc-tour-title] won the title in 2014.

For his second-place finish, Nolan gets his second NHC seat for 2017. Also qualifying for the National Handicapping Championship out of the event were Sammy Richman, Anthony Kite, and Haley Forsyth. Joseph Costello finished in qualifying position too, but was already double-qualified.

Another notable performance Saturday came from Bill Drew. Drew is among the players battling to get to the NHC through the “back door” of finishing in the top 150 on the tour. Heading into the weekend, Drew was in 191st place with 8,642 points, all earned online. He ran ninth Saturday for 2,122 points, upping his overall total to 10,764 and putting him right about 100th.

Finally on Saturday, three players won NHC entries in the Los Alamitos contest, which attracted a field of 99 – Bryan Carney, Samuel Alipio, and David McCarty. For Alipio and McCarty, this will be their second seats for 2017.

In Sunday’s NHC qualifier, three other players won their second entries for the 2017 event. Anthony Robb [http://www.drf.com/news/robb-handicapping-wizard-oz], Dane Moore, and Jim Meeks landed the top three spots. Robb had won a credit for a high-up finish Saturday and played it right back hoping to get his second seat, a goal he accomplished with four winners in the eight-race contest (the event was scheduled for 12 races but contracted when Fair Grounds canceled).

Additionally, Jeff Hartz secured his spot in the tour’s top 150, almost certainly punching his ticket for Las Vegas as well. Hartz entered the weekend at 154th on the Tour. He ran fourth, but those 1,442 points will elevate his total by 987. He’s now about 110 on the tour with 10,383.

Also Sunday on DRF Tournaments, Steve Turner won a seat to the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge.

Action returns to DRF Tournaments on Wednesday, with a full slate of feeders, credit builders, and matchups. The week’s headline event comes Friday, with an all-in NHC qualifier that costs $162. There will be no contests on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, but there will be contests on Monday, Dec. 26. Go to tournaments.drf.com for a full listing of all tournament options.