07/31/2017 1:30PM

Meier, Taber finish with flourish to make WCH

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Two more players punched their tickets to the $1 million, no-takeout World Championship of Handicapping on DRF Tournaments last Saturday. Steven Meier was best in the field of 27, earning his second $5,000 WCH seat, and Sean Taber won a seat as well.

It was a wild ascent for both winners. Through six races, you might not have given either one a nickel for their $580 entries in the Grade 1 qualifier – they were both stuck on zero.

Meier finished with $106.80. His luck turned in the eighth contest event, when the winners started rolling home. He cashed in four consecutive Del Mar races, including nice hits with Medaglia Gold ($28.60), Bernina Star ($46.40), and Domestic Vintage ($27.80).

Taber’s key horse was Bernina Star, and he added another $32.60 in Del Mar’s eighth with Tavasco Road ($32.60). He ended up with $87.70, just more than $4 clear of Joe Johnson in third place.

Last Sunday’s featured contest on DRFT was a qualifier for the Saratoga Handicapping Challenge on Aug. 9-10. Scott Saia, Brent Matazinsky, and Guy Holloway all won prize packages worth $2,500 – two Saratoga entries plus $500 in travel.

Saia ($154.80) blew the field away, with three collections in the first four races, including the capper Doc’s Legacy ($64). He wasn’t done yet. After a five-race cold spell, he connected with Girvin ($29.60) in the Haskell and scored with an alternate pick, Miss Nikki ($22), after a scratch at Del Mar.

Matazinsky ($128.10) had four hits of $20 or more and closed out the contest in style by adding a winner who missed that same threshold by a mere dime. When New York’s Finest ($19.90) won the anchor leg, Saratoga’s nightcap, he was in the safe zone for qualification.

Holloway hit with Doc’s Legacy and then Summertimemischief ($24) in the opener at Del Mar. He was on the outside looking in with two races remaining but went runner-runner to close things out with Majestic Diva ($16.40) and New York’s Finest.

Also last weekend, three players won entries in this weekend’s Wynn Handicapping Challenge in last-chance events. They were Bruce Pratt, Lindsay Hurst, and Michael Caposio. The Wynn contest is a mythical-money event Friday and Saturday at Wynn Las Vegas.

Tournament action returns to DRF Tournaments on Wednesday. The most important events this week are undoubtedly the first-round contests for the next Grade 1 WCH qualifier, which takes place Saturday, Whitney Day. The buy-in once again will be $580, but you can win that by putting up $95 to play in a Round 1, where one in seven entries will advance.

DRFT is also running a qualifier for Monmouth’s Aug. 26 contest on Saturday. The top 10 percent of entries will advance to that event, which would otherwise cost $500 to enter. Qualifiers will also receive $500 in travel money.

For more information, go to tournaments.drf.com.

McCubbins goes bicoastal

Last weekend’s two-day Del Mar Handicapping Championship turned into a clash of live-bankroll titans. Faron McCubbins, the winner of this year’s Belmont Betting Challenge, proved that win was no fluke in the $7,000 buy-in contest ($5,000 served as the starting bankroll) and showed that he can compete with the best tournament players in the country.

He started Sunday with $23,025 and raised his bankroll to $57,095. In addition to keeping that cash, McCubbins netted $120,000 plus seats to future tournaments. McCubbins also finished 13th on his second entry, allowing him to walk away with an additional $12,100.

McCubbins, who owns a concrete construction company and lives in Mount Washington, Ky., also won a shot at a million-dollar bonus should he go on to win the big Breeders’ Cup contest. He initially decided to play in Belmont’s contest because of the same bonus, so now he has two shots to become only the second contest player in history to win a seven-figure prize.

The Belmont handicapping contest’s form has held up well out west. The 2016 Belmont winner, Garett Skiba, finished with $41,393, good for $60,000 plus other seats. This marks the fourth six-figure tournament score for Skiba, making him the only player to earn that distinction. Skiba had a second entry that finished in 12th and earned another $12,740.

The contest’s first major blow was struck on Saturday by Christian Hellmers, whose tournament résumé is as long as your arm. Hellmers ended the day with $33,800, best in the field of 140 entries. Day 2 was a different story. Hellmers made a bold all-in move in an attempt to put the contest away, but it was not meant to be.

The rest of the final top 10 were Steve Hartshorn ($26,489.60), Greg Bone ($20,820), Mickey Hopkins ($19,175.30), Frank Mustari ($17,827.50), Bill Shurman ($15,563), Ray Arsenault ($15,533.00), Frank Scatoni ($15,250), and Ed Robinson ($14,465.00).