12/12/2016 1:06PM

New blood in NHC from DRF Tournaments

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Last weekend’s leaderboards for National Handicapping Championship qualifiers were dotted by players already double-qualified and looking for points on the NHC Tour. This weekend, all seven people who finished atop the DRF Tournaments’ NHC qualifiers actually won seats to the event.

On Saturday, three players won their first seats for 2017. Elio Imbornone was best, with a score of $109.80. He collected in the first six races, the largest of which was Ivana’s Wish ($55.20 win-place combined) in Fair Grounds’s seventh.

Chris Fallica, an NHC regular better known as The Bear from ESPN’s College Gameday, ran second with $100.90. Fallica also started well, with five collections including Ivana’s Wish, but he needed three small collections late to secure his spot, even using long odds-on shot Mastery in the Futurity to improve his position in the endgame.

The third qualifier was another NHC regular Steve Nemetz, who rode Ivana’s Wish as well and topped up with max place points on Bitacora ($22) in Gulfstream’s eighth. For Nemetz, the win must have been particularly sweet as last weekend his wife, Wendy Long, got her second NHC qualification on Saturday and won outright on Sunday when playing for points only. Saturday’s win ensures he’ll be at the NHC as a participant and not just a cheerleader.

Also of note in Saturday’s event was Rick Broth’s ninth-place finish, a tough beat for him. Broth, one of the favorite to win the NHC Tour, played looking for points to push his score above that of current leader Cheryl McIntyre. But ninth wasn’t good enough to improve upon his sixth-best score on the year so McIntyre holds the lead for now. She was unable to improve her Tour score in Monmouth’s Saturday NHC qualifier. Shirley Wolff and Lou Filoso won the two seats on offer there.

On Sunday, four more players won their NHC seats on DRF Tournaments.

Matthew Fuchs finished atop the standings with $139.40. He had three winners worth over $30 win-place combined: Giannino ($40.60), Sweet Goddess ($38.60), and Il Faraone ($32.20). This is his first qualification for 2017.

Also getting his first seat for 2017 was Darren Yarwood who was second with $132.60. He had the same three big-priced winners as Fuchs.

G.T. Nixon entered tournament play last weekend with a goal in mind: to solidify his position on the NHC Tour. He was in decent shape to finish in the top 150 and get a “back-door” qualification that way. That mindset is a distant memory now. Nixon waltzed through the front door last weekend by qualifying online and went one better this weekend, getting his second qualification on Sunday with a score of $122.60. He connected with Il Faraone to get position and followed that up with three collections in the last four contest events, including $18 from Sleepwalker in the contest anchor leg at Laurel.

The fourth and final qualifier last weekend was Tanya Taylor. Taylor garnered her second seat by tallying $119.40. She did most of her damage early, with points from Giannino, Fallout ($42) and Starship Frontier ($23.80).