12/26/2016 12:53PM

Pettit, Ferguson double up in NHC qualifier


Friday’s leaderboard from Friday’s qualifier for the National Handicapping Championship had an unusual look to it. Two of the players who finished in qualifying position each landed not one but two entries at the top of the standings: Joe Pettit and Robert Ferguson II.

A look at Pettit’s two entries for the all-in contest, where all picks had to be in before the first race, reveals something very impressive. On one card or the other he cashed in every single race. Of the 12 races, he played the same pick in only two of them: odds-on War Eagle ($4.80 win-place combined) in Fair Grounds’s third and 11-10 fave Littlemissperfect ($3.20 to place) in Gulfstream’s ninth. It is a common multi-entry strategy for all-ins to play your strongest opinions on both tickets and split them up in races that look more open to you.

His eventual winning card had collections in 10 races, and his two picks together hit the exacta in four separate spots. Pettit is as hot as they come, and with his reputation already established as a guy who wins in bunches, he is a player to keep an eye on heading into next weekend’s action.

Pettit, already double-qualified for next month’s NHC, was playing for tour points only. The outright win will move him up to third place overall, potentially netting him $15,000 if he stays there, or considerably more if he can improve his position in one of the final tour events of the year. The tour winner gets $75,000 (and a shot at $2 million should he or she go on to win the NHC). Second place gets $25,000.

Ferguson’s tickets reveal a similar strategy. He played the same horse in three of the races: 2-1 fave Assembly ($10 win-place) in Gulfstream’s seventh; 9-2 Turncoat in Fair Grounds’s fourth ($17 win-place); and shorty Untapped ($5.40 win-place) in Fair Grounds’s seventh. Ferguson needed those last points desperately. After hot starts on both cards -- he was four of his first five on his top entry and collected in events three through seven on the other -- he’d cooled off.

Conventional contest wisdom suggests that when all the picks must be in before the first race, a longshot should be considered for the anchor leg. The hope is that you’ll be in front already and can use a price to protect, or that if you’re further back you’ll need a price to catch up. In this event, Ferguson showed the other side of the coin. Points are the most valuable thing, especially in a lower-scoring contest with a tight spread between contestants’ scores. Without the points on 1-2 Untapped, neither of his entries would have landed him in position. Now he’s headed to the NHC with a shot at his share of $2.5 million.

Feeders all week

Players looking to join Pettit and Ferguson at the NHC finals next month should check out the full slate of feeders and credit builders on DRF Tournaments from Wednesday on. Next weekend’s headline event is a live NHC qualifier on Saturday, Dec. 31. If you don’t feed in, you can purchase an entry for $300. Up to eight NHC packages, which include $1,000 in travel and a four-night hotel stay, will be awarded. Five are guaranteed.

Go to tournaments.drf.com for more information.