01/16/2017 2:52PM

Seven more heading to the Big Dance

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Seven players won their way to Las Vegas on the penultimate weekend of qualifying for the National Handicapping Championship. Players still looking to get into the world’s richest handicapping contest, with its expected $2.5 million purse, will have an opportunity to do so two times next weekend on DRF Tournaments.

On Saturday “Philly” Joe Metka won top honors with a score of $116.80 in the nearly sold out field (176 of 180 spots were taken). He was aces in the first half of the contest with four winners: Midnight Toast ($15.20 win-place combined), Hesmakingabigscene ($16.40), Morticia ($36.40), and Flatlined ($43.80). From there, he was able to play defensively, covering horses that had the potential to shake up the leaderboard.

Joining Metka in Vegas will be Haley Forsyth ($112.70), Mario St. Pierre ($111.60), and James Caldwell ($110.20).

Forsyth also hit with Midnight Toast, Hesmakingabigscene, and Morticia. From there, she kept grinding away with smaller collections in the contest’s second half. In the end, she cashed in nine of the 12 contest events.

For St. Pierre and Caldwell, Morticia and Flatlined were key, but they both needed the winner of the anchor leg, Mistressofthenight ($16.20), to punch their tickets to Vegas.

In Sunday’s qualifier, three more players advanced: Scott Roberts ($89.60), Robert Crowe ($88.40), and James Lafferty ($86).

Roberts was consistent throughout the low-scoring affair, making eight collections in the 12-race sequence. His biggest winner was Impressive Edge ($24).

Crowe and Lafferty also connected with Impressive Edge but the rest of their paths diverged. Crowe had nine collections in total, including six in a row and eight of the last nine. The last six were all under $9. Lafferty went the other way with just five winners, but they included the longest price of all in the sequence, Santini ($31.40) in Gulfstream’s 10th.

In the round-one events for the Breeders Cup Betting Challenge, 16 players won their way into round two. On Saturday, Lawrence Kahlden was one of eight players to advance out of the field of 44. In Sunday’s contest, eight more players advanced, led by NHC tour second-place finisher Rick Broth. There’s a final round-one event on Saturday, Jan. 20. Round two takes place on Sunday, Jan. 21, with up to eight players winning their full $10,000 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge spots.

DRF Tournaments will be hosting feeders, match-ups, and credit builders this week as well. Next week, in addition to the BCBC qualifiers, DRFT will host be the final two opportunities to qualify for the NHC online with contests both Saturday and Sunday. For a full schedule of upcoming events, go to tournaments.drf.com.