Twin Spires Online Championship Qualifier, $12,500 Game Highlight Busy Weekend of Action

BLOGGER-HEADER-ERIC-WINGAlthough much of the HorseTourneys team is on site at Laurel this weekend to host The BIG One, we’ve been careful not to neglect our bread and butter — fun and lucrative weekend tourney action.

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Things get rolling in earnest later today with our popular $5,000 Guaranteed Friday game, which pays down to fourth place and has $2,500 going to the winner. Entry is $185. Contest races for our featured Friday tourneys are: Belmont’s 6th through 9th; Churchill’s 9th and 10th; Woodbine’s 8th and 9th; and Laurel’s 6th and 9th.

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The weekend’s richest event comes Saturday with our $12,500 Guaranteed game, which you many enter for $195. The winner gets $6,250 and prizes are paid down to 6th place. Contest races for this — and our other featured tourneys on Saturday — are: Belmont’s 6th through 10th; Parx’s 7th, 8th, 9th, 11th and 12th (It’s Pennsylvania Derby Day); and Woodbine’s 8th and 9th.

We’ll also have on Saturday a full package qualifier to next month’s Orleans Fall Classic (one package per 15 entries) for $97 and an entry-only qualifier (one per 20) to the 2017 Horse Player World Series for an entry fee of $87.

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Sunday has a quintet of tourneys deserving special mention. We’ll start with our first-ever qualifier to the Twin Spires Online Championship. We’ll be awarding one $750 package for every 15 entries, with entries costing just $58. The Twin Spires Online Championship offers cash along with 20 NHC seats and 30 HPWS entries. And if at first you don’t succeed, we’ll have more qualifiers to this event in the coming weeks.

Also on Sunday are direct qualifiers to the Del Mar Fall Classic ($4,500 value; $212 entry fee, one winner per 25) and the Keeneland NHC/BCBC Challenge ($3,500 value, $160 entry fee, one winner per 25). Contest races for these and our other major Sunday tourneys are Belmont’s 5th through 9th races; Churchill’s 9th and 10th races; Laurel’s 6th, 8th and 9th races; and Gulfstream’s 8th and 10th races. Twelve races in all.

Last but not least, our cash game specialists are sure to enjoy either our $7,500 Guaranteed game or our $1,500 Guaranteed Exacta Box game…or both! Both contests pay down to 5th with top prizes of $3,750 in our $7,500 game ($190 entry fee) and $600 in our Exacta game ($54 entry).

Incidentally, our exacta box game aficionados should know that our popular “Speed Picks” selection feature is now available for all exacta games. So playing these should be easier than ever.

Whether you’re enjoying a nice weekend at home or here at Laurel for The BIG One, we wish you a fun and profitable final weekend in September. Good luck!

This Weekend at Laurel: The BIG One

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Laurel Park will be the epicenter of the Horse Racing Tournament world this Saturday and Sunday when the suburban Baltimore track, in conjunction with HorseTourneys, plays host to The BIG One.

We like to call The BIG One “The high expectation tourney” and here’s why: The final field will number between 52 and 57 (depending on whether there are any takers for the five available late “buy in” spots at $9,000 each) and prize pools are expected to be at least $90,000 (more if there are any people buying in before Saturday). There are also 28 seats to major tournaments up for grabs: 10 NHC packages, 8 BCBC entries and 10 Horse Player World Series (HPWS) entries. (Players may opt to receive $1,500 cash in lieu of an HPWS seat if he/she prefers.). If you simply finish in the top half of the field, you should win a seat to a “major”.

For the first time this year, The BIG One will be contested with a live-bankroll format with each player starting with $1,000 and required to play at least $50 (win, place, exacta or a combination thereof) on 10 different races per day. Five of those races each day will be on designated mandatory races and five being on any other race from races at eligible contest tracks. On Saturday, contest tracks will be Belmont, Gulfstream, Laurel and Parx (Saturday is Pennsylvania Derby Day). On Sunday, the contest tracks are Belmont, Gulfstream, Laurel and Churchill Downs.

Players, of course, keep anything they earn from their live-bankroll wagers plus any share of the $90,000+ prize pool they earn. And, of course, there are those 28 tourney seats.

It is our sincere hope that even those who don’t have a lucky weekend still enjoy themselves. All of The BIG One participants receive a complimentary three-night hotel stay, transportation between the hotel and track, plus a Friday night welcome dinner with open bar — plus buffet lunches and open bar at Laurel on both days of the competition. Players are also welcome to bring a guest or two to accompany them during all of the fun.

Check out this space for post-event recaps and our @HorseTourneys Twitter feed for live updates throughout the weekend. And to the 52 of you lucky (and skilled) enough to have qualified…we look forward to seeing you there.

Weekend Recap (Sept. 17-18)

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We all know what a “Key Race” is…a race in which, say, three or more starters go on to win or do unusually well in their next race. Could it be that there is such a thing as a “Key Contest”?? After last weekend’s cash games at HorseTourneys, I’m starting to wonder.

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Take a look at the above leaderboard in Saturday’s $12,500 Guaranteed tourney. You’ll see Anthony Trezza won $6,250 for his first-place score of $136.80. Finishing third, good for $3,000, was Charles Browning with a score of $91.20. I typed Charles’s name in italics a la a company line in the PPs for a next-out winner because check out what happened in Sunday’s $7,500 Guaranteed game:

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…Yep, Browning, our third-place finisher on Saturday, came out of that race…err, contest…to win our featured Sunday cash game. And check out who ran third on Sunday: Saturday winner Anthony Trezza. If there IS such a thing as a key contest, then I guess last Saturday’s $12,500 game was it. For the record, Trezza collected a total of $7,500 for his win and third — and Browning received $6,750 for his second and first.

Before we move on to the rest of Sunday, kudos to Ben Clayton and Anthony Garafalo who each won full packages to the Orleans Fall Classic on Saturday…and to Peter Milburn and Howard Welsh won won $1,500 entries into next year’s Horse Player World Series.

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On Sunday, Kevin Jones and William Epp became the final two online qualifiers for The BIG One, which will be held this Saturday and Sunday at Laurel.

The live-bankroll event, limited to a maximum of 57 players (all with one entry each), awards cash along with 10 NHC spots, eight BCBC entries and 10 HPWS seats. Participants in The BIG One have an excellent chance of walking away with a seat in a “major” tourney. If you want in and haven’t qualified, you can buy in for $9,000 but there are only five buy-in seats available so contact HorseTourneys ASAP if you are interested in one of these five buy-in seats.

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Scores were high in Sunday’s 3-seat Guaranteed NHC qualifier. Congratulations to Gary Gristick ($139.70), Edward Osterhout ($125.20) and Dan Flanigan ($124.20) who finished at the top of the heap and all punched their tickets to the big dance.

In other high-end qualifiers on Sunday, Jim Klein ($134.50) and Bill O’Neal ($122.80) won $3,500 packages to next month’s Keeneland NHC/BCBC Challenge. And Pete Acocella ($96.60) took top honors in winning a $4,500 package to November’s Del Mar Fall Classic.

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Last but not least, Ruben Lopez had $1 exacta payoffs of over $90 in both Woodbine’s 8th race and Woodbine’s 9th race to win the $600 first prize in Sunday’s $1,500 guaranteed Exacta Box tourney. Ruben is undoubtedly hoping that this becomes a “key contest” for next Sunday’s guaranteed exacta box tourney!

Thanks to all of our participants in last weekend’s tourneys, and good luck in all of your contest endeavors this week. We’ll be bringing you updates here and on Twitter live from The BIG One at Laurel this weekend.

Last Chance for The BIG One Plus NHC Qualifier Top This Weekend’s Tourney Action

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This weekend is your last chance to qualify online for The BIG One, plus there are opportunities to qualify for prestigious tourneys including the NHC. Or, if you prefer, you could just win a lot of cash. Here are the details:

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The big, Pick & Pray-centric weekend gets started on Friday with a $5,000 Guaranteed tourney on Belmont races 6 through 9, Churchill races 8 through 10 and Arlington’s 3rd, 5th and 6th races. Top prize is $2,500 with payoffs down to 5th place. Entry is $185. As a guaranteed contest, all prizes will be paid regardless of participation levels. Will we have more overlay tourneys like last weekend? Could be. It would be a nice way to pad your bankroll for:

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Saturday’s most lucrative game is our $12,500 Guaranteed event (races TBA as of this writing) with payments down to 6th place and $6,250 going to the winner. With our takeout rate of just 10%, you won’t find a better proposition anywhere this weekend.

You could also attempt to win a package ($500 entry plus $750 travel) to next month’s Orleans Fall Classic…or a $1,500 seat to the 2017 Horse Player World Series. We’ll be offering one Orleans package per every 15 entries at $97 each — and one $1,500 HPWS entry per every 20 entries at $87 each. Both tournaments are Pick & Prays so, in case it’s your day, why not enter both?

Saturday is also your last chance to play in a low-cost feeder to the next day’s The Big One direct qualifier. Entry fee for the Saturday feeder is $106, with one in five moving on to the Sunday qualifier, where the entry fee is obviously higher.

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Any interest in an onsite tournament limited to 57 players that gives away 10 NHC seats, 8 BCBC seats, 10 HPWS entries plus cash? We thought so. The bad news is that Sunday is your very last chance to qualify online for the Sept. 24-25 The Big One at Laurel. Entry fee for this “last chancer” is $478, so if you don’t succeed in our Saturday feeder, be sure to take a swing on Sunday. Two The BIG One packages are guaranteed to be awarded. These packages include your $1,000 live bankroll, a complimentary three-night hotel stay, an additional $500 in travel expenses, plus food and open bar Friday night plus Saturday and Sunday during the two days of contest action. At The BIG One, you’ll be treated like a BIG shot.

There’s another major qualifier on tap for Sunday in our 3-seat-guaranteed NHC qualifier which carries an entry fee of just $160. And if we hit 280 participants, we’ll toss in a fourth seat. In addition to the three or four NHC berths, NHC Tour points will be up for grabs as usual for you NHC Tour players.

We’ll also be hosting direct qualifiers on Sunday for the Keeneland NHC/BCBC Challenge ($160 entry, one $3,500 package winner per 25 entries) and the Del Mar Fall Classic ($212 entry, one $4,500 package winner per 25 entries).

Cash game players will likely be interested in our $7,500 guaranteed game that pays to 5th place with $3,750 going to the victor; and also in our $1,500 guaranteed exacta box tourney which also pays to 5th and has $600 to the winner. The $7,500 game costs $190 to play and the $1,500 exacta event has a buy-in of just $54. Both tourneys will pay full prizes regardless of how many enter. So if some players are directing all their attention to Sunday’s The BIG One and NHC qualifiers, this might be a chance for you to sneak and grab some nice cash. Here is an at-a-glance look at our biggest Sunday events:

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There’s a lot on the line this weekend, so happy handicapping and may all your horses break sharp and finish strong. Good luck!

Using HorseTourneys’ Speed Picks and Pro Picks Features

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We are proud to be the only contest site with two alternate options for entering tourney picks and — at the risk of immodesty — we think they’re both great! Whether you’re new to our site or an old pro, we thought it might be helpful to do a quick overview of the Speed Picks and Pro Picks features.

When HorseTourneys started, the only way to enter picks here and at other sites was to toggle back and forth from one race page to another. And you can still do this, of course. But if you’re like a lot of players, at this point you’ve completed all of your handicapping and know who you like in every race. In this case, you just want to input your picks onto our selections page as quickly and easily as possible. (This could be especially true if you have entered a Pick & Pray at the last minute and are really up against the clock in terms of getting your picks in before the deadline.) Herein lies the beauty of Speed Picks (my personal favorite when I am playing just one tourney in a given day).

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Speed Picks offers you a single-page view of all races in a tourney with the option to enter both a main selection and an alternate selection for each race. Each race starts out with a white background, but once you enter both a main pick and an alternate pick for a race, the background turns green, meaning you are completely good to go for that race. If you just enter a main pick but no alternate pick, the background will be red to alert you that you still have the option to enter an alternate selection.

If you prefer not to enter an alternate pick, that is fine…you can still save and submit your picks without any issues…you will just be assigned the post time favorite should your main pick be scratched in any “red” race where you didn’t designate an alternate. Here’s how it looks, color-wise. Note that alternate picks were entered for the first four races of this particular tourney but only a main pick was entered for the 5th race:

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Pro Picks is another option for entering multiple picks quickly. Many people find it is of particular value when you are playing more than one entry in a given tourney or more than one tourney in a given day.

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Above is a look at what pops up when you click on event 5 of your contest — you get a pop up of the horses in that race so you can enter your main and alternate picks. When all of your race picks are entered, you can click on “All Picks” in the upper left and see all of your selections for this tourney at one glance.

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But let’s say you are playing two tourneys today…

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…If you have entered multiple contests, you can click the “Go To Contest Entry…” dropdown menu at the top and you can click on any of the tourneys you have entered — all from this same page.

Now let’s say you have made all of your picks for your first entry, and you want to enter those exact same picks for your second tourney (this assumes, of course, that the contest races for the second tourney are the same as in the first tourney). You can click on “All Picks”, view your picks for one tourney, then at the bottom (where it says “Copy these picks to entry:) you can select another tourney you’ve entered and copy those picks to that one automatically.

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Of course you will be asked if you’re sure you want to do this, just to prevent against someone copying picks by mistake.

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Many of our players playing multiple tournaments like to use the same picks in all tournaments. Pro Picks lets them execute this quickly and easily. But even contestants who play multiple entries in the same tournament like Pro Picks because it enables them to  see their picks for entry #1, quickly copy them to entry #2 and then make changes to some of the entry #2 picks in order to “spread” where it suits them and to “double down” (i.e. use the same picks in both entries) when they are confident in using only one horse for that race. It’s almost like editing a memo before you send it on to your boss.

For a good while, I entered my picks the old fashioned way by going back and forth from one event page to another. When I discovered Speed Picks, I was immediately hooked…and also felt a little stupid for not having tried it out earlier. And Pro Picks takes the user-friendly technology one step further for the “multi-table” player to help him or her save time and (more importantly, as far as I am concerned) stay better organized as you manage your multiple entries.

We are always looking for ways to give our players the best user experience possible, and we hope you will explore these options if you haven’t already done so. Keep in mind, though, that the best option for you is the one you are most comfortable with. Technology is a great thing…as long as YOU manage IT and not the other way around!

Weekend Recap (Sept. 10-11)

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It was a winning Saturday for Lucas Van Zandt…and a losing one for HorseTourneys.

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Van Zandt ($77.60) prevailed in a close battle with James Hall ($76.40) and Craig Horn ($71.50) to take the $22,500 first-place prize in Saturday’s $50,000 Guaranteed game.

The operative word here is “Guaranteed”. The event attracted 91 entries at $495 each, meaning we took in $45,045 and paid out the full, advertised amount of $50,000.

We at HorseTourneys never intentionally set out to lose money like that. But we do like to be aggressive in offering our players a wide range of tournaments — and that includes guaranteed games. And we feel that if you offer guaranteed games that are never in doubt of reaching the guarantee, then you’re just playing games with your customers. It would be similar to a track advertising a Pick 4 guaranteed pool of $100,000 on a date that has historically attracted Pick 4 pools of $250,000. What’s the point?

Saturday was another example of HorseTourneys’s undying commitment to treat contest players fairly. And if that means splashing a few Guaranteed pots occasionally. We greatly appreciate what HorseTourneys players have done for us over the years, and we don’t mind returning those favors. It may hurt in the short term, but we think it’s good business in the long term.

We also had three exciting direct qualifiers on Saturday that will send people on to key brick-and-mortar tourneys.

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Mike McIntyre posted a nice score of $98.10 to finish as the convincing winner of our one-time-only Woodbine Mile Tourney qualifier. Armed with a $4,250 package, Mike will do battle this weekend in suburban Toronto.

Lindsay Hurst ($90.90) and John Melting ($86.20) each won full packages ($500 entry plus $750 travel) to next month’s Orleans Fall Classic.

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And John Vail won a nail-biter to win our entry-only Horse Player World Series qualifier by 50 cents with a score of just $54.40. Keep in mind that Saturday’s featured games had a robust slate of 14 contest races. So Vail actually won a HorseTourneys qualifying event despite not turning a flat-bet profit on his plays. It happens sometimes…

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On Sunday, Les Harris ($95.90) and Larry Burns became the 47th and 48th online winners of The BIG One packages. The BIG One takes place on Sept. 24-25 at Laurel. That means that the final two online seats will be on offer this Sunday at HorseTourneys. The event is capped at 57 players, including up to five “buy-ins” at $9,000 each also allowed. If interested in a buy-in seat, please contact us at support@horsetourneys.com.

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Steven Turner posted the big score among Sunday’s featured tourneys — $104.90. That tally was good for a $4,500 package in the Nov. 12-13 Del Mar Fall Classic.

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Scores were very close in our Keeneland NHC/BCBC Challenge qualifier. David Johnson and Peter Osella prevailed in this one with scores of $99.30 and $96.90, respectively. Osella edged out the third place finisher by just $2.00.

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On the cash side, Scott Krause blasted out to a fast start, hitting winners at odds of 3-2, 12-1 and 7-1 with his first three plays and nursed that cushion all the way to the wire to take the $3,750 top prize in Sunday’s $7,500 Guaranteed game.

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In our $1,500 guaranteed exacta box game, scores were on the low side. For winner Justin Gray, the big “hit” was a $1 exacta payoff of $46.00 on the 7th at Woodbine. That ultimately was the difference for Gray, who took the top spot and the $600 that went with it.

This past weekend at HorseTourneys was yet another reminder that sometimes you need to be great, sometimes you need to be just okay, and sometimes the odds are in your favor if you just show up.

Saturday’s $50,000 Guaranteed Tourney is the Headliner on Another Busy Weekend of Action

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Things may feel a bit different this week with Saratoga and Del Mar over and the kids all back to school. But it is business as usual this weekend at HorseTourneys with 10 lucrative and fun featured games on Saturday and Sunday that will help us forget that the excitement of summer ever ended.

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Our marquee tourney on Saturday is our big $50,000 guaranteed game. It has $22,500 up top for the winner and will pay down to 12th place. Entry is $495 and, as a guaranteed game, it will pay out in full regardless of how many entries we get. Overlay watchers will want to keep a sharp eye out for this one. As of this writing (Friday evening), it looks like it will be a positive expectation event for contest players.

Note that this tourney – and all our “featured” tourneys on Saturday – will have a robust slate of 14 contest races: Belmont’s 7th through 10th, Arlington’s 6th through 8th, Laurel’s 9th and 10th; and Kentucky Downs’s 6th through 10th.

We are also running direct qualifiers for three important brick-and-mortar events. Of particular note is a one-time-only qualifier for the September 17 Woodbine Mile Tourney. One full package ($3,500 Canadian entry fee/live bankroll + $750 travel) will be awarded per every 25 entries. Also on tap Saturday is a full package ($500 entry + $750 travel) qualifier to next month’s Orleans Fall Classic (one package handed out per each 15 entries) and, speaking of The Orleans, we’ll also be hosting an entry-only qualifier for the 2017 Horse Player World Series. HorseTourneys entry fees are $160 for Woodbine, $97 for the Orleans Fall Classic and $87 for the Horse Player World Series qualifier.

Last but not least on Saturday is a Round 2 feeder for Sunday’s The BIG One direct qualifier. Only four online seats remain available for the Sept. 24-25 The BIG One, so play this week and next week or forever hold your peace (until next year, at least). Our Saturday qualifier (note that this one will utilize the Pick & Pray format) is $106, with one of every five players advancing on to Sunday’s qualifier where seats will cost $478 each.

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Sunday is topped by the aforementioned The BIG One direct qualifier. Two full packages (including hotel, welcome dinner and travel) are guaranteed to be awarded regardless of participation count. We’ll be backing this exciting qualifier up with qualifiers to two other high-end tourneys – the Del Mar Fall Classic (Nov. 12-13) and the Keeneland NHC/BCBC Challenge. The Del Mar Fall Classic tourney awards a $4,000-entry-plus-$500-travel prize per every 25 players. Entry fee is $212. The Keeneland entry fee is $160 and will offer one package ($3,000 entry plus $500 travel) per every 25 participants.

Cash game players will likely be interested in our $7,500 Guaranteed tourney, which costs $190, pays down to fifth place and has a first prize of $3,750…and also our $1,500 Guaranteed exacta box tourney which, for an entry of just $54, allows you to pick a three-horse exacta box in each race with the winner based on the highest aggregate $1 exacta payoffs from the contest races. The exacta box tourney (these are always a lot of fun) pays down to fifth and has $600 for the winner.

Contest races for our featured tourneys on Sunday are: Belmont’s 6th through 9th, Woodbine’s 6th through 8th and Kentucky Downs’s 5th through 9th (12 races in all).

These are just the highlights of the upcoming weekend. Check our complete menu of contests each day for the full array of offerings (including lots of fun Kentucky Downs tourneys this weekend). You are sure to find something that suits your preferred format and budget.

May you have a fun and profitable weekend at HorseTourneys. Good luck!

Labor Day Weekend Recap

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There are all kinds of ways to win handicapping tourneys. You can win them by striking early and opening up a big lead. You can win them by closing with a fury. And sometimes you can win them by not even doing particularly well. All such methods were on display over Labor Day Weekend at HorseTourneys.

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Our feature event on Saturday, September 3 saw Jobby Blevins get absolutely nothing from his last five plays. Yet a hot start secured him the victory (worth $6,250) in our $12,500 Guaranteed game. Tim Downs’s key to success in our $1,500 Guaranteed exacta box game was the big hit. His $1 exacta payoff of $176.40 in the 9th at Kentucky Downs did the preponderance of the damage in his victory, which earned him $600.

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And our Saturday Horse Player World Series entry game — won by David Snyder, Lucas Van Zandt and Richard Ilharreguy — was won in two distinctly different ways. Snyder and Van Zandt followed the typical custom of the day…which was to use cap horse Silver Ride in Saratoga’s 8th race (the first race of the tourney). Ilharreguy missed Silver Ride but was able to chip away at that setback with a wide array of other lower-priced winners. It shows yet again that all is not lost when a longshot wins in a contest and you don’t have it.

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Our Sunday featured event saw Bill Wilbur, Richard Grose and Dave Durkin become the latest to “Get Qualified” to the NHC. Grose, some may recall, flirted with NHC glory in January 2013 when he led after Day 1 (back when it was still just a two-day championship). The Wentzville, Mo., native ultimately wound up 4th in the big dance.

David Sullivan was the big winner in Sunday’s $7,500 Guaranteed game — a triumph worth $3,750. In our Orleans Fall Classic competition, Joe Jarvie and Steven Meier were the clearcut winners, posting scores a good $30 above the rest of the field.

On Monday, a big day for Pick & Prays, Sean Nolan demonstrated the power of multi-tabling.

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He was able to use the same set of good selections to win our Del Mar Fall Classic qualifier and also win a seat (along with Mike Yurczyk, George Chute and Ed Reed) to next Saturday’s $50,000 Guaranteed tourney. The $50,000 feeder was an oddly low scoring affair with Chute and Reed finishing “in the money” despite registering scores of less than $48 — a less-than-flat-bet-profit result). As they say in baseball, those bloopers that fall in make up for the line drives that get caught.

Paul Kimes and Jason Hill were our latest two qualifiers to The BIG One. Be aware that only four online seats remain available to the Sept. 24-25 event at Laurel. Your next chance to win comes on Sunday.

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John Spignesi turned in a Zenyatta-like (Silky Sullivan-like?) performance in Monday’s Horse Player World Series entry-only qualifier. He cashed in six of the last seven tourney races to leap frog the competition. In other top Labor Day tourneys, Dave Picarello won $2,500 in our $5,000 Guaranteed game. And David Johnson, Stephen Diaz and Jonathan Burns were the three winners of full packages in our popular Keeneland NHC/BCBC Challenge Direct Qualifier.

Once again, HorseTourneys players demonstrate that there are many different ways to skin a cat. Whether you are playing in our $50,000 Guaranteed game, our penultimate The BIG One qualifier, our one-time-only Woodbine Mile qualifier or one of the many other top games on this week’s slate, we wish you good luck and a good week.

Sunday 3-Seat-Minimum NHC Qualifier Highlights Jam-Packed Labor Day Weekend

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If you’re a contest player and find yourself bored this weekend, it’s your own fault.

It’s almost as though we have two weekends worth of action crammed into one here at HorseTourneys. Things start to get rolling in earnest on Friday with a Guaranteed $5,000 Pick & Pray tourney for $185 that pays down to fourth place with $2,500 up top for the winner.

Saturday checks in with three big tourneys, a couple of medium-size games, plus one little one that we think is kind of nice.

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We’ll have a $12,500 Guaranteed game that day with a $195 entry fee and $6,250 to the victor. It pays down to sixth position and is also a Pick & Pray, as are the majority of our games this weekend. There will also be one of our popular $1,500 Guaranteed exacta box games for just $54. This one is a live event that pays down to fifth with the winner receiving $600. There is also an entry-only Horse Player World Series direct qualifier Pick & Pray for $87 with one out of 20 punching a ticket to the Orleans. There’s an $850 Guaranteed Pick & Pray plus a fun, Guaranteed $250 Survivor (hit the board or die!) game. Last but not least, if any of you out there are rookies, we have a free tournament on Saturday for those whose accounts are 30-days-old or younger. You won’t get rich off this one. The prize pot is $25. But it’s a great way to get a feel for the rhythms of tournament play, learn the functionality of the site and just have some fun with zero risk. Check it out!

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Our marquee event on Sunday, of course, is our NHC direct qualifier, which carries an entry fee of $160. We will be awarding a minimum of three NHC packages guaranteed. If participation in this live-format tourney pokes up over the 280 mark, we will toss in a fourth package to the prize pool. We’ll also be offering packages, one for every 15 entries, to next month’s Orleans Fall Classic. Entry to this Pick & Pray event is $97. Winners get a $500 Orleans entry plus $750 in travel. Cash game players haven’t been forgotten on Sunday. We’ll be hosting a $7,500 Guaranteed game with $3,750 to first and payments down to fifth. Entry is $190. Night owls will enjoy our $1,000 Los Alamitos Quarter Horse Guaranteed event. Last but not least, we’ll be running a $106 feeder to Labor Day’s The BIG One direct qualifier where it would cost you $478 to play. We’re down to less than two handfuls of online spots left for the Sept. 24-25 event at Laurel. So if you’re thinking BIG, there is no time to waste.

On Labor Day, our action — along with perhaps your barbecue grill — heats up further.

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Closing day at Saratoga will undoubtedly be a prominent part of our aforementioned The BIG One direct qualifier. Entry is $478 and we will be awarding two packages (including hotel AND travel) no matter how many enter. We also have direct qualifying packages on tap for two more high-end, live-bankroll contests: the Oct. 16 Keeneland NHC/BCBC Challenge (our winners get a $3,000 entry plus $500 in travel…one per 25 entries) and the Nov. 12-13 Del Mar Fall Classic ($4,000 entry plus $500 travel, also one package per 25 players). For cash game specialists, there’s a $5,000 Guaranteed game ($185 to play) that pays to fourth with $2,500 to the winner. And also an important Round 2 feeder to our big $50,000 Guaranteed game on Sept. 10. One of every five entrants will advance to next week’s grand, $50K finale. Then to round things out on what sadly is the last major Monday national holiday of the year, we’re tossing in a second Horse Player World Series entry-only qualifier of the weekend. Like Saturday’s event, this one will cost $87 to play and offer one HPWS entry per each 20 entries.

May your labor be minimal this weekend and your tourney luck plentiful. From all of us at HorseTourneys, please enjoy a safe and happy Labor Day weekend.

When Trainers Have Multiple Speed Horses in the Same Two-Turn Stakes Race

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I saw something this weekend that gave me a case of deja-vu. It’s something that has relevance to handicapping in general…and also to contest play.

The vast majority of contests this past Saturday — regardless of contest site — utilized the Travers as one of its mandatory races. That’s no surprise because most two-turn, Grade I races run on a Saturday or Sunday wind up being included in contest race menus.

On paper, the Travers was a race with many legitimate contenders — two of which were speedy sorts trained by Bob Baffert, Arrogate and American Freedom, who departed from the two inside posts in the field of 13.

Most of the conventional wisdom I read in the media and on Twitter held that a) Baffert sure was unlucky with the draw and b) it would be interesting to see how they were positioned because their respective running styles didn’t figure to complement each other.

I actually thought the draw might be okay. Here is what I tweeted last Thursday.

Wall tweet

You know how the Travers ended. If you haven’t seen a replay, watch it here…and watch how the two Baffert runners are positioned during the race.

Travers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7HMyD7svqEI

American Freedom broke sharpest. Rafael Bejarano then floated American Freedom out to about the four path, which did two things: it gave Arrogate the opportunity to cut the corner and maintain the fence; and it pushed would-be speed threats (most notably the outside starting Laoban) very wide around the first turn to the point where Laoban had no real chance to clear the field. In fact, once Laoban used himself to get into second, Bejarano seemed to say “Enough of that” and used American Freedom approaching the end of the first turn to reclaim second so that HE would be the one “pressuring” Arrogate and not some third-party.

The two Baffert runners effectively utilized their gate speed to build a two-horse “Baffert Wall” around the first turn and make opponents go around or through them. Meanwhile any pressure on the leader would be friendly pressure, not true throat-latch pressure.

Obviously Arrogate ran an otherworldly race and was going to win the Travers under virtually any circumstances. And Gun Runner had a good trip and could have gone by American Freedom for second if he was good enough, which he wasn’t. Still I thought it interesting how Baffert (a former jockey) had his two horses positioned. It reminded me of…

…this year’s Belmont Stakes!

You’ll recall that Todd Pletcher had two prominent-early runners in Destin (post 2) and Stradivari (post 5). Plus there was WinStar-owned Gettysburg, who Pletcher had trained prior to the Belmont but had just been transferred to Steve Asmussen to serve as a rabbit for WinStar stablemate (and eventual Belmont winner) Creator. Keeping an eye on Gettysburg, Destin and Stradivari, watch how this race unfolds:

Belmont Stakes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PKxmvnqkXE4

What’s better than a two-horse wall? A three-horse wall! The entire free world knew that Gettysburg only had one job — to make the lead. But Pletcher (one of the sharpest race tacticians of any trainer I’ve ever seen) also knew exactly what kind of early speed Gettysburg had (fast enough, but not blazing fast). By granting Gettysburg the lead, then having Destin and Stradivari assume the two-path and three-path positions, respectively, Pletcher afforded himself a tactical advantage in a race where his horses were anything but standouts. (Only at Belmont, incidentally, do I think a trainer would attempt to have a horse as the outer marker of a three-horse wall. Elsewhere, the ground loss would be too debilitating.)

It nearly worked for Destin. Stradivari wasn’t enough horse on this day to make a big impact, but Destin was, losing by a dirty nose to Creator. “What about Governor Malibu?” you say? Wouldn’t he have won with a cleaner trip?

Ah but therein lies one of the fringe benefits of the wall. If one of your horses can’t continue on in the stretch due to the strains of the tactical ride, he effectively becomes a staggering, sometimes-weaving “blocker” down the stretch, running interference for his partner. That’s exactly what Gettysburg did to Governor Malibu. Technically speaking, Gettysburg wasn’t a Pletcher horse in this race, but he sort of was given the way Pletcher seemingly plotted out the race. And if you watch Stradivari down the stretch, you’ll see that he nearly impeded Creator at the same time that Gettysburg was doing his number on Governor Malibu.

I’ll leave you with one final example. Have a look at the 2015 Donn Handicap which featured a 4-5 favorite in Lea, and a pair of Pletchers — Constitution and Commissioner — who broke from the inside two stalls.

2015 Donn: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55vDhKsUz08

The ride on Commissioner is terrific. It kept Lea boxed up inside as long as possible while forcing all other non-Pletchers to go wide (no easy feat going two turns at Gulfstream). You probably saw Rosario have to steady Lea twice as they straightened for home. The inability to get clear earlier may have cost Lea the race.

Side note: The more I watch these kinds of races, it seems to me as if the “two-path” rider is sort of the quarterback. The rider on the lead just goes along and takes his cue from his partner outside of him. The two-path guy eases out if need be or nudges forward and prompts the pacesetter to go a little faster if that’s what it takes to ensure that the early leader takes friendly, “you-can-still-have-a-fairly-clear-lead” fire and not enemy fire.

In this era of supertrainers who have 70-120 high-quality horses in their barns, I’m betting we see another “Wall race” sooner rather than later.

Mind you, even if you’re with me all the way on this, none of this will ever point out a sure winner. Even if you suspect one of these scenarios is brewing, you still have to determine which of the two (or more) teammates will benefit the most. But I hope you find this as food for thought when you see this potential situation pop up in the future. It’s another way of looking at a big race, and it just might lead you to an overlaid contender — one that can make all the difference in a Saturday contest.