Whether it’s a handicapping contest or a horse race, itself, close finishes are thrilling to win, frustrating to lose, and perhaps somewhat encouraging insofar as more people feel that they were at least in strong contention. Well there were plenty of such finishes this weekend at HorseTourneys and HorsePlayers.
It started on Friday at HorsePlayers in a two-seat-guaranteed, $75 NHC qualifier in which the top four finishers were separated by just $2.40. And, as it turned out, we had to drill down even further to determine the two seat winners.
Don Beardsworth played two entries and played them splendidly, doing most of his damage with horses common to the two entries and finishing first and second. But NHC rules only permit someone to win one NHC berth in a given contest. So Beardsworth’s second entry was only good for NHC Tour points.
Third-place, meanwhile, was only 80 cents farther back and it was not only a tie, but a tie between two players—Mitch Schuman and Eric Moomey—who were already double qualified for the NHC. NHC Tour points for those two too!
The beneficiary of those points seekers doing well was Gary Fenton in fifth place. His score was solid as well—less than 10 dollars out of first.
The day’s $6,000 Guaranteed game at HorseTourneys was fairly close at the end, but it didn’t start out that way.
Jobby Blevins rocketed out of the gate like Pine Tree Lane (she was a bullet for the first 100 yards) with winners right off the bat at 17-1 and 8-1. Similar to Pine Tree Lane, Blevins couldn’t keep up that pace for the whole race. But he bottomed out the field and held on late to earn the winner’s share of $3,951.53 in a pool-style game that had a final purse of more than $7,900. I don’t think runner-up Randall Cunningham is the UNLV guy who used to scramble around for the Eagles and Vikings. Nor do I think 3rd-place finisher Joe Johnson is the guy who fired up threes for the Hawks and Nets. I also don’t think those pro athletes can handicap as well as our two.
Saturday’s $20,000 Guaranteed game came down to the last race.
Marty DeRoin had the runnerup paying $3.40 to place in the last contest race, the 7th at Del Mar. And DeRoin needed almost all of that $3.40 to hold off Eric Pineiro, who had the 7th race winner. The 40-cent difference in their final scores meant $10,354 for DeRoin and $4,602 for Pineiro.
The NHC qualifier over at HorsePlayers was another tight one. Taking a similar path as Mitch Schuman and Eric Moomey on Friday, Ed Peters (winner this year of The BIG One and runnerup in the BCBC) played despite already being double qualified for Vegas.
Peters maxed out his potential Tour points haul by finishing first by $1.20. And that meant that the NHC berths slid down to 2nd and 3rd places, occupied (but just barely) by Jared Henry and Richard Meister. It was a tough beat for Diane Carco in 4th. She led until the last race when that 5-4 finish in the 7th at Del Mar did her in.
Saturday was also the day of our first full-package qualifier to the Horse Player World Series. This contest wasn’t as close as most this weekend. And that was because of a dominating performance by Jon Van Niel.
Okay, so Van Niel’s victory certainly looks impressive enough. But perhaps the $21.10 margin of victory over fellow package winners John Melting and John Merola doesn’t do Van Niel justice.
There…now that’s better. On a chalky day when high scores were difficult to build, Van Niel scoped out winner after winner. Eight in all, including the “late pick three.” And one place horse for good measure. If it weren’t for Laurel races, he might have swept the card! Well done, Jon. (And you too, John and John.)
In Sunday’s $12,000 Guaranteed event (which finished with a purse of $16,394, rather than the old Sunday standard of $15,000), it was another nail biter.
Richard Grose had a nice final score of $98.50, but he needed Edwards Going Left ($6.60, $4.00) in the contest nightcap, the 8th at Del Mar to put him over the top. The suspense was worth it for Grose, though. He won $7,377.
Our Exacta game had what I believe is a first:
That’s right. Frank Stohr completed the exacta in our Exacta tourney all by himself. So, between first and second money, Stohr scooped $2,051.78 out of the available $2,931. Steven Franckowiak was third.
Steve Abelman only picked two winners on Sunday.
But they were good ones—at odds of 18-1 and 16-1—and that won him a seat to the NHC in Sunday’s qualifier. Karl Jacob finished second to also grab a berth to the exciting Las Vegas strip event.
Our biggest score total of the day came, somewhat surprisingly, in our qualifier for the Gulfstream Park Caribbean Classic.
Pete Acocella put up the big number, which was an unfortunate development for runner up Dan Kovalesky, who was turned back despite posting the second biggest score of the day with $136.80.
Fortunately for Kovalesky…
…he also played his preferred horses in our first qualifier to the December 29-31 Surfside tournaments. He earns $1,180 in entry fees to the three days of competition. Not a bad place to spend New Year’s Eve.
Our Horse Player World Series qualifiers were popular for a second consecutive day.
We once again had three winners. Congratulations to Mike Yurczyk, Ron Tackett and Adam Thoutt who each won $1,500 entries. Yurczyk, with $119.00, which led the rest by a significant margin.
And that $119.00 was doubly lucky for him in our last-chance qualifier for the Hawthorne NHC Super Qualifier.
What would have been a real seat-squirmer was made less tense by the fact that three winners were crowned based on participation. Daven Turner led the way—40 cents ahead of each of Yurczyk’s entries. And (unlike Beardsworth in Friday’s NHC qualifier) Yurczyk gets to retain both of his won Hawthorne entries.
For those who were wondering if Yurczyk played the exact same set of horses twice in the Hawthorne qualifier, the answer is “No.” There were two races out of the 12 contest heats in which Yurczyk played different selections. None of those split plays hit the board.
Last but not least, our NHC Super Qualifier Pick & Pray at HorsePlayers went to Evan Trommer.
Things didn’t look too good early on for Trommer. But he had the winner in four of the last five contest races (all at 2-1 or less) and he cashed at least place money in each of the final six races to get the job done late and bring home that coveted NHC seat.
This past weekend was exciting. But next weekend promises to be even better…because it’s an extended holiday weekend. That means good racing, and a sumptuous bounty of featured tournaments starting on Wednesday evening with the stakes events from Penn National and continuing right on through to the Sunday stakes at Del Mar.
We hope you can join us next weekend. And we thank you for being a part of last weekend.