It’s hard to say for sure who a “Contest Player of the Year” award for 2017 might go to. A sensible choice would be Ray Arsenault for having won the NHC in the early part of the year. Christopher Dewey is the current leader, as of this writing, in the NHC Tour standings, so he could be worthy. As could Ed Peters who won The BIG One and finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge.
But if we were to present a Contest Player of the Year award for 2018, there would only be one choice.
That’s Joe Koury, the pride of Douglassville, Pa.
Now some might say that bestowing a 2018 Player of the Year award would be premature. That’s probably true. So for now, Joe will have to settle for the still-very-high-honor of receiving accolades in this blog.
Joe wired the field in our New Year’s Day $10,000 Guaranteed game that finished with a total pot of $11,735. His cut of that was $5,867—a nice cushion with which to start the year. Joe started so quickly that his opponents may not have known what hit them.
In what was just a nine-race tourney (due to the cancellation of Laurel), Kourn set the tone with early winners at 10-1 and 16-1, and that was pretty much all she (or in this case, he) wrote.
But if you think the story ends there, well you are not up to speed on the breadth of Joe Koury’s 2018 saga.
Yes, that’s Joe penning yet another page of 2018 history by finishing first in a field of 570 in the $50 NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers on Monday to win an NHC package along with runner up Frank Clements and third-place finisher Dino Herrera. But did you notice anything surprising in that last set of standings? He scored $31.40 better in this NHC Pick & Pray than he did in winning the live-format $11,735 game. What the heck?
In the NHC muster-passer, Joe again blasted out with two straight winners, and then he kept blasting, reeling off five of the first six, with nothing lower than 5-1 in the bunch. After getting off to such a fast start, Joe apparently decided to hedge in the live-format cash game. And even though that proved to be a bad decision, he still won both contests.
And what made it even more impressive is that Koury wasn’t attacking both games with three entries each. He didn’t even play two entries each. No…when it is clearly your year, there’s really no need to play more than just a single entry, which is what Joe did. Total entry fees: $245. Total return: $5,867 plus a full package to the 2018 NHC. It was quite a day for Joe, who is currently on pace to win about $2.1 million this year.
Meanwhile 2017 came to a happy and profitable conclusion for several other players during the long, holiday weekend.
Jim Bohnhoff had three winners and three places horses…
…to earn $5,044 in Friday’s sold-out $10,000 game. Jim’s “big horse” was Quenane who paid $39.80 to win and $15.60 to place in the 10th at Gulfstream.
Shea Harrod just had Quenane and one other $4.20 place horse…
…but that was sufficient to get himself the $500 entry in Friday’s Treasure Island NHC Last Chance qualifier.
Jon Van Niel took a less traveled route to Friday success.
He didn’t have Quenane…but neither did anyone else in the Horse Player World Series entry-only qualifier on Friday. But Van Niel did have five winners—all at $10.80 to win or below—and that got him the $1,500 entry to The Orleans.
Over at HorsePlayers on Friday, the top game was a $75 NHC qualifier that drew 425 players and offered three packages.
The sharp winners were Kevin Cox, Nick Fazzolari (2017 Wynn Champ) and Carlos Soto. As impressive as the “top-2” finishes by Cox and Fazzolari were, what might have been equally impressive is that both played three entries and all six of their collective entries finished in the top 15%. Cox’s were 1st, 20th and 57th…and Fazzolari’s were 2nd, 4th and 19th.
Saturday’s 12-race contest menu featured eight stakes, and the classy racing was clearly to the liking of Daniel Hart.
Hart recorded the weekend-high score of $139.80 thanks to four winners and five runners up to capture the “regular” NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers. In second place was Justin Nicholson who also punched his ticket to the NHC.
The other featured event at HorsePlayers on Saturday was a Treasure Island NHC Last Chance qualifier.
Pete Acocella rounded out what was a very nice 2017 by grabbing the top spot in this one.
Back here at HorseTourneys, Brian O’Kane and Brian Johnson also posted gaudy scores in our Horse Player World Series full-package tourney.
They and third-place finisher Jim Marshall all used as their springboard to victory 22-1 Robert Frankel Stakes winner Midnight Crossing, who clearly liked the switch to California turf, Brice Blanc and Richard Baltas (though not necessarily in that order).
And Saturday’s biggest winner was Cayne Collier.
He registered two wins (including Midnight Crossing) and three place horses to pull down $13,150 in Saturday’s $20,000 Guaranteed event that ended up with a total purse of $29,222. And, look, there was Joe Koury ($5,260) warming up for 2018 in second place.
New Year’s Eve marked a double victory for John “The Clocker” Nichols.
Nichols had five winners and two runners up…but he needed the modestly priced winners in the last two races (worth a total of $22.00 in contest collections) to get up late and make $6,989 in Sunday’s $15,531 game.
For good measure, Nichols tacked on a triumph in Sunday’s Treasure Island NHC Last Chance qualifier. Also winning Last Chance berths in the well-subscribed qualifier were Ronald Webster, Kerry Bassore, Alan Denkenson, Pete Acocella (his second of the weekend), Roger Forget, Paul Kloeker and David Johnson.
Nichols’s double win might ordinarily have merited a mention higher up in this article. However, such performances have become rather commonplace for the sharp-eyed timer. This is the third consecutive weekend that Nichols has won at least two featured-tourney prizes. In those three weeks, Nichols won two seats to Hawthorne, two seats to the Treasure Island Last Chance and $10,198.
In Sunday’s regular NHC qualifier, the winners came in bunches for John Farrar and Tom Cooper.
Farrar had five winners (plus a place horse) and Cooper knocked out six winners. Both are now headed to the NHC in February.
John Standiford, John O’Neil and Robert Losier have Las Vegas on their itineraries for March.
Each won $1,500 entries on Sunday to the Horse Player World Series.
Meanwhile, there was something of a HorseTourneys rarity in Sunday’s $3,441 Exacta tourney.
John W. Matviko and Brian O’Keefe finished in a flat-footed tie with the exact same winners making up their final scores of $201.70. So Matviko and O’Keefe shared the combined first- and second-place payouts of $2,408.
The final featured event at HorsePlayers in 2017 was an NHC Super Qualifier.
Jason Avila and Anthony Trezza grabbed the coveted spots. For Trezza, it was an especially satisfying score after experiencing some tough racing luck during the preceding few days.
On New Year’s Day, Jon Van Niel picked up a Treasure Island Last Chance seat to go with the Horse Player World Series entry he earned on Friday.
Van Niel will be joined at the Last Chance event by Richard Grose and Howard Johnson who finished 1-2 ahead of Van Niel in the Monday qualifier.
Meanwhile Patrick Larson (4 wins, 2 places) and Robert Childress (3 wins and 2 places)…
…took down the desirable prizes in Monday’s Horse Player World Series entry-only qualifier.
Larson and Childress also unofficially take over second- and third-places in the 2018 Contest Player of the Year standings behind Joe Koury. Things could change between now and December 31st, though.
Last but far from least, special kudos go out to recent HorseTourneys brick-and-mortar qualifiers John Ukleja and Mark McGuire. Last weekend, each won tournaments for which they had qualified here at HorseTourneys. Ukleja took the Saturday honors at the Hawthorne Holiday Extravaganza and McGuire led the hit parade on Sunday at Surfside. Well done, gentlemen.