We’re back in the saddle after a post-Horseplayer World Series week of R&R. Though, having spent that week primarily in Las Vegas, it was actually more a week of B&B—betting and beveraging.
Last weekend’s top players at HorseTourneys were obviously more focused on the horses than on March Madness or St. Patrick’s Day frivolity (though we know that many are more than capable of multitasking).
Because it landed in between a couple of NCAA games, Friday’s 11th race at Gulfstream was one I studied intently. To me, it was a mindbender with several possible winners. I can’t remember who I played, but I know I lost my bet. The winner, #3 Runaway Posse, paid $14.40 and $5.20 to place, and that payoff was key in our two featured events on Friday.
I don’t know if James Michelson found the 11th at Gulfstream easy or difficult—but he had the late rushing Runaway Posse, which got him the top money of $4,792 in the day’s $6,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray that ended with a final pot of $9,584. Runner up Edward Wright ($1,916) and third-place finisher Charles Myers ($1,437) had Runaway Posse too. Perhaps I would have had him as well if not for the betting and beveraging.
In Friday’s $75 NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers, everybody seemed to like Runaway Posse.
Among the many backers of the winning 6-1 shot in Gulfstream’s finale, the two who had been doing the best up to then were Jeff “Boom Boom” Joffrion and Thomas Labordo. That meant that Jeff and Thomas were the two who did the best at the conclusion of the contest—and so both are now officially qualified to the 2019 NHC.
Saturday offered seven top prizes across three featured tourneys—and of those seven available prizes, five were won by guys named Steve.
The day’s most lucrative event, our $20,000 Guaranteed tourney finished with a total purse of $22,319, and the big winner was NHC Hall of Famer Steve Wolfson Sr. One of the early pioneers of handicapping contest development and hosting, Wolfson showed Saturday that he has lost nothing off his fastball—although he was certainly having some difficulty in the middle innings.
Wolfson put up goose eggs (good for a pitcher, but bad for a handicapper) in seven consecutive mid-contest races before finishing with a rush with 36-1 winner VIP Code in the Private Terms Stakes at Laurel, a nice place price collection at Gulfstream, and then 6-1 winner Blended Citizen in the Jeff Ruby Steaks (their spelling, not mine) at Turfway. For his early and late exploits, Wolfson earned $10,043.
(Incidentally, I don’t much care what Turfway chooses to call its races, but I sort of hope that other tracks don’t decide to follow suit. While most of us can probably muster a chuckle over Jeff Ruby “Steaks,” I’m not sure we’d be so kind on the more venerable races should they veer to something like “Metropolitan Handi-Wipes” or “Breeders’ Cup O’Noodles.”)
Our second Saturday featured event, a Keeneland Grade One Gamble qualifier, was also won by a guy named Steve…in fact, it was the same Steve:
This time, Wolfson managed to outdo his winning cash game score, adding in an extra place horse and finishing with a robust total of $124.00. He edged out Steve Nowicki (of course) along with Russell Wilkes who crashed the Steve party by nipping Stephen Thompson. With 99 players competing in this event, however, Wolfson, Nowicki, Wilkes and Thompson each won nice $3,500 packages to Keeneland next month.
Over at HorsePlayers on Saturday, Mike Elsass cashed in the final five races, and picked the winners of the last two to take top honors in the day’s two-seat-guaranteed NHC qualifier.
Thanks to the aforementioned win by 36-1 VIP Code in the Private Terms at Laurel, another Steve, Steve Nemetz, jumped up to grab the second available NHC spot.
Unlike on Saturday, Sunday’s 12 featured-tourney top prizes were won by players with 12 different first names—though one of the names was certainly familiar.
Finishing third in Sunday’s Monmouth Pick Your Prize qualifier, behind only Jared Black and Frank Foss, was Russell Wilkes—one of Saturday’s Keeneland package winners.
When Russell and the three Steves get to Keeneland next month, they’ll see some pretty formidable opponents in Lexington, three of whom won their berths on Sunday.
Brett Wiener registered three winners (all 10-1 or more) and a place horse to take this qualifier by daylight ahead of Roger Cettina and Richie Bennett. This was a “one winner per 25 entries” qualifier that attracted 72 entries. But 72 was close enough to 75 for us to award a third Keeneland package in this event. So Bennett is on his way to Keeneland with a $3,500 entry in his pocket along with Wiener and Cettina.
As impressive as Wiener’s score was in the Keeneland qualifier, it was topped by Kyle Fitzgerald in Sunday’s $12,000 Guaranteed tourney.
Fitzgerald, still riding that St. Patrick’s Day wave perhaps, registered four winners at odds of 10-1, 20-1, 10-1 and 16-1 to collect the game’s top prize of $7,532 from a final total purse of $16,739.
Fitzgerald didn’t select any second-place finishers. But who needs place prices when your winners come in at odds like those? In fact, I think we’ve all played contests where—no matter whether we did well or poorly—we rightly tell ourselves that we really didn’t stand a chance given how well the winner performed. This was one of those days.
Of the eight races that Fitzgerald didn’t get right, none of the race winners paid more than $14.60. So Fitzgerald’s four were definitely the best four.
Fitzgerald has also done well in Sunday Exacta tourneys—he won a pair of such events in February—but this past Sunday’s three-horse-box contest belonged to Les Instone, another Exacta-game stalwart.
Instone cashed on four exactas from the 12 contest races, but he did, by far, his most damage in race 4 at Santa Anita, hitting a $1 exacta that paid $162.00. Paul Shurman dipped his toe in the HorseTourneys exacta waters and got second, while Buck Waller played two entries and came in third and fourth.
The Wood Memorial Challenge is coming up in a couple of weeks at the Big A, and 2017 Wynn Challenge winner Nick Fazzolari will be there.
Fazzolari eschewed most of Kyle Fitzgerald’s longshot winners, but he did compile six victories plus a place to rack up $120.70 to earn a $500 entry along with runner up Michael Kavana and Douglas Schenk.
At HorsePlayers on Sunday, Wendy Long—who was high up on the leaderboard for much of Day 3 at the Horseplayer World Series—recorded three wins including $35+ longshots at Santa Anita and Aqueduct to lead the way in the day’s NHC Super Qualifier.
We run these Super Qualifiers at HorsePlayers every two weeks. If you want to try and qualify for the NHC against the smallest possible field of opponents, these “Super Qs” are likely your best chances for success.
Your best chances to win big money online are always at HorseTourneys. We have an up-to-$150,000 tourney with $100,000 Guaranteed coming up on Florida Derby Day (March 31). It will be our richest cash game ever. And just seven days after that we’ve scheduled an up-to-$75,000 contest with $50,000 Guaranteed on Wood/Blue Grass/Santa Anita Derby Day.
If you want to know what your best chances are for winning money by correctly predicting the outcomes of NCAA tournament games, I’m afraid I can’t help you with that.
Certainly not this year.