One of the slightly odd things about being a tournament player is that our frame of reference for big days can be completely different from that of the rest of the racing world. For 99.9% of racing fans, Justify will be the horse they remember from this past weekend and rightly so. That other tiny slice, though, might remember it more for the horses that helped propel them to victory in a big tournament—horses like Still Having Fun, Spring Quality, He’s Like Violence and Candid Desire. We salute Justify because he was outstanding and historic last weekend—and at the same time we know, in our little world, those other horses were the ones we really needed.
Our first of 15 featured weekend tourneys took place on Friday with our $7,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray. Robert Hannan had five of the ten winners…
…but it was his $8.00 place payoff for a runner-up finish in the final contest race that ultimately put him over the top and earned him the top prize of $5,128 in an event that ended up with a final purse of $10,257.
Justify was the hero on the track on Saturday, and in our featured events the primary star of the day was Peter Deys.
I’m sure that Deys admired Justify’s Triple Crown triumph, but forgive him if he goes forward remembering the day for Still Having Fun ($28.00 to win in Belmont’s 7th), Spring Quality ($38.00 in Belmont’s 10th) and He’s Like Violence ($46.20 to win in Santa Anita’s 8th). Deys had all three plus another winner and two runners up to earn the grand prize of $33,750 in Saturday’s $75,000 Guaranteed tourney.
Robin Buser scored almost as well as Deys.
His five wins (including Spring Quality) and two places led to a total of $175.90 and a $3,500 package to the Saratoga Challenge on August 10-11. Also winning a $3,500 package to the Spa was runner up Anthony DeCaspers.
Over at HorsePlayers on Saturday, in a live-format qualifier to the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge, Deys and Buser squared off against each other.
Neither player scored quite as well as they did in their respective $75,000 and Saratoga victories, but Deys came out the better of the two here to earn the $10,000 BCBC entry. Buser had to settle for a hard-luck $358 breakage refund.
The other HorsePlayers featured event on Belmont Stakes Day was an NHC Super Qualifier. After eight of the 12 contest races, Frank Foss had put up on the scoreboard a grand total of $9.00.
Foss turned things around over the last four races, however, connecting on three winners to take home all the marbles (in this case, an NHC berth) with his score of $133.80.
Back at HorseTourneys, there was another strong turnout for our qualifier to the Orleans Fall Classic.
Jake Tyler had four winners, led by Santa Anita’s 6th race 22-1 shot victor He’s Like Violence to show the way. Joining Tyler up on the second floor ballroom of The Orleans will be second- and third-place finishers Geno Kroska and Chick Matties.
Sunday was our busiest day of the weekend in terms of offering nine featured tourneys. Our largest of the nine was captured by Peter Osella.
Osella recorded four winners, including $46.80 longshot Candid Desire in the 8th at Belmont, to garner an all-inclusive package to the Sept. 22-23 The BIG One At Laurel. There, Osella will face no more than 56 opponents in a battle for cash, 10 BCBC entries, 10 NHC seats and 10 Horse Player World Series entries. Qualifiers for The BIG One continue every week.
Another major brick-and-mortar event for which we held a Sunday qualifier was July’s Del Mar Handicapping Challenge.
Champion David Basler’s winners included Candid Desire and…that’s it…he just had the one winner!. However, he did have five runners up, which got him all the way up to $82.30 and first place, which was worth an $8,500 package.
Lexington, Ky., is too far for Fontana, Calif., auto dealer Mike Caposio to drive, but perhaps he’ll take one of his fine Chevrolets to the airport because he is headed in October to the Keeneland NHC/BCBC Challenge.
Caposio registered two wins and two places to grab the $3,500 package to Blue Grass country.
Timothy Yohler, meanwhile, is headed to Florida at the end of this month.
He, too, won a $3,500 package—his to the new June 30 Gulfstream Park Seize the Speed Betting Championship.
Sunday also featured our first qualifier to the July 7 Stars and Stripes Challenge at Belmont.
By scoring in the 70s, Michael Kavana and Rene Morety each received $500 entries to the grassy competition at Belmont.
In the cash department, our $12,000 guaranteed event went to Edward Osterhout, who has had a fine 2018.
Here, Osterhout earned $6,000 for his five wins and two places. He cashed in five of the first six contest races and coasted home from there.
While Justify pulled off the Triple Crown sweep last weekend, alas, Jorge Cruz-Aedo could not.
Cruz-Aedo gave it a good try, though, After having won the previous two Sunday Exacta tourneys, Cruz-Aedo checked in 10th this past Sunday behind winner Kevin Jones, who blew the competition wide open after being the only player to hit the $211.50 (for a dollar) exacta in the 8th at Belmont. For his dual-horse prescience, Jones won $1,178.
Over at HorsePlayers, Peter Bucci, Bob Meseke and Robert Graham rounded out the weekend roster of featured-tourney winners.
Bucci (4 wins, 3 places) and Meseke (5 wins, 1 place) each posted big scores, and each won berths to the 2019 NHC.
Graham, meanwhile, didn’t hit a thing over the first five races…
…but he had four winners, including Candid Desire ($42.00 to win for contest purposes, $15.60 to place) over the final seven to take top honors—and, more importantly, a $10,000 BCBC entry—in Sunday’s Low Ratio qualifier.
Thanks for sharing part of your Belmont Stakes weekend with us. Even if your name isn’t among the many impressive winners listed above, well…we’ll always have Justify.
Hats off to Mr. Deys!
Notice that neither of us had the gumption to use the Triple Crown winning Justify in tournament action, which may have come in handy for me trying to overcome a $1.70 deficit-haha.