Blake Courtney Scores on Back-to-Back Days; Elizabeth Canning Repeats; Last Race Cap Horse Shakes Up Sunday (Weekend Recap July 20-22)

While many HorseTourneys regulars enjoy both live-format and Pick & Pray games, some prefer one format or the other. This past weekend, it was the Pick & Pray format’s turn to preside over most of the featured action. On Friday, one of the most ardent supporters of Pick & Prays reminded us yet again of his prowess in these competitions.

Anthony Trezza has long made it known that he prefers Pick & Prays to contests in which the scoreboard can sometimes dictate final-race selections. In Friday’s $6,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, the Pennsylvania optometrist spotted five winners and two runners up to collect $4,792 in a game that wound up being worth a total of $9,584.

One HorseTourneys stalwart who seems to thrive in any format is former longtime standardbred trainer Gary Machiz. In late May and early June, Machiz won $26,000 in cash and prizes, including seats to The BIG One and Saratoga. On Saturday, Machiz added to his 2018 totals.

Machiz got his picture taken in the winner’s circle of our $40,000 Guaranteed tourney thanks to having picked five winners, including Jess I Am ($12.60, $7.30) in the final contest race. In this case, Machiz turned 5-1 into a return of $18,000. And once again, a big-money game at HorseTourneys offered outstanding value with this event going off with a takeout rate of just 1.2%.

Perhaps Robert Matthews didn’t set the world on fire in Saturday’s NHC Low Ratio qualifier—but he’s not complaining.

Matthews hit four winners and two places, good for a score of $48.40. In this event, however, Matthews was the only person to show (barely) a flat-bet profit on his 12 $2 win-place plays, and so Matthews is on his way to Vegas to compete in the NHC. In contests, as in life, it’s often not a matter of “how” but “how many.”

Somewhat surprisingly, our highest featured-tourney score on Saturday came in our Last Chance qualifier for next weekend’s Hawthorne OTBs Summer NHC Qualifier.

Robert Flaska recorded six wins and three runners up from the 12 contest races to run up an impressive total of $94.10 and more than earn his $800 in entry fees for next weekend’s contests. Good luck out in Chicagoland, Robert!

John Melting and David Johnson were our two winners of $1,000 packages in Saturday’s qualifier to the Orleans Fall Classic.

Melting’s score of $80.70 didn’t quite race the lofty altitude of Robert Flaska’s—thought how he got there was pretty interesting. Melting didn’t hit anything in the final two of the 12 races. But he cashed in every race prior to that.

Steven Turner used a similar “approach” in capturing Saturday’s BCBC qualifier over at HorsePlayers.

Turner whiffed on the final three contest races—but he had six winners and two places from the nine races before that.

Back at HorseTourneys on Saturday, John Holmes swept the top two positions to earn not one but two packages to the August 10-11 Saratoga Challenges.

Holmes’s superior entry had seven wins and two places, including winners in each of the last four races. His “lesser” entry edged out Blake Courtney…but since this tourney had enough entries to award three packages, Courtney is heading to the Spa too.

The Spa isn’t the only place Courtney is heading.

Blake took some of that Saturday confidence and reinvested it in our Sunday qualifier to The BIG One, where he placed first. Joining Courtney at the 57-player-max event at Laurel will be runner up Lawrence Kahlden. Kahlden earned his all-inclusive seat to The BIG One thanks to cashing for $5.60 to place in the last contest race, the 4th at Del Mar.

Donald Markwardt used that last race at Del Mar to even greater, more dramatic effect than Kahlden.

Markwardt, in need of a late miracle, got one—rooting 36-1 shot Kentan Road from the also-eligible list to the wire in the 4th at Del Mar which won him a spot, ironically, in next weekend’s Del Mar Handicapping Challenge. One of his opponents there will be Daniel Kaplan, who earned an $8,500 package on Sunday despite not having the final-race bomb. One of Markwardt’s other opponents at Del Mar will be…himself…Markwardt won an $8,500 Del Mar package last week at HorseTourneys as well!

Unlike the Del Mar tourney, Sunday’s Keeneland NHC/BCBC Challenge qualifier was a Pick & Pray and only one of the 37 contestants picked Kentan Road.

That wound up turning the competition into a last-race route. We wonder if winner Kevin Willett—in close striking distance heading into that last race—had any second thoughts prior to the final race about his daring selection.

Geoffrey Billet, meanwhile, was the only player to use Kentan Road in Sunday’s Monmouth Super Qualifier qualifier.

The Kentan Road pick gave Billet a winning ticket. Franco Pancione will join Billet at Monmouth after prevailing in a tight battle for second.

Richard Grose did not have the 36-1 longshot at Del Mar…and yet it didn’t prevent him from recording the high score of the day.

That’s what seven winners and two places will do for you. And for Grose, the big final score came in a great spot—our $10,000 Gtd. Pick & Pray, which ended up with a final pot of $10,872. Grose’s share of that came to $5,436. Here’s a look at his ultra-impressive scoresheet.

Our other cash game on Sunday yielded an impressive result for a different reason.

It’s not that Elizabeth Canning’s score wasn’t impressive—and she connected on seven of a possible 12 exactas to get there. But the headline here is that this was Canning’s second straight conquest of the Sunday gimmick tourney.

Canning, now $3,000 to the good these last eight days playing Exacta tourneys, will be shooting for the natural hat trick next Sunday, we suspect. And we’ll be following her progress!

There were a couple of very significant featured tourneys on Sunday at HorsePlayers. In our BCBC Low Ratio qualifiers, Kenny Schmitt more than made up for not having 36-1 shot Kentan Road in the anchor leg.

Prior to the final race, Schmitt had racked up six winners and two places to wrap up his $10,000 entry.

Kentan Road played a much more significant role in Sunday’s NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers.

With runner up Jobby Blevins and third-place finisher Christopher Podratz both already double-qualified and, therefore, just playing for NHC Tour points, the two available NHC berths were left to the first- and fourth-place finishers. So congratulations to William Henderson and Eric Gielata—both of whom selected the right longshot to leapfrog their way to the prizes.

It’s an exciting time of year now that Saratoga and Del Mar are rolling. And next Sunday is Haskell Day so there’s that to look forward to as well. We’ll be ready with one or two special games that day. We hope you can join us once again for what shapes up to be another very exciting weekend of summer racing and tournament play.

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