There were plenty of prices out there Friday and Saturday. On Sunday—not so much. That set the table for a variety of winners—and winning styles—across 17 featured events during the weekend. It all got started on Friday.
Our Friday contest-race schedules are almost always 10 races long, as opposed to a typical 12 on Saturday and Sunday. So anytime someone cracks triple digits on a Friday, there’s some strong handicapping going on.
It was an all-or-nothing day for Michael Bailey in our $5,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which closed with a total purse of $7,734. None of his horses ran second, but three won…and at win payoffs of $27.60, $6.60 and $39.40. When you have winners like those, who needs places, I guess? Bailey received first-place money of $3,867 for his efforts.
Douglas Schenk and John Strichek, on the other hand, relied much more heavily on those often-handy runners up.
Schenk and Strichek (sounds like a law firm) each had two winners, with runner up Strichek adding a pair of placings and victor Schenk tacking on four. That got them where they need to be—up over that century mark—and come February they’ll be on their way to Vegas thanks to their respective performances in Friday’s $75 NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers.
On Saturday, it was a tale of two World Series for Muggsy Kreiser. The affable contest warrior from Maryland was participating in the World Series of Handicapping at Penn National, where Phil Lam won an event for the second time this year (to go along with another victory at Belmont). Kreiser had no luck in the Penn National contest, busting out of the live-money tournament sometime in mid-afternoon. Muggsy stayed optimistic, though, and shifted his sights to a different World Series.
Good thing he did. Muggsy recorded five wins and a place to roll home first by daylight in our full-package, Horse Player World Series qualifier. Thomas O’Connor checked in second to also win a package that includes a $1,500 entry, four nights’ hotel plus a travel stipend.
It is perhaps interesting to note that all but $3.40 of Muggsy’s winning total of $137.20 was generated from races at either Aqueduct, Gulfstream Park West and Laurel. Those were three of the seven contest tracks at Penn National, which makes his lackluster performance there seem all the more perplexing. Perhaps he let himself get unduly seduced by those tricky heats at Parx and Mahoning Valley. (We already know he has demonstrated a soft spot for Fortune Cup races at The Orleans.)
Saturday was our last-chance qualifier to next weekend’s Aqueduct Challenge and Richard Smith (four wins, one place) won it in appropriate fashion.
Smith’s big winner was Can’tweallgetalong ($33.20, $11.60) in the nightcap at Aqueduct to power his way to victory. For a while, it looked like it would be Stacey Rynn’s tournament—and it still basically was since Rynn achieved the objective of winning an Aqueduct package. Anyway, Rynn had four of the day’s first five winners, then added just a $4.80 place horse thereafter, but still held on for that second available Big A prize.
Meanwhile, Geoffrey Schutt was the day’s biggest single winner.
He whiffed on the final two races, but before that, he had five winners and two places to take top money of $8,750 in our $17,500 Guaranteed Pick & Pray. Schutt’s big hit came via Big City Blues ($30.60, $16.00) in the 10th at Laurel.
Vincent Achillare and John Gaspar both had Big City Blues…
…and that helped get them both to the top of the heap in Saturday’s “regular” NHC qualifier.
There was also an NHC qualifier—of the “Low Ratio” variety—at HorsePlayers on Saturday.
Seth Morris blanked on the final three races, but he had five winners (including Big City Blues) and a place prior to that to take home the NHC berth.
Sunday was a day without a lot of big-priced winners among the 12 featured-tourney races. The highest available win mutuel wound up being $13.90 (Woodbine breakage). That meant that to be successful, you had to really crank out the winners. Evan Trommer, who has been hotter than just about anyone besides Lacey Gaudet in recent days, did just that.
On the day after the Breeders’ Cup, Trommer won $6,298 in our $12,597 tourney despite not having the day’s big price (13-1). He prevailed that day by stringing together seven wins and a place. This past weekend, Trommer won $7,000 in our Big Bucks game (which went off at an 8% overlay to players) by hitting another seven winners…plus two places. His total for all those collections was just $77.30 but sometimes you have to take what the defense gives you, and that strategy paid off for Trommer for the second straight Sunday.
Trommer wasn’t done cashing either.
In our more traditional $10,000 Guaranteed tourney with a $195 buy-in, Trommer came in second, finishing behind only Jacob Phillips who had two wins and six (!) places. That meant $5,349 for Phillips and another $2,139 for Trommer.
Our single biggest Sunday prize was up for grabs in our first qualifier to the 2019 Pegasus World Cup Betting Championship.
The grand prize here of a $12,500 package went to Stephen McNatton who recorded three wins and two placings en route to a winning score of $63.20.
Another Gulstream-hosted tournament coming up is the December 1 Conquer the Crown Championship.
John Macklin will try to return from that one as a conquering hero thanks to his win in yesterday’s qualifier which offered a $3,000 entry to the opening day competition at Gulfstream.
A score of $66.50 got it done for Damian Terenzio in our qualifier to the December 29 tournament at Monmouth.
Terenzio needed Spiced Perfection ($10.60, $5.00) to get up for the win in the final tourney race from Del Mar for him to get up for the win in the Monmouth qualifier.
Another “pitcher’s duel” took place in our Hawthorne Fall NHC Super Qualifier qualifier.
Jim Templin prevailed here with a score of $61.60—which was built on six winners and two places. Templin sprinted out of the gate with five victories and a runner up from the first six contest races, then held on from there, with the short-priced winners serving as his friends both when he had them early and when he didn’t have them late.
In a manner of speaking, Nicholas Waryas set the bar even lower.
He had four first-place finishers to take top honors with a score of $57.60 in our Lone Star qualifier. It was the second Sunday of the last three that Waryas won a $500 entry to the December 1 event deep in the heart of Texas.
One of the weekend’s most uncommon performances came in our $1,000 Guaranteed Exacta tourney.
Obviously a lot of chalk was winning, which is conducive to somewhat easier or more logical exacta results. Still, to do what Ted Fabiniak did is impressive. He hit eight exactas (using the mandatory three-horse-box plays) out of 12 races to earn $1,548 in a tourney that closed with a pot of $2,212. Here’s a look at Fabiniak’s scoresheet:
Nothing dramatic…just winning combo after winning combo for Fabiniak. Kudos also to second-place finisher Jimmie O’Nail, who wasn’t far behind Fabiniak in style or substance. O’Nail had seven exactas.
Last but not least among the nine Sunday featured events at HorseTourneys was our entry-only Horse Player World Series qualifier.
Jon Van Niel and Larry LaTour, both scoring in the 60s, were the two winners of $1,500 HPWS entries in this Pick & Pray.
The one featured event of Sunday at HorsePlayers was a live-format tourney, but it mattered not to Van Niel.
Van Niel, who now has a lot of Vegas time in his immediate future, used the exact same picks as in the HorseTourneys Pick & Pray to win an NHC spot for finishing second behind Joe Pettit in this “regular” qualifier. Pettit, however, was playing for NHC Tour points only thanks to his victories at The BIG One and Saratoga earlier in 2018. Mission accomplished for Pettit…and that meant mission accomplished for third-place finisher Anthony Garofalo—to whom the second available NHC seat slid.
Congratulation again to Phil Lam for sweeping both Penn National tournaments held this year. And congratulations are also in order for Mark Streiff, who turned a shrinking bankroll of $1,300 into first-place cash and prizes of about $90,000 at the Del Mar Fall Classic by taking that $1,300 and investing it in final-race trifectas that wound up paying some $52,000. The Breeders’ Cup Golden Ales are on Mark!
As always, thanks to all of you for playing—and reading.