In case you don’t know, Jobby Blevins’s first name is pronounced JOE-bee…as in “Patience of Job.” Patience is a virtue, as we’ve all been told at some point, and so it was for Jobby in Saturday’s $35,000 Guaranteed tourney.
You might not think Jobby needed all that much patience, given that he won by the margin that he did. However, his day was made temporarily nerve-wracking by not having Uncle B, the 35-1 cap horse that won the 10th at Gulfstream.
Blevins could do little wrong over the first eight races of the 15-race tourney. He recorded four wins and two places over that span to amass a total of $109.90—easily best among the field of 122. But that Uncle B result quickly brought him back to the field, shrinking his seemingly-insurmountable lead to just a few bucks. Fortunately for Blevins, he did have the $6.60 place runner in the Uncle B race. Then he—dare we say—patiently added two more winners over the final six races at odds of 5-2 and 7-1, respectively, to lock up first place once and for all. Here’s a look at Jobby’s scoresheet:
The victory meant a pay day of $16,519 for Blevins in the $35,000 game that closed with a final pot of $36,709. It was nice to see him record a big cash win given how enthusiastically he has gone after NHC Tour points during the second part of the year after already qualifying for Vegas twice. Saturday’s result should help cover those NHC online entry fees and then some!
Unlike on Saturday, there weren’t many big prices to be had on Friday. Scores were tight, and this led to some exciting finishes—none more so than in the day’s $5,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which came down to the very last race.
Jeff “Boom Boom” Joffrion needed 5-1 shot Magic Musketier. Anthony “Doczilla” Trezza was riding with 5-2 second choice Extraordinary Jerry. A win by one or the other would assure victory for that person. And wouldn’t you know—Extraordinary Jerry and Magic Musketier were fighting it out, heads apart at the sixteenth pole. Were Chic Anderson calling the race, he might have said, “We’ll test these two to the wire!”
It was Magic Musketier—and Joffrion—who prevailed, with Magic Musketier wearing down Extraordianary Jerry in very deep stretch. Joffrion got top money of $4,455 in the game that wound up with a purse of $8,911. Trezza had to settle for second but received $1,782 to help cushion the blow.
Incidentally, for those who aren’t aware, we call Joffrion “Boom Boom” in tribute to Hockey legend Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion. On Friday, that duplicative moniker for Jeff was especially fitting.
Yep, there’s Mr. Joffrion adding an NHC seat to his daily haul, thanks again to the final race heroics provided by Magic Musketier in that Del Mar off-the-turfer. Joffrion’s win this time (in a $75 qualifier) wasn’t nearly as painful to the runner up. That’s because second-place finisher John Farrar won an NHC berth too in this 2-seats-guaranteed tourney…and, like Joffrion, Farrar also needed Magic Musketier.
Joffrion was kind enough to leave Friday’s Horse Player World Series entry-only tourney to others.
Brian O’Kane took this one thanks to two winners and two places—and those two winners came in the first two contest races. So it would be fair to say that he was hanging on for dear life in this one. Carl Rasak put in a gallant chase, but wound up second best. O’Kane and Rasak were the only two in the field of 27 to show a flat-bet profit for the 10 races.
Getting back to Saturday action, Jose Garcia—the jockey—didn’t win any races at Tampa Bay Downs…but Jose Garcia—the tournament player—certainly enjoyed a victory worth shouting about.
For the fifth straight weekend, we had a player with seven wins in a single tourney thanks to Garcia’s performance in our Horse Player World Series Full Package qualifier. Ok, now Garcia had a little help in hitting the seven-win plateau given that Saturday’s featured schedule contained 15 races rather than the usual 12. Still, Garcia’s performance was very strong. Like Blevins in the day’s $35,000 game, Garcia did not have bomb Uncle B…and none of his seven on-toppers paid more than $17.00 in the win hole. And when crunch time came around, Garcia finished strong, nailing each of the final three winners to win the package that includes a $1,500 entry, $500 for travel and a four-night hotel stay at The Orleans. Joining Garcia at The Orleans with similar accommodations will be second- and third-place finishers Russell Priola and Kevin Harrell. They were the only three to crack triple figures…and Harrell got up thanks to a $3.40 place payoff from River Boyne in the final contest race, the Hollywood Derby.
Meanwhile there were not one, not two, but three NHC qualifiers at HorsePlayers on Saturday.
By far the biggest of the three in terms of number of players was the NHC free qualifier captured by Ron Kaufmann with a score of $173.10 which, not surprisingly, was the high score of the day. Kaufmann had Uncle B plus three other winners and five runners up. The one odd thing about Kaufmann’s victory was that he whiffed on the last three races. Not too many winners of free NHC contests can do that and live to tell about it—but that just emphasizes how strong he was over the first dozen races. Here’s a look at his scoresheet:
Also winning NHC packages in this event were the third-, fourth-, fifth- and sixth-place finishers…so congratulations to Karen Richards, Barbara Stubblebine, Dominic Rudy and Kirk Tesar. (Following a post-event scoring audit, it was discovered that second-place finisher Dan Tordjman was not a 2018 NHC Tour member and, therefore, ineligble for one of the five prizes. As a result, the fifth available NHC berth slid down to Tesar.)
This was only half the story for Indiana resident Tesar (winner of a $75,000 event at HorseTourneys last year). NHC rules prohibit a player from winning more than one seat in any single contest–but on Saturday, Tesar is believed to have become the first competitor to ever win two NHC seats in a single day via two different online tournaments.
Although Kirk didn’t score as well in the NHC Lower Ratio qualifier as in the free game, his final tally of $111.70—built on four wins including Uncle B and three places—took top honors. Also punching his ticket to the NHC was runner up John Cilia, who secured the precious second slot in the 58-entry tourney by just $1.80.
In Saturday’s NHC “Maiden Special” tourney, restricted to those yet to earn a 2019 NHC seat, Daniel Hart looked to be going nowhere early on. He had just $2.30 to his credit on one measly place return after four races. But four races do not a tourney make.
What a turnaround. An NHC Final Table contestant last February, Hart finished with six winners out of the final 11 races, making himself a 2019 NHC “maiden” no more.
There was one common thread between Sunday’s featured tourneys and those that were contested on Saturday. That thread was Jose “Not the Jock” Garcia.
Brimming with confidence (we assume) from his Horse Player World Series triumph, Garcia took a swing in our $10,000 Guaranteed tourney, which finished up with a pot of $14,151. Needless to say, he is riding…err, handicapping…in very good form right now. Here Garcia recorded four wins and a place to pocket the top prize of $6,368. Victory was never assured for Garcia, however, until Uni ($13.20, $6.40) came flying home late for him in the final contest race, the Matriarch Stakes from Del Mar.
Sharp Canadian handicapper Russell Wilkes had just two winners on Sunday…but he had four big place collections, including a $16.40 return from longshot Daddy is a Legend in the Matriarch, to finish atop the heap in Sunday’s Horse Player World Series entry-only contest.
It was a blanket finish that saw Nick “529” Fazzolari get second and John Melting take third in a three-grand-prize contest. Finishing a gut wrenching fourth was Carl Rasak, who you may recall was also just one position out of a grand prize in Friday’s HPWS qualifier behind Brian O’Kane.
This “beat” was way worse for Rasak than Friday’s, though. On Sunday he finished just 10 cents behind Melting. To make matters worse, he (like Wilkes) had 25-1 runner up Daddy is a Legend in the last race. Even with a 13-horse field and favored Vasilika off the board, the $2.00 place price of $16.40 wound up leaving Rasak shy of what he needed by the very slimmest of margins.
Nick Fazzolari had better luck. His final score of $61.90 was nothing earth shattering…but it did get him the $1,500 Horse Player World Series entry, as noted above. And it also got him a December 29 Monmouth package.
Fazzolari and the others in the tourney were no match, however, for winner Jorge Cruz-Aedo. “Smooth Cruz” had five wins plus a place to roll home by $35.00. A Texan, Cruz-Aedo is now looking forward to his first-ever trip to Monmouth Park—and also to New York City, as he noted on Twitter—come late December.
As you can tell so far, some of our Sunday winners had Uni in the last race; some had Daddy is a Legend. Adam Lewis had them both.
And that’s all he had! Lewis had the nice round number of 0 going into the last race of our $1,000 Guaranteed Exacta tourney, which closed with a pot of $2,101. But his final three-horse exacta box selection included both Uni and Daddy is a Legend and that leapfrogged Lewis from the outhouse to the penthouse…where a check for $1,471 was awaiting him. Michael Marlaire, who hit three exactas on the day, finished second.
Three qualifiers with NHC implications took place at HorsePlayers on Sunday.
The one with the most immediate implications, a “regular” direct qualifier, went to Steven Nemetz and Lawrence Bergen. Nemetz had three wins and three places. Nemetz punched his ticket to Vegas on the strength (and closing kick) of Uni.
Jared Black also had Uni…
…and that propelled him to a $1,500 entry (plus $500 for travel) to the NTRA/Fair Grounds NHC Super Qualifier on December 22. (I wonder if they’ll be able to use Fair Grounds races in that contest!)
Meanwhile, Ron Ferrise—who some will remember was the runner up in the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge thanks in large part to a $75 Daily Double combining Stormy Liberal and Bar of Gold—won our qualifier to the NTRA/Santa Anita Super Qualifier on January 5 thanks to another pair of winners…plus an additional pair of places.
This one was a close, low-scoring tourney that ended a bit oddly in that none of the top six finishers managed to collect on the last race, yet none of them got passed.
All in all, it was a wonderfully crazy weekend of tournament play that managed to survive a Thanksgiving hangover—and a Sunday cancellation at Aqueduct with four minutes to post for the first race. Thanks for hanging in there and being a part of it with us.