The past weekend had an extra urgent feel to it with Saturday marking the final day to earn 2018 NHC Tour points and with Sunday beginning the unofficial final push for 2019 NHC seats. It made for a frenzied three days of action that began on Friday.
The horse you really wanted to have in the Friday Pick & Prays was My Little Rosy who made his turf debut a winning one (as Richard Grunder might say) in the final Friday contest race, the 10th at Tampa Bay Downs.
My Little Rosy scored at odds of 41-1, and that was good news for Jon Petoskey, who had My Little Rosy among his four winners (and a place). The longshot score put Petoskey over the top in our $5,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, earning him $5,717 in a tourney that closed with a purse of $11,434. Lucas Van Zandt, one of four others to hit the Bay Area bomb, finished second to pocket $2,286.
Steve Nemetz had a modest two wins and two places on Friday, but one of them was My Little Rosy.
That pick moved Nemetz up to the top in our Horse Player World Series entry-only qualifier, earning him a $1,500 entry to the Orleans March major.
In Friday’s Treasure Island NHC Last Chance tourney qualifier, there were 31 entries. Somewhat remarkably, not a single one had My Little Rosy, and that meant a logjam at the top.
If you showed a flat-bet profit in this one, you were in with a big chance. Russell Winterbotham had just a single first-place finisher and three runners up. Scott Cavalieri and “The Commissioner” Tim Smith each had but one win and two places. Yet all three emerged with a $500 Treasure Island. Smith did so by a mere 10 cents over hard-luck fourth-place contestant, 2007 NHC champ Stan Bavlish.
Saturday was the final day in which to earn 2018 NHC Tour points. A $100 qualifier at HorsePlayers allowed players to do just that and, not incidentally, there were six NHC seats up for grabs in it as well.
Three of the top six finishers—2018 The BIG One champion Joe Pettit, 2013 NHC winner Jim Benes and Kevin Engelhard—were playing solely for the points, hoping to improve their standing for year-end bonuses and awards behind unofficial Tour winner David Gutfreund. That meant that three of the available six NHC seats dropped down to the seventh-, eighth- and ninth-place finishers. The always-dangerous Darwin Labordo led the way with the day’s only triple-digit tally. Also earning NHC spots were Matthew Nixon, Benjamin Coppola, Scott McKeever, Jennifer Viens and Mark Renney. All together, 63 players from the field of 621 earned some last-minute tour points here.
There were also three valuable events at HorseTourneys on Saturday, led by our $17,500 Guaranteed cash game.
Joseph Costello whiffed on the final two races…but he had six wins and a place from the 10 races prior to that to secure first place and the winner’s share of $9,422 that went with it. The total pot in this one was a solid $20,938.
Colin Roach put together a very nice assortment of winners and runners up—five of the former and three of the latter.
And that got him a $3,500 package ($3,000 entry plus $500 for travel) to the Keeneland Grade One Gamble in April.
Scores were a bit lower in Saturday’s full-package qualifier to the Horse Player World Series, but we doubt that matters much to Robert Courtney and Keith Van Lanen.
Courtney and Van Lanen will each be at The Orleans on a full scholarship (entry, hotel, travel stipend) for the March 28-30 extravaganza. And, as of now on the HPWS leaderboard, they are both tied for first place!
The NHC Tour season may be over, but the opportunities to qualify for the 2019 NHC (now less than four weeks away!) continue. The first four of those “post tour” seats were up for grabs on Sunday.
Ed Robinson hit the final two races—at odds of 4-1 and 5-1—to go with two other winners and a place.
That got him an NHC berth in HorsePlayers’ “open company” Low Ratio qualifier.
There was also a separate Low Ratio qualifier at HorsePlayers open only to those who had yet to earn a 2019 NHC seat.
Better late than never for Robert Schwartz and Justin Dew. Schwartz had five winners to come home first. Dew, meanwhile, had led late in the contest, but then had to sweat out the results of the final race as his selection ran up the track. As nervewracking as the race, itself, must have been for Dew, just being able to see the final race was not without its own unique set of difficulties. We could go on, but we wouldn’t do the story justice. Let’s let Justin tell his own story:
I believe that there IS an Outback Steakhouse somewhere on the Las Vegas Strip, but here’s hoping Justin finds himself a sitter for NHC weekend.
There was also a “regular” NHC qualifier at HorseTourneys on Sunday.
Here, WWE bigwig Basil DeVito added a second seat to his February portfolio as he seeks an NHC championship belt. Look for DeVito to also do a little tag-teaming at Treasure Island with his son Alex. Though remember, Basil…in the words of the boss of your boss’s wife…no collusion!
If there was any question whether NHC fever has truly set in, check out how many winners there were in Sunday’s qualifier to the Treasure Island NHC Last Chance tournament.
Congratulations to Sunday’s “Big 10”: Derek Lapikas, Tom Boyd, William Webb, Don (not Donald) Allen, John Nichols, Thomas Kirchoff, William Webb (one more time!), Paul Kloeker, Ronald de la Gardelle and Robert Pennell.
There was a nice turnout for Sunday’s one-time-only qualifier to this Saturday’s Tampa Bay Downs High Rollers Contest. As a result, we were able to award two $1,000 entries.
The two Tampa recipients were Thomas Holland, who had final race runner up Bold Mongolian ($18.60 to place) and Rich Nilsen, who was on Justin Dew’s new favorite horse, last-race winner Forestation ($13.40, $6.20). Should Holland and Nilsen taste success again next weekend, they will have the choice of a 2019 or a 2020 NHC seat.
The richest Sunday event was our qualifier to the January 25-26 Pegasus World Cup Betting Championship. Despite running this on back-to-back weeks for the first time, we still had enough entries for two grand prize winners.
Those two winners of $12,500 packages ($12,000 entry plus $500 travel) were John Holmes who—with four winners and three places—apparently found this tourney to be elementary. Also winning a package was second-place finisher Kevin Willett…who seems to find a lot of contests pretty elementary.
Michael Gotkin had a Sunday worth shouting about.
He had final-race 5-1 shot Forestation to move himself to the top of the heap in our $10,000 Guaranteed tourney. Gotkin received top money of $6,678 in a game ultimately worth a total of $14,841.
Our other featured cash tourney on Sunday was our $1,000 Guaranteed Exacta box game.
Mack McClyment did the best job of coming up with successful three-horse exacta box plays here, connecting on four of them out of 12 races. His biggest hit came in the 8th at Tampa Bay Downs when his three-horse, one-dollar box returned $58.50. That allowed Mack to truck home with $1,239 from an overall prize pool of $1,770.
Last but far from least was our Sunday entry-only qualifier to the Horse Player World Series.
Checking in first with the high score of the day was Mark Rudy, who had seven winners. Here’s a look at his scoresheet:
Rudy was doing so well that it really didn’t matter that he whiffed on the final race. The next four finishers in this three-prize tourney all had 5-1 winner Forestation, however, and that made for quite a scramble. Congratulations to Gary Mannion and reigning NHC champ Chris Littlemore, who grabbed the second and third available Horse Player World Series entries by finishing a mere 20 cents ahead of Stephen McNatton, who came in a hard-luck fourth.
We hope you can join us again next weekend when we’ll be offering a last-chance qualifier to the Pegasus, our first qualifier to the first-ever Spa & Surf Showdown and at least six more guaranteed seats to the 2019 NHC…plus our full array of cash games and other qualifiers. See you there!