Just as there are horses for courses, some contest players seem to do better at certain venues. It may be due to easier travel…or an intangible familiarity with the atmosphere and surroundings…or a confidence level that is boosted by previous successes there, but I’d wager that we all secretly have a “favorite” contest location.
I don’t know that such a hypothesis can translate over to online play, but 2011 NHC Champ John Doyle sure seems to be at home (figuratively…and perhaps literally) competing in BCBC Low Ratio qualifiers at HorsePlayers.
Doyle’s latest such conquest came in Sunday’s event at HorsePlayers in which Doyle had four winners, including tallies in each of the last three races. The final one—with Robintakincharge ($7.20, $3.80) took Doyle up an over previous leader Eric Pineiro for the W.
Doyle’s name is a familiar one at the top of BCBC qualifiers at HorsePlayers. This past April, he won back-to-back Super Low Ratio qualifiers to earn a pair of $10,000 entries. BCBC rules permit one to play no more than two entries…but entries ARE allowed to be transferred, so look for John to have a small posse with him on the big weekend this year…because the BCBC qualifying year is far from over!
The weekend got started on Friday with our $5,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray and—as was the case with Doyle on Sunday—all of the winner’s collections came on first-place finishes.
Here it was Dave Cichy who successfully eschewed place runners to capture the grand prize. The field was bunched up and scores were low going in to the last race since no winner over the first nine contest heats had paid more than $8.80. But Cichy connected on the victor that counted the most—Trieste ($24.80, $9.20) in the 11th at Gulfstream—to earn top money of $4,792 in a game that was ultimately worth a total of $9,584.
On Saturday, place payoffs did play their customary role as separators in our featured events—including the day’s free NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers.
This event was back to a single-day affair (though we may still see a two-day free qualifier again this year like there was last time). Not surprisingly, since the field was so big, Kevin Bertram’s winning score of $115.60 was the highest of the day. It was built on four triumphs and three runner-up performances. Joining Bertram on the free scholarship to the NHC will be Leslie Jannis, Carol Johnson, Matthew Baca and Anthony Servino, who got up into the fifth and final NHC-qualifying position by 50 cents thanks to having Cha Cha Heels ($8.40, $4.40) in the 11th at Gulfstream, which was the final contest race.
The winning total posted by James Lisowsky in Saturday’s $17,500 Guaranteed Pick & Pray came surprisingly close to that of Bertram.
Lisowsky hit Silver Summer ($25.40, $12,60) in the penultimate contest race, the 5th at Santa Anita to give himself the boost he needed to cash in for $9,526 in a tourney that closed with a final pot of $21,169.
Place payoffs were especially key for the winner of Saturday’s Saratoga Challenge qualifier.
Jim Burrell had five of the them, to go with his three winners. All eight of those collections came during the first nine races. He blanked on the final three and had to sweat things out—but his total of $78.30 carried the day by $1.80. That was good for a $3,500 package to the two single-day competitions at the Spa on August 9-10.
The other Saturday featured tourney was back over at HorsePlayers where Allan Sadler had a hot start and a hot finish to capture a BCBC entry.
Sadler had the winners of the first two races to take the lead, then two of the last three—including Cha Cha Heels in the finale—to get himself back into the lead.
Before we move on to Sunday, we want to pay tribute to HorseTourneys regular Patrich Stich, who finished first in Saturday’s Pick Your Prize Tournament at Monmouth.
A 26-year-old Real Estate salesman from Chicago, Stich jumped out to an early lead just before the midway point in the day when he had the Queens Quarters-Faithful Sue exacta that paid $99 for a deuce…or $2,475 if, like Patrick, you had it for $50. As Patrick put it, he “stalled” a bit over the next few races, and despite hitting a $600 win bet on Cha Cha Heels ($8.40) in the 11th at Gulfstream, Patrick found himself trailing Tim Yohler by $470 heading into the final race of the contest, Race 12 at Monmouth.
Yohler just made $100 worth of small bets in the final race, in part because he wasn’t certain he had made his requisite five plays on Monmouth races. Otherwise, he probably would have sat the race out. Patrick, meanwhile, took a measured attempt at victory.
“I decided to take a $200 shot at first place,” he said. Stich played a cold 2-5 exacta, and watched excitedly as the 2 horse, drew off to a four-length win at 3-5 while the 5 horse, Aiken to Belong got up late for second. The $2.00 exacta paid $13.00…or $1,300. Yohler’s bets resulted in a slight loss for the race, and victory belonged to Stich.
It wasn’t the first onsite victory for the young Chicagoan in 2019. In April he bested 282 others in the Keeneland Spring Challenge, where he won a Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge entry and $11,000 in cash. Having topped the field of 222 at Monmouth, Stich received the first two picks from the array of 34 prizes available. His first selection was a BCBC seat plus an extra $3,500 in cash. With pick number 2, he took a straight cash prize of $12,000. He also won a first-place cash bonus of $14,000 and, of course, he got to keep his final bankroll of $6,150. At the end of the day, Stich had $35,650 plus his second BCBC entry for the 2019 event.
“I figured I might be in good shape on NHC Tour Points between my win at Keeneland and today,” Stich said with respect to his choices, “so I went for another BCBC entry.”
(Prizes ran all the way down to 27th place where Dan Flanigan finished. Flanigan received an NHC seat in addition to his final bankroll total of $2,396.50. All players started with a bankroll of $1,000.)
Though young in age, Stich is no newcomer to the track. Not only does he play in all of the tournaments hosted at Hawthorne, he is probably even more familiar with the surroundings at Arlington Park where he worked briefly and where his father ran the Admissions Department for many years.
“Actually my parents met at Arlington Park,” he said with a chuckle.
You could say that was the first of many winning exactas for Patrick Stich.
On to Sunday’s action…
Sunday’s headliner was our last-chance qualifier to this weekend’s Belmont Stakes Handicapping Challenge. It was a “1-per-25” qualifier, but despite the fact that only 47 entries were attracted, we tossed in a second $10,500 package to the prize pool.
Mike McEntire led the way with 3 wins and 2 places. Joining him in the Big Apple wit a $10,500 package will be runner up Alex Brown who had six wins. We don’t mean to give short shrift to winner McEntire, but we’re always impressed by six-win days, so here’s a look at Brown’s scoresheet.
Sunday’s Spa & Surf Showdown qualifier drew a robust field that allowed us to award three $2,000 entries to the August 3-4 online tourney.
Al Roehl (4 wins, 2 places), Mark Livingstone (7 wins, no places) and Rudolph Hardin were the three skillful players who became the 53, 54th and 55th entrants in “The Showdown”. Hardin had the last two winners to get up for third. Fourth-place finisher Ernest “Say” Hey Jr. also had the last two, but was essentially blocked by Hardin.
We don’t mean to give short shrift to winner Roehl, but we’re always really, really impressed by seven-win days, so you may now presume to have a look at Mark Livingstone’s scoresheet:
Howard Welsh had three winners on Sunday.
Two of them reported home first at odds of 11-1. Those victories plus a couple of places, earned Welsh a daylight triumph by $40.70 and a return trip to The BIG One at Laurel Park on September 21-22.
Ryan Steigmeier also had those two 11-1 shots, which put him in the lead with two races left in Sunday’s $10,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray. Edward Lewis hit the last three races, however while, Steigmeyer blanked on the final two. The result would come down to small change.
Steigmeier held on by 40 cents over Lewis to take the top prize of $6,290 in a tourney that closed with a purse of $13,978. The 40-cent shortfall for Lewis wound up costing him about $3,400 as he had to settle for second money of $2,795.
In Sunday’s $1,000 Guaranteed Exacta tourney, Rick Vasquez and John Heiney each had 2 winners that included the $93.55 payoff in the 10th at Woodbine.
But Vasquez’s other winner was a little better than Heiney’s other winner, so that meant the winner’s share of $1,239 in the $1,770 game went Vasquez’s way.
Tim Downs won Sunday’s Pick 6 Jackpot tourney with three winners.
Since no one picked all six, next week’s jackpot in the $8 buy-in game will $1,755.
Last but far from least we check back in where we started…Sunday’s featured action at HorsePlayers.
It was a “regular” NHC qualifier with two seats guaranteed. The two seat winners were Gregg Kingma and our Exacta tourney champ Rick Vasquez. It was a very narrow margin for Vasquez, who held off the late charge of Alec Porco by a mere 70 cents.
We don’t track the scores of every tournament on a race-by-race basis, but we can say with confidence that winner Gregg Kingma was in last place after the first eight of the 12-contest races. That’s because he hadn’t cashed a thing. He cashed the last four in a big way, though.
A lot can change in the space of about an hour at HorseTourneys. For Kingma, it meant a trip to the NHC. And that means that the true final chapter to this great comeback story won’t be written until next February.
Congratulations, Gregg. And thanks to all of you for playing.