Circumstances were ripe on Labor Day weekend from someone to go on a tear. Twenty-four featured tourneys were on the schedule and 18 of them were Pick & Prays. So one set of smart picks could theoretically do a lot of damage—especially since there were 41 first prizes to be had across those 24 featured events. And yet those 41 prizes wound up being shared as though they were handed out by Barney the dinosaur.
Only three players claimed as many as two brick-and-mortar contest seats: Ken Zelin, Edward “The Price is” Wright and Sean Nolan.
The “Spread the Wealth” weekend began on Friday.
The first of the weekend’s 37 different winners was Jamaal Barnett. He put together four winners—including Mary of Scotts ($15.90, $7.10 in the 6th at Woodbine)—plus a runner up to collect $6,137 in Friday’s $7,500 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which closed with a final purse of $12,274.
The richest tourney of the weekend (but only by a little bit) was Saturday’s $15,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray.
Gary Flynn had five wins and three places here—and he needed every last one of them. He prevailed by just $1.70 to earn top money of $9,215 in an event ultimately worth $20,478.
David Browning made Gary Flynn’s margin of victory look cushy.
Browning (3 wins, 2 places) topped Anthony Laurino by just 30 cents, and that 30 cents was the difference in a $3,500 Keeneland NHC/BCBC Challenge package going Browning’s way.
There was a little more elbow room in Saturday’s Orleans Fall Classic package qualifier.
Congratulations to the three winners of $500 entry/$500 travel prizes: Damian Terenzio, Chris Littlemore (always dangerous in Las Vegas tournaments!) and Stephen McNatton.
The most lucrative qualifier on the weekend schedule was Saturday’s NHC Online Super Qualifier at HorsePlayers where five guaranteed NHC seats were on the line. Except that there were enough entries (154) for us to award a sixth NHC spot.
Bob Engelhard’s seven winners (and no places) led to a best-of-weekend score of $144.10…though purists may want to put an asterisk next to that since there were 15 races in this special event. Finishing not far behind Engelhard—all with scores of $120 or better—and also winning “Bally’s Berths” were Jeff Van Drie, Joe Davidson, Stephen Gravina, Gene “Khozan” Cahalan and Ken Zelin.
Asterisk or no asterisk, Bob Engelhard had a great handicapping day, hitting four consecutive winners at one point. Here’s how he got it done:
Ken Zelin won an NHC seat for finishing sixth behind Engelhard. In Saturday’s “regular” BCBC qualifier with just one prize on the line, Zelin had no such margin for error.
I guess you could say that Zelin did whatever it took to prosper on Saturday…though here his four wins and two places provided him a nice, $27.40 cushion over runner up Anthony Laurino, who came down with an unlucky bout of seconditis on this day. With the win, Zelin became the first of the three multiple winners during the weekend. (Editor’s note: According to the AP Style Guide, any collection of a first prize—even if you come in 6th—counts as a win!)
Ceci’s Valentina’s 12-1 upset in Saturday’s Florida Stallions Series Susan’s Girl Stakes at Gulfstream was the big moment for John Holmes.
Holmes’s solving of the Susan’s Girl mystery was the high point of a four-win, two-place day that earned him a $10,000 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge berth in Saturday’s Super Low Ratio qualifier. (Scores were impressive given that just 19 were entered.)
One of the 11 featured events on an even-busier-than-normal Sunday was our first qualifier to the September 14 Woodbine Mile Horseplayers Tournament. The King Edward Stakes is run in June at Woodbine, not September, but there was a mini King Edward Stakes in this Woodbine qualifier.
Edward Enborg was king of our King Edward. His throne was just a little higher than that of Edward “The Price is” Wright. However, they both received a $3,500 (Canadian) entry fee plus $500 (U.S.) for the September 14 Woodbine Mile tournament, which will serve as a return joust of sorts for the two King Edwards.
Wright used the same picks in Sunday’s qualifier to The BIG One, and this time all of his competitors were his subjects.
Wright picked up seat win number two despite whiffing on his last seven picks. Those first five selections were quite productive, though, generating a place and three wins, including Sapling Stakes winner Big City Bob ($54.20, $16.20) at Monmouth. Joining Wright at Laurel for The BIG One will be Sean Nolan, who had two firsts and four seconds.
There was a 2-seats-guaranteed, 1 per 65 NHC Pick & Pray on Sunday. We didn’t quite reach 195 entries, but we tossed a third NHC package into the prize pool anyway.
That third seat was really welcome news for Florida’s Dylan McIntosh. The Golden Jet had Kylemore (3-2) in the final contest race, the 4th at Del Mar to get up into that key third spot. Jimmie O’Nail hit four straight races early en route to a 5-win, 2-place day that led the way. Also scoring an NHC seat was runner up Dave Cichy, who picked the winners of the final two races (at odds of 5-2 and 3-2) to get himself into Vegas territory. O’Nail, Cichy and McIntosh all had Monmouth longshot Big City Bob. The Sapling winner went off at 26-1…but he was more like 9-1 in this Pick & Pray as 18 of the 189 players were on him.
In fact, almost everyone who won a major prize on Sunday did so with the assistance of Big City Bob. One player who did not fit that mold was Steve Wolfson Jr.
None of the 16 players in Sunday’s Keeneland NHC/BCBC Challenge Low Ratio, entry-only qualifier had Big City Bob. Wolfson, the 2003 NHC Champ, did the best job of piecing the rest of the day together, coming up with four wins and two places. One of those places came at the end with Wilshire Dude ($5.40 to place) in that last tourney race at Del Mar to get up by $3.30 and win the $3,000 Bluegrass entry.
Unlike Steve Wolfson Jr., Paul Fishman had Big City Bob. Like Steve Wolfson Jr., Fishman need a place collection from Wilshire Dude to win.
The result was a $1.50 victory that was worth $6,644 in our $10,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which finished up with a pot of $13,288.
There was another $10,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray on Sunday—our $1,150-buy in Big Bucks tourney.
Buoyed by Big City Bob, Evan Trommer and Richard Gorzkowski were the runaway leaders in this one, with Trommer outlasting Gorzkowski to claim the $7,000 top prize. Gorzkowski received $2,000.
Joe Koury, The People’s CFO, whiffed on his final six plays, but having a winner like Big City Bob will sometimes afford one such lapses. JK’s two wins and two places were good for a $500 entry to next month’s Orleans Fall Classic.
We mentioned at the top that Sean Nolan was one of the weekend’s three multiple winners. He earned a spot in The BIG One (now less than three weeks away) for finishing second to Ed Wright (one of the other double winners), and Nolan took a backseat to no one in Sunday’s Colonial Downs Handicapping Classic qualifier.
Joining Nolan in New Kent, Va., next Saturday will be Joe Johnson (just 40 cents behind Nolan) and Bob Bandzwolek.
It was a slightly unusual mode of triumph for Jeff Sandler in Sunday’s $1,000 Guaranteed Exacta tourney.
Sandler visited the cashier’s window six times, though didn’t exactly need a Pinkerton to escort him during any of the six. His biggest collection was $23.80 in the 10th at Saratoga. Those six “chip-ups” resulted in a final, real-life collection of $851 in a game that closed with a purse of $1,216.
Michael “Papa” Clem dropped a scud missile on his opponents in the first race of our $8 Pick 6 Jackpot tourney.
He hit 22-1 winner Big City Bob in the first leg and coasted to victory from there. No one picked all six right, though, so next week’s jackpot will be $2,746.
Big City Bob was also instrumental to Wendy Long’s success on Sunday.
The Monmouth longshot did most of the heavy lifting for Long as she garnered a $10,000 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge seat in the day’s Low Ratio qualifier at HorsePlayers.
The holiday weekend meant a fourth day of featured-tourney action, highlighted by a special $15,000 Guaranteed, No Limit Pick & Pray.
The event proved a popular draw, finishing with a pot of $19,788. Michael Lynch received $8,904 of that sum after compiling a score of $143.10, the highest in any of our 12-race tourneys during the Labor Day weekend. Dr. Devera’s Way ($46.20, $20.80) in the meet-closer at the Spa was his biggest contributor among four fists and five seconds. Here’s a look at Lynch’s scoresheet:
Ernest “Say” Hey Jr. had just three winners, but they were all healthy ones at odds of 12-1, 5-1 & 11-1, respectively.
As a result, Ernest will be saying “Hey!” at The BIG One on September 21-22. Hey will be one of no more than 57 competing for 10 NHC seats, five BCBC entires and five Pegasus World Cup spots…plus $75,000 in cash. There are just two more weekends in which to qualify…and note that two of the available five buy-in entries have already been taken. If interested in one of the other three, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
There were three winners of $500 entries on Sunday to the Orleans Fall Classic.
Congratulations to George Novick, Cara Yarusso and Michael Marlaire (who held the third spot by just 10 cents over Sean Alvarez). Yarusso is expected to join Sunday Orleans winner Joe Koury in lobbying Orleans Hotel & Casino management to restore the Fortune Cup machine to its rightful position on the casino floor (at the foot of the escalator leading to the bowling alley). That space is currently occupied by a Willie Nelson-themed slot machine that just isn’t the same to us horseplayers. Though it should be noted that Nelson did play the 2004 Breeders’ Cup press party in Dallas—a gig that no doubt came in handy in paying back some of his debts to the IRS.
It was strung out at the top of the leaderboard in Monday’s last-chance qualifier to the Colonial Downs Handicapping Classic.
The 2007 NHC Champion Stanley Bavlish can stay in state for the Colonial Downs competition. Finishing a clear second to Bavlish—and also picking up a $500 entry—was another area resident Sean Nolan who, in the process, recorded his third first prize of the weekend (Barney does NOT approve) and his second seat to Colonial Downs.
There were two featured tourneys at HorsePlayers on Monday. One was captured by someone horseplayers consider a big fish in Little Rock, Tanya Taylor.
The affable Arkansan had four winners, including Saratoga bomb Dr. Devera’s Way to finish first in the day’s $125 NHC qualifier. Taylor reported home $3.20 ahead of fellow seat winner Steve “The Admiral” Nemetz, who had three wins and three places—and needed that last place payoff of $6.40 from Croughavouke in the final race (the 6th at Del Mar) to get where he needed to be.
In Monday’s Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge Low Ratio qualifier, Curtis Meyer cruised to a $23.20 triumph.
Meyer’s big tallies came with horses bearing philosophical, time-related names: Forever Changed ($26.20, $7.80 in the 8th at Saratoga) and Yesterdayoncemore (24.00, $10.20) in the 6th at Del Mar.
Thanks for spending part of your Labor Day weekend with us…and may your yesterdays have been only half as good as your tomorrows.