It had already been a fun and profitable 2021 for Thomas Blosser. On February 6, he won $31,850 plus a 2021 NHC seat for coming in first in the Bally’s First Chance/Last Chance tournament. The following week, he finished third in a $75 NHC qualifier at HorsePlayer. So he entered the weekend of February 29-March 1 leading the 2020 NHC Tour standings. He had given no serious thought, however, to playing in the inaugural Flo-Cal Faceoff.
In fact, he and his wife Artis had scheduled a getaway to visit friends in Dana Point, Calif., that weekend. But then the 64-year-old resident of Cornville, Arizona checked the purse structure for the Gulfstream/Santa Anita full-card cash tourney.
“Man, these payouts are crazy,” Blosser said to himself.
So despite his weekend plans, Blosser–who owns a pool service and repair business and also manages four vacation rental properties–took the plunge and bought in to the $225,000 event on Saturday morning…just a couple of hours prior to post time of the first contest race.
“I always put all my picks in ahead of time just in case something were to go wrong with my internet connection or with HorseTourneys,” Blosser said. “Then I make adjustments during the day… but on Saturday, my early horses were doing well so I didn’t have to make any adjustments during the morning.”
Blosser connected on 10-1 and 17-1 winners with two of his first three picks during the 24-race Day 1. But then he made his first “adjustment” in race 5 at Gulfstream…and it was a bad one.
“I had planned to play the 7 [Getmotherarose] but I switched to the 5 [Miss Munnings] late. Of course, the 7 wins at 11 and the 5 is off the board.”
Rather than let himself get demoralized over the miscue, Blosser told himself to keep searching for value. He had decided that $300 would be a winning total in the Faceoff, and he already had $77.80 with 38 of the 43 races still to come.
Make it $124.00 after six races.
Blosser came right back with Harvey Wallbanger ($33.00, $13.20) under Paco Lopez in the 6th at Gulfstream.
“Now I was thinking, ‘Man, this might just be my weekend.'”
He added another Gulfstream grass winner in race 9 with the wire-to-wire Cheermeister in the Herecomesthebride, and then, a couple of contest races later, he hit a 4-1 shot in the 2nd at Santa Anita.
“Sometimes I’ll change gears for no rhyme or reason,” Blosser said. “I usually like 9- or 10-1 shots, but if I think no one will be on a horse that looks good to me, I’ll try to grab the points. I even played a 4-5 shot in one race on Saturday. Tthat one didn’t work.”
What did work was 5-2 Principe Carlo in the 4th at Santa Anita. That gave Blosser $189.00 with still eight races to go on Day 1.
And then came the dry spell.
All he had to show for the next seven races was a small $3.60 place collection. Blosser’s once-large lead had dwindled to just $6.60 over Peter Osella. With $10,000 in day money at stake (including $6,500 to the end-of-Day 1 leader), many might have elected to go conservative in the last race and hope to preserve the slim lead.
“I said, ‘Let’s put ’em away!'” Blosser laughed. “I played a 39-1 shot! Guys and ladies in these tournaments are so good. If you sort of like a longshot but don’t have it, and it hits, they’ll have it and leap right past you. If a 5-1 or a 7-1 hits, it’ll hurt you…but it won’t kill you. So that’s why I did what I did.”
His bomb, Oiseau de Guerre, ran next to last in the Santa Anita nightcap…but that one horse he did beat was Osella’s pick, Chosen Vessel. So Blosser’s Day 1 lead–and the $6,500 that went with it–was safe.
“I was pumped,” Blosser said, despite the late-day drought. “I knew I had had a great day.”
On Day 2, Blosser’s mini-slump continued, though. He whiffed on his first four plays before catching places collections in the 5th and 6th at Gulfstream. Another loser followed in the 7th. By this point, Peter Osella had wrested the lead away from him. Was Blosser feeling deflated?
“Not really,” he said. Usually in these things you go up and down…up and down. They’re seldom won wire to wire. That’s just part of the beast. I don’t sit there and stew. If you make 100 picks, winning just 10 can be huge. So if you can’t handle getting beat, you better get out. I just tell myself to go on to the next race. I had a feeling that a bomb would hit at some point on the Gulfstream card. The question was ‘Where?’ I had to find it.”
In Race 8 at Gulfstream, Blosser found his race…and in Areyoutalkingtome, he found his horse.
“I saw that he had a bug boy, which made him 10 pounds light. He had a bullet work since his last dirt race, and his trainer was good, so I said, ‘I’m going to go for it.'”
There were just two problems. Areyoutalkingtome’s jockey, Mario Fuentes, had never won a race before. And down the stretch, he had traffic in front of him.
“It didn’t look good…but then, unlike most new riders, he somehow changed smoothly from a right-hand stick to a left-hand stick and got the horse to move to his right. It was perfect.”
So was the payout. A max-return capper that moved Blosser back out in front by about $40 over Frank Polk, who had recently moved into second.
Blosser figured that Santa Anita, with so many short fields on Sunday, would be unlikely to yield a bomb–and that he would probably be able to cover himself on any longshots that DID go off there. But could he get past the remaining Gulfstream races?
Races 9, 10, 11 at Gulfstream were happily uneventful for Blosser, with no winner paying more than 5-2. But Race 12 was another story.
“I was on the 8 horse at 24-1, but when the race went off, I noticed that Polk was the only one on the 5 horse [Whiskarita] who was 14-1. “
To this reporter’s eye, Whiskarita appeared to take the lead between calls in very deep stretch, but then the pacesetter, Katieleigh, came back on again. Polk needed Whiskarita. Blosser needed Katieleigh in order to retain his lead. After the results of a long photo review were released, Blosser rejoiced.
“She beat him by a Whiska!” he chuckled.
Due to the Whiskarita place return ($14.00) and another small cash, Polk was now only about $20 behind Blosser. And although Blosser cashed nothing in the final four races from Arcadia, he held on for the win thanks in part to the fact that no horse in those four races won at odds any higher than 7-2.
“It was awesome,” said Blosser. “My wife and I were hooting and hollering watching the favorites come down the stretch one-two in that last race. We made a toast, then went out to a nice dinner. What a great weekend it was.”
Indeed — and for reasons Thomas and Artis didn’t originally expect. With the $82,270 first prize, plus the $6,500 in Day Money from Saturday, the couple plan to “speed up the paying off” of their house.
“When we retire, I think it would be great to have a debt-free house,” Thomas said. “I’m not really a big spender…just on tournaments!”