Though much of the $570,373 Flo-Cal Faceoff seemed dominated by short prices, there were a couple of cap horses out there during the two-day competition, and Alan Levitt of Baltimore capitalized on both of them—including 29-1 Five Pics Please in the final contest race—to score an improbable, come-from-behind victory worth a total of $206,443.
Sitting in 19th-place with just the one race left, Levitt, 63, was faced with a dilemma. His top pick in that 9th race at Santa Anita on Sunday was Miss Costa Rica, but her 4-1 odds didn’t figure to help him all that much even if she won. His second choice was Mountaineer shipper Five Pics Please, who was making her turf debut and her first start for the John Sadler barn. She also had Umberto Rispoli signed up to ride, and she was a much more lucrative 29-1…but could a Mountaineer product be trusted on the Southern California circuit?
“Seeing where I was in the standings,” Levitt said, ” I decided to go with Umberto.”
So did Ryan Flanders, who was tied for 27th heading into that final race, and the decision rewarded both players handsomely.
When the smoke cleared after the explosion of the Santa Anita toteboard, Levitt and Flanders had landed the top two prizes, worth $205,019 and $82,008, respectively.
Levitt also earned an additional $1,424 for having the fourth highest score on Day 1. That brought his total Flo-Cal winnings to $206,443.
The end-of-Day 1 leader, of course, was Anthony “ATM” Mattera, who played a brilliant tournament.
Mattera took over the lead 10 races into the 21-race Gulfstream/Santa Anita slate on Saturday and after briefly relinquishing it early on Day 2 to Brian Johnson, he regained command and held a narrow advantage until the very end when Five Pics Please knocked him from first to third.
It was hardly a lost weekend for Mattera, however. He earned $41,004 for the third-place finish and another $14,237 for doing best on Saturday. That amounted to a total of $55,241…not a bad weekend’s work!
The top four performers each day earned Day Money prizes of $14,247 for first, $8,542 for second, $4,271 for third and $1,424 for fourth. Here were the top Day 2 scorers—all aided and highly abetted by Five Pics Please:
Five Pics Please notwithstanding, there weren’t a whole lot of prices to be found in the two days of the Faceoff. Rosa’s Way ($37.00, $17.00) was an early “separator” in Saturday’s race 2 at Gulfstream. The real bombshell of Saturday, however, was Just a Command in race 6 at Santa Anita.
As Dave “The Gambling Actuary” Nichols pointed out on Twitter, this was one of those rare 99-1 winners that…actually went off at 99-1!
One of the few to have Just a Command—an Eric Kruljac-trained second-time starter—was none other than Alan Levitt.
“I didn’t even see the race,” Levitt admitted on Sunday morning to Scott Carson and Chris Larmey on the Flo-Cal Faceoff Show (both episodes still available for viewing on the HorseTourneys YouTube page). “I’m on an island in North Carolina right now and had to go out to pick up my daughter and her fiancé. All of a sudden, I started getting texts from friends saying that I had just won with a 99-1 shot. I liked the horse, though. He was not chosen out of desperation. The morning line odds were 30-1, and I never thought he’d drift up that high.”
That plus two nice subsequent cashes left Levitt fourth at the end of Day 1.
Day 2, however, did not start promisingly for Levitt.
Ten races, zero return.
The good news for Levitt—if there was any at that point—was that a lot of chalk was coming in on Sunday. So even with a 12-1 winner that Alexa Zepp and Edward Enborg had in the 8th at Gulfstream, the leaders were not getting too far out of reach.
A couple of place collections in the 9th at Gulfstream and the 3rd at Santa Anita helped get Levitt back on track.
That set the stage for a couple of more runner-up cashes…and then Alan’s grand finale.
When it was over, Levitt couldn’t believe his good fortune.
“These are special moments you need to cherish,” he said, graciously. “I was very lucky. It’s a reminder to everyone out there that we can all have moments like these.”
With a purse of $570,373, the 2021 Flo-Cal Faceoff was the second-richest online contest ever hosted—topped only by the 2020 Spa & Surf Showdown here which had a $2,000 entry fee (compared to the Flo-Cal’s $1,500) and offered a purse of $644,280. The $206,443 won by Levitt represented his biggest score ever as a horseplayer.
“It was a great tournament,” he said, “and to end up where I did was great.”
So now there is the matter of bonuses.
The Flo-Cal Faceoff served as the first leg of the new 2021 Tourney Triple series. The top 100 Faceoff finishers received points ranging from 100 for Levitt in first, down to 1 point for the 100th place finisher. (Only a player’s top score counted for bonus points purposes, so a couple of people beyond the top 100 may also receive a point or two.) The same points structure will be in place for the Players Championship (Leg 2) in April, and for the Spa & Surf Showdown in August.
The top points scorer gets a 2022 NHC seat plus a 2021 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge entry. The second-highest points getter receives a BCBC entry. Third-place wins an entry to the 2021 The BIG One.
Then there is the bonus that Levitt is uniquely positioned to shoot for.
Should he win EITHER the Players Championship or the Spa & Surf Showdown with his designated “bonus-eligible” entry, Levitt will win a $1 million bonus (payable via 40-year annuity) that goes to anyone who captures two of the Tourney Triple events. If he wins them both for a clean sweep, the bonus becomes $2 million.
“I look forward to taking down the next two legs,” Levitt laughed. “So, everyone,…look out for me!”
Don’t say you weren’t warned.