With one notable exception on Thursday, it was a very competitive week of featured events, with plenty of close scores and the grand prize winners well distributed (again with one notable exception…this time on Friday).
Wednesday was a day in which you had to chip away. Nothing really big came in. If there was “one notable exception” to this day, it might have been the one race in which Brent Johnson failed to collect.
Johnson (who owned 2004 Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Better Talk Now) cashed in nine of the 10 races (four of them winners), and it was a good thing, because he needed every one of those collections to prevail over Jeffrey Ficarella by $2.60 in Wednesday’s $6,000 Guaranteed cash game, which closed with a final pot of $9,539. Johnson’s best return en route to his $4,292 winner’s share was his first one, Munnyfo Ro ($15.40, $5.40) in the 5th at Keeneland.
Gary “Macho Man” Machiz and Nicholas Bruni also had very few swings-and-misses on their Wednesday scorecards.
Machiz recorded 4 winners and another 4 runners up while Bruni compiled 5 firsts and 2 seconds. Both left Wednesday’s Monmouth Pick Your Prize qualifier with paid-up $2,000 entries in their pocket. Of their nine combined winners, only one was common to both players.
As we are all painfully aware, it is easy to fall behind in a tourney by $60.00. It is quite difficult, however, to win a $2 win/place event by $60.00.
Frank Vento Jr. turned the trick in Thursday’s $4,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray. Not only did he have 4 visitors to the winner’s circle that paid $20.00, $22.00, $38.00 and $11.80 in the win hole, one of his two place collections was of the maximum, $22.00-for-contest-purposes variety. The final margin of the Vento victory was a gaudy $60.80 and he earned $3,235 from a pot that ultimately came to $7,189.
Friday was a big day for Drew Keaton.
He only picked two winners out of the 10 contest races, but one of them was Arm Candy ($39.40, $15.00) in the 5th at Keeneland. He also mixed in a liberal helping of place collections (5), and that added up to a $10,000 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge seat for Keaton in Friday’s Low Ratio Pick & Pray.
Those same picks also landed Keaton a $2,000 Monmouth Pick Your Prize seat.
Also gaining a berth in the June 12th event was runner up Cheryl McIntyre (3 wins, 2 places). The big winner on the day for the 2016 NHC Tour champ was Ajhar ($33.00, $10.80) in the 6th at Aqueduct.
But wait…Keaton wasn’t done. He also became one of the first three to qualify for the $300,000 Guaranteed Spa & Surf Showdown here on August 14-15.
Here, Keaton managed to get second, finishing in between fellow future Showdown contestants Crystal Andaur (4 wins, 1 place) and Jon Van Niel (5W, 0P…including 7-2 Maker’s Mark Mile hero Raging Bull in the final contest race to get up for the last spot).
Raging Bull was also decisive for Tom “Hit ‘em where they” Arndt in Friday’s $15,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray.
The Chad Brown trainee moved Arndt (4 wins, 2 places) from 5th-place to 1st-place—and that meant a payday of $7,705 in a game that closed with $17,123 in the kitty.
Friday’s high score was turned in by Rob Henie.
Not surprisingly, the showy total came in Friday’s 403-entry, $75 NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers.
Also earning a 2022 NHC seat was runner-up Linda Rodriguez, who collected a pair of double-digit, runner up place payoffs in addition to her 5 winners.
Another two players punched their tickets to the 2022 NHC on Saturday.
Gary “Little Red Feather” Fenton (4 wins, 1 place) and Alan “Flo-Cal” Levitt (3W, 0P) each had Don’tshowweakness ($53.40, $12.80) in the 5th at Keeneland as their top contributor in this $165 Pick & Pray.
Dale Hatfield (3 wins, 2 places) had Don’tshowweakness followed by a couple of more winners at 10-1 and 18-1.
The five collections made Hatfield the winner in Saturday’s $25,000 Guaranteed feud, which closed with a pot of $28,532. Hatfield’s share of that amounted to $12,839.
The single biggest cash winner of the week was Charles Browning ($14,248) in Saturday’s $10,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks Pick & Pray.
Don’tshowweakness was one of four Browning winners. He also added a place payoff in the sold-out, $20,355 affair.
Stephen Thompson (3 wins, 1 place) and Mike McIntyre (3W, 2P) were the two winners of $2,000 entries in Saturday’s Monmouth Pick Your Prize tourney.
Thompson is from Pennsylvania and McIntyre hails from Ohio, but on Saturday, both liked Delaware ($22.20, $8.00) in the 8th at Aqueduct.
In Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge qualifier at HorsePlayers, Chris Podratz had four more-than-solid winners that paid $13.20, $13.80, $22.20 and $38.40…
…but in order to graduate with honors from this $179 game, Podratz had to go to Harvard ($4.80 to place) in the 11th at Keeneland.
Thanks to having 18-1 Lexington Stakes winner King Fury on both her tickets, Sarah Wiener ran one-two in Saturday’s $15 Pick 4 Jackpot tourney.
Wiener’s “good” entry just had two winners, though, and Michael “Copa” Kavana’s winning play on Sunday contained three winners. (His only miss was in Leg 1 where his horse ran second at 9-1.)
Since no one over the weekend went 4-for-4, next Saturday’s $15 Pick 4 Jackpot will start out at $1,058.
Sunday’s best score was posted by Jory Huda.
It came in the day’s Spa & Surf Showdown qualifier that also saw George “W.” Bosch and Michael Kavana earn $2,500 spots by each hitting 4 winners and 3 runners up.
There were two different winners of $11,000 on Sunday.
Aron Pritchard got that sum (plus an additional $105) for coming up with 6 firsts and 3 seconds in Sunday’s $20,000 Guaranteed game, which ended up with a prize pool of $24,678.
Jessica Newman hit for $11,398 in Sunday’s $7,500 Guaranteed Big Bucks event.
This one obviously exceeded the guarantee, closing with a purse of $16,284. Newman got the winner’s share by connecting on 5 winners and 1 second-place runner.
Mrs. Maisel ($25.60, $9.40) in the 8th at Gulfstream was marvelous for Wendy Long.
The 11-1 shot was one of 3 winners that, along with a place collection, propelled Long into the field of no more than 57 for September’s The BIG One.
Mrs. Maisel also helped John Twomey (6 wins, 2 places) and Darren Schweiger (5W, 3P) stand up and take a bow on Sunday.
They did so in the day’s special $100 NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers.
Peter Strauss closed with a rush on Sunday.
He collected in each of the last five races to finish with 4 wins, 4 places and 1 $10,000 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge entry, courtesy of the day’s Low Ratio qualifier at HorsePlayers.
It was close at the top between Chris Inman (3 winners, followed by 4 places) and Steven Simonovic (4 wins, 1 place) in Sunday’s Lone Star Million Betting Challenge qualifier.
Fortunately there were enough entries for two grand prizes, and so both Inman and Simonovic will be doing the Texas Two Step to Lone Star on Memorial Day with $3,000 packages in their pockets.
Thanks to all for a fun weekend. Featured-tourney action resumes on Wednesday…and on Friday, we’ll be offering our first qualifier to the Derby Day Challenge at Xpressbet. Hope to see you there!