The eyes of the contest world will rightly be focused on this coming weekend’s NHC. But this Thursday’s Bally’s NHC First Chance/Last Chance tournament is a pretty big event in its own right. Thirty-five $500 entries to the traditional NHC Eve preamble flew out the door last week—including five on Wednesday.
If you examine the results of last week’s Bally’s qualifiers, you will notice that several people played multiple times and managed to snatch more than one seat. Jim Sebes, however, accomplished that feat in just one contest. He played his 5-win, 1-place entry twice and ran second and third to winner Cheryl McIntyre (4 wins, 3 places) in Wednesday’s multi-track play-in.
There was also a Saratoga-only qualifier on Wednesday.
Both Ray Barnes (6 wins, 2 places) and Rock Edwards (6W, 0P) had Chi Town Lady ($12.80, $7.50) in the 9th race at the Spa to help nail down their $500 Bally’s spots. For Edwards, it was the first of two Bally’s seats he’d grab during the week.
In Wednesday’s featured cash tourney, Anthony Spinazzola (5 firsts, 1 second) hit the last race to get up late and take our $6,000 Guaranteed game.
“Did he hit a big price at the end?” you ask. On the contrary, it was Clear Humor ($3.50, $2.80) in the 10th at Saratoga that put Spinazzola over the top for the $2,861 top prize in a tourney ultimately worth a total of $6,359.
Socal Red ($112.40, $23.40) in the 4th at Del Mar was most definitely the horse you most wanted to have on Thursday.
Matthew Bickey (2 wins, 2 places) was the only one among 110 entrants to land on the 55-1 shot. For that, he was rewarded with $3,421 from a total final purse of $7,603 in Thursday’s $5,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray.
Four players punched their tickets to this coming Thursday in last Thursday’s multi-track Bally’s play-in.
Congratulations to Ron Tackett (3 wins, 5 places), Richard Reese (4W, 2P), John Schulist (4W, 1P) and Michael Somich (3W, 2P). Not a single one of them had Socal Red.
Neither did Steve “The Admiral” Nemetz.
But that wasn’t his fault, since this Bally’s qualifier was a Saratoga-only game! He took home the $500 seat at the conclusion of this one thanks to 3 wins and 3 places that included Dynadrive ($10.00, $3.70) in race 7.
Jack Hurley got his first of what would be two Bally’s seats on the week in Friday’s Saratoga-only play-in.
Hurley had 5 wins and 4 places, including Full Court Press ($34.20, $12.00) in the 8th at the Spa. Rock Edwards (6W, 0P) finished second to get his second Bally’s seat for his second runner-up finish in three days. George Bryant (5W, 1P) completed the trifecta to account for the other available prize.
In Friday’s multi-track Bally’s qualifier, you could say that Robert Crossdale deep-sixed his competition.
The three who finished closest behind Crossdale—Myles Richards, Lawrence Kahlden and Joseph Karabaich—all had Full Court Press in their respective portfolios, and they also garnered $500 seats.
Friday was our first qualifier on that particular day of the week to next month’s The BIG One, and apparently word got around.
A nice turnout of 18 assembled to compete for a seat for what will be a field of no more than 57 for the “High Expectation Tourney.” The winner was John Twomey who hit Silver Package ($21.40, $7.40) in the final contest race, the 10th at Gulfstream, to finish with 6 wins and a place and get up late for the victory.
Dusty Guidry (2 wins, 4 places) captured Friday’s HT Tour event, our $15,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray.
His two winners came in the first two contest races, including Trinni Summer ($36.00, $17.60) in the 5th at Gulfstream. Guidry’s haul was $6,750 in a game that went off with just a 9.3% takeout to players.
Brett Wiener (2 wins, 1 place) also had the winners of the first two contest races.
That got the job done for him in Friday’s Keeneland Fall BCBC/NHC Challenge qualifier.
The high score on Friday—by a rather wide margin—was posted by James Giamundo.
The return for Giamundo was a low-cost seat to the 2022 NHC.
Robert Matthews came up with 3 wins and 2 places to grab the other NHC spot for next January in this $75 qualifier at HorsePlayers.
The other Friday feature at HorsePlayers was a $500 Low Ratio Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge qualifier.
John Cilia had just 2 wins and 1 place…but one of those winners was 17-1 Trinni Summer in the 5th at Gulfstream, and that trio of collections got Cilia home first.
On Saturday, David Sullivan whiffed on nine of his first 10 contest races. So it seems rather surprising to say that he won the weekend’s richest tourney.
Sullivan came up with Tripoli ($15.00) in the Pacific Classic and Astronaut ($50.00) in the Del Mar Mile, and that got him all the way to the top in Saturday’s $30,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which closed with a pot of $39,648.
Vic Stauffer was another who blasted off with Astronaut.
The John Shirreffs-trainee was one of 3 winners that Stauffer put up to go along with three placings. The net result was a payday worth $11,398 in Saturday’s $10,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks Pick & Pray…which closed up shop with $16,284 in the kitty.
Mark Mitchell focused on shorter shots.
He racked up 6 winners and 1 runner up to take the top spot in Saturday’s Guaranteed qualifier to The BIG One. His biggest return came with Subconscious ($13.60, $6.40) in the 5th at Del Mar.
In Bally’s qualifying action, Ilan Cuellar, Jim Templin, Todd Faro, Russell Priola and John Halversen took down the top five spots—and the $500 prizes—in Saturday’s multi-track qualifier.
Meanwhile, Eric Kurzhal (3 wins, 2 places), Jon Van Niel (5W, 2P) and Robert Stringini (2W, 2P) were the top dogs in Saturday’s Saratoga-only, full-card play-in.
Over at HorsePlayers, the 2018 champion of The BIG One, Joe Pettit, was the big winner.
The South Carolinian (6 wins, 1 place) hit Astronaut at the end to rocket up the leaderboard and earn a $10,000 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge entry.
Neither Bryan Grace (3 winners, but missed on Tripoli in the final leg, the Pacific Classic)…
…nor Tim Catlett and Rich Peritore (who tied for first with 2 wins and a place) went a perfect 4-for-4 in our weekend $15 Pick 4 Jackpot games. That means the Jackpot heading into our Travers Day game next Saturday will start out at $1,317.
We mentioned earlier that Steve Nemetz bagged a $500 Bally’s entry in a Saratoga-only qualifier on Thursday. On Saturday, he did the same, though in a Del Mar-only affair.
Nemetz finished second to Craig Dixon. The final race at Del Mar was key for both. Dixon had Astronaut, while Nemetz took second with a $22.00 (for contest purposes) place collection on the last-race runner up.
Nemetz was back at it again on Sunday.
Apparently having satisfied his thirst for Bally’s entries, the Admiral set his sights on bigger fish in our Guaranteed Sunday qualifier to The BIG One. Back-to-back tallies in the 11th and 12th on the Queen’s Plate Day card at Woodbine made the difference for Nemetz (2 wins, 3 places). The first paid $21.90 to win and the next returned $19.70.
The big winner on Sunday, utilizing the following Pick & Pray scoresheet, was Evan Trommer.
Trommer took his excellent but not otherworldy score of $80.60 and parlayed it into a victory worth $7,836 in our $7,500 Guaranteed Big Bucks tourney (final purse: $11,195)
He also picked up a $3,500 Keeneland entry for running second behind Paul Weizer (who had 79-1 Woodbine race 8 winner Mambointheforest).
Trommer also got $2,600 in Kentucky Downs Turf Handicapping Challenge entries for finishing directly behind victor Steven Meier.
The cherry on top of Trommer’s sundae on Sunday was another second-place finish in the multi-track Bally’s qualifier.
Also scooping up $500 entries in this one were winner Douglas Schenk (who drew off by $43.80), Chris Podratz, Geoffrey Schutt, Mark Heider and Wayne Collier.
All told, it was a $14,436 day for Trommer.
While Trommer was Sunday’s biggest scorer, he wasn’t Sunday’s biggest winner. That honor belonged to Jeff Bussan.
Bussan’s $132.10 came in a nice spot, Sunday’s $169 NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers.
Bussan will be joined at the 2022 NHC by the 2007 champ, Stanley Bavlish.
It should be noted that Sunday’s 12-race featured schedule became an 11-race featured schedule when a spill took out half the field in the 7th at Del Mar and the stewards declared the race a “no contest.” It was the next-to-last tourney race, and so it probably wound up being a good thing for those nursing leads at the time and an unlucky thing for those playing catch up— unless you’re confident you would have had the winner, in which case it was…just one of those things.
The other featured tourney at HorsePlayers on Sunday was a $500 Low Ratio Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge play-in.
Bernard Moore was the winner here, accumulating 5 firsts and 2 seconds. His biggest hit came with Sweet Serenade ($19.70, $8.50) in the 12th up north of the border at Woodbine.
The winner of Sunday’s HT Tour event, our $20,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, selected just one winner all day.
Garry Addley’s lone winner was a doozy, though. You guessed it…Mambointheforest ($161.10, $51.30) who blew up the tote board in the 8th at Woodbine. To that capper, Addley added 2 places, and he collected $11,182 from a total final pot of $27,957.
Wrapping up the day’s Bally’s qualifiers, Michael Odorisio (4 wins, 2 places) and William Kennedy (also 4 wins and 2 places) finished in the money in Sunday’s Saratoga-only, full-card play-in.
Kennedy did so by virtue of winning a tiebreaker over an unfortunate Michael Reynolds.
Jack Hurley accounted for the day’s Woodbine-only, Queen’s Plate Day qualifier.
For Hurley, it was the second Bally’s seat he won during the week. He also took Friday’s Saratoga-only game.
Craig Dixon, meanwhile, picked up another Bally’s berth, topping the Del Mar-only leaderboard for a second straight day. Here Dixon’s victory was aided by the fact that he blocked runner up Randy De la Gardelle with his selection of runner up Big Bell ($12.60 to place) in the final race, the 10th at Del Mar.
Good luck to everyone competing out in Vegas this coming weekend. I’ll be out there too (in a tuxedo), and I hope you stop by and say hello. My NHC duties unfortunately mean that there won’t be the usual recap in this space next Monday, but I’ll be back in the HorseTourneys saddle on Tuesday, September 7 to review the Labor Day weekend/week featured-tourney action. See you then, and safe travels to all.