Ken Seeman Wins $74,514 and a $6,000 Pegasus Entry as Champion of the 2021 The BIG One (Weekly Recap, September 15-19)

One of the most respected competitors in the contest world, Ken Seeman of Wantagh, N.Y., added another entry to his impressive resume last weekend by capturing the 2021 renewal of The BIG One, which was held online at HorseTourneys for a second consecutive year.

The 59-year-old Long Islander concluded Day 1 of the two-day, All Optional Live contest with a $20.20 lead over Mark Wilgard (an effort that earned Seeman a Day 1 bonus of $4,578). With 10 races to go on Sunday, however, Seeman had fallen back to fifth place, relinquishing the lead to eventual runner up Howard Welsh after whiffing on his first six of 12 available plays.

Seeman’s next two plays were the difference makers, though. With six bullets remaining over those last 10 races, he connected with Small Hope ($13.60, $6.40) in the 10th at Gulfstream and Silence Breakers ($24.80, $8.80) in the 10th at Woodbine to recapture the lead for good.

In addition to the $4,578 he won as the Day 1 king, Seeman pocketed a grand prize of $65,936. And since he chose a $6,000 Pegasus World Cup Betting Championship entry as his preferred seat prize, he collected another $4,000 in cash—a supplementary amount added in order to bring the Pegasus choice up to a total value of $10,000. So his total weekend winnings were $74,514 plus the Pegasus berth.

The total prize pool of the event was worth $290,656—which consisted of $190,656 plus $100,000 worth of seats (or supplementary cash) awarded to each of the top 10 finishers. No takeout was extracted from the 57-player final round.

Here’s a look at the final standings:

Mark Wilgard and current HT Tour leader Jorge Cruz-Aedo earned $2,747 and $1,831, respectively, for having the 2nd- and 3rd-highest Saturday scores.

While Steve “The Admiral” Nemetz ($4,578), Dawn Fishman ($2,747) and Ilan Cuellar ($1,831) accounted for the Day 2 bonuses by virtue of their best-of-day Sunday scores.

A review of Seeman’s scorecards across the two days reveals something of a pattern in his weekend play.

Day 1:

Day 2:

On both days, Seeman retained an ample number of plays for the final races. He also seemingly focused his attention on medium-to-high-odds horses that would return at least double digits in the win hole. The lone exception to that was his successful choice of Candy Overload ($8.40, $4.90) in the last Saturday race, the 12th at Woodbine. It is entirely possible that Seeman, at that point, relaxed his “odds requirement” in order to potentially block Mark Wilgard from taking over his Day 1 lead (though Wilgard—perhaps thinking along with Seeman—opted for a different horse that wound up running 5th).

Some may have noticed that one of Seeman’s Saturday winners was Woodbine Mile hero Town Cruise—who went in the gate at 22-1 and crossed the wire at 8-1. Lest you feel bad that Seeman should have enjoyed a larger cushion than he had, know that runner up Howard Welsh also had the north-of-the-border price plunger…so the difference between the two would have been the same.

Welsh, on his end, took over the Day 2 lead thanks to Fight on Lucy ($32.80, $7.50) in the 8th at Belmont and later extended it with an $11.60 place collection on My Boy Colton in Belmont’s 10th. At that point, however, Welsh had but one selection remaining…which provided Ken Seeman the opening to scoot by him with Silence Breakers at Woodbine.

Welsh, Sunday’s 4th-highest scorer, had to settle for second-money of $32,968 plus his choice of contest seat from among the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge, the Pegasus World Cup and the NHC.

Peter Rinato, a strong presence throughout the competition earned $16,484 plus a seat for checking in 3rd.

Brian Chenvert ($12,363), Alexa Zepp ($8,242), Dawn Fishman ($7,418), Mark Wilgard ($6,594), Ronald Tang ($5,769), Steve Nemetz ($4,945) and Jorge Cruz-Aedo ($4,121) rounded out the top 10, and each also received either a BCBC, an NHC or a Pegasus entry.

Darren Kieschnick, Ilan Cuellar, Dylan Donnelly, Drew Keaton and Robert Rosette each picked up $1,500 for finishing in 11th through 15th places, respectively.

Tomorrow, we’ll check in with Ken Seeman to get the inside scoop on his victory. Meanwhile, next up on the ever-growing list of HorseTourneys “majors” is the Flo-Cal Faceoff. So circle January 8th on your calendar for that one.

***

The BIG One was the richest tourney…but not the only important game…during a featured-tourney week that began, as usual, on Wednesday.

Eric Kurzhal hit the HorseTourneys cash register for $2,955 in Wednesday’s $6,000 cash game, which closed with a final purse of $6,566. A $4.00 place collection in the last race left him with 5 wins and 2 places…and a $2.00 margin of victory over Carl Richard Logan. Kurzhal’s biggest return came with Atto Kid ($27.20, $10.40) in the 9th at Parx.

Thursday’s big cash-game winner (and big cash-game runner up) was Neal Thomas.

Thomas (5 wins and a place on his “good” ticket) landed the top two spots in Thursday’s $5,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray—and he walked away with a total of $3,998, leaving just table scraps for the rest.

Friday’s top two scores both emanated not from the day’s $75 NHC qualifier…but from the 47-entry Keeneland Fall BCBC/NHC Challenge play-in.

The always-dangerous Brian Chenvert—who would go on to finish 4th in The BIG One—racked up 4 wins and 2 places and a score of $124.50 to earn one of the two $3,500 seats available in this one. And thank goodness there were two seats available, because it would have been a shame for Eddie Inman (4 firsts, 2 seconds) to go home empty-handed after putting up a 10-race score of $124.30. It was a long way back—$43.90, to be precise—to Inman’s nearest pursuer in third.

As for Chenvert, here’s a look at his best-of-day scorecard:

Those picks also served Chenvert well in Friday’s HT Tour event, our $15,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which was ultimately worth a total of $18,453.

Chenvert bagged $8,304 here and, once again, his margin of victory was less than a dollar. The unlucky runner up was David May (5 wins, 3 places), who had to make do with the second-place prize of $3,321.

The day was hardly a disappointment for May, however.

May may not have won the cash tourney, but his 5 wins and 3 places (all accumulated in the first 8 contest races) got the job done in Friday’s $75 NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers. May will be joined in the big Bally’s Events Center next January by runner up Pete Acocella (4 wins, 2 places).

Like David May and Brian Chenvert, Acocella also enjoyed success in more than one Friday event.

In a couple of weeks, Acocella will have his $1,500 entry taken care of for the October 2 Santa Anita Opening weekend Challenge.

Acocella won his Santa Anita qualifier by $27.70—by far the largest margin of the day. The Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge at HorsePlayers, on the other hand, did a better job of following the Friday script. 

With two wins and a place that included Smokin’ Jay ($32.20, $13.40) in the 7th at Belmont, Frank Story snatched the $10,000 BCBC seat from John Strauss by all of 30 cents. Strauss had a 2-1 winner in the final contest race but, unfortunately for him, the parimutuel return of $6.60 and $3.20 came up short of what he was hoping for.

Entering the weekend, the HT Tour leader was Jorge Cruz-Aedo. And on Saturday, the Texan improved his cause further.

“Smooth Cruz” as he is known on Twitter, had Forest Drift ($24.10, $12.20) in the 4th at Woodbine as his best of 4 winners that, collectively, earned him $13,500 (and important HT Tour points) in Saturday’s All Optional Live $30,000 Guaranteed tourney, which went off with a takeout to players of just 5.8%.

In the All Optional Live features, 30 races were in play, which means more pathways to victory than usual. Dr. Ronald Tang had just 2 winners and 1 runner up, but that winner was a good one, and that meant that Tang’s operation was a success.

Tang came up with Rigby ($37.80, $15.00) in the 5th at Belmont, and that one did most of the heavy lifting for Tang, who earned a $1,500 Santa Anita Opening Weekend Challenge entry.

Saturday’s $10,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks Pick & Pray was a traditional, 12-race affair.

Michael Somich picked Candy Overload ($8.40, $4.90) in the final tourney race, the 12th at Woodbine. The triumph allowed Somich (3 wins, 3 places) to move up from second to first and grab the top prize of $9,261 in a high-end game that finished up with a purse of 13,208.

The $179 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge qualifier was also a 12-race, all-mandatory competition.

“Battlin’” William Smith proved best here with 4 firsts and 2 seconds to take the $10,000 BCBC seat. Dylan Donnelly reported home in second place (by 10 cents) to merit a $5,000 partial BCBC entry.

In the weekend’s $15 Pick 4 Jackpot tourney action, Warren Coger was alive going into Saturday’s final leg, but Mike Forzano wound up on top thanks to having the double-digit winners of the 1st and 4th legs.

On Sunday, James Smith had just one winner, but it was 30-1 longshot Spanish Loveaffair in the Pebbles Stakes at Belmont.

Since no one managed to go 4-for-4 on Saturday or Sunday, next Saturday’s $15 Pick 4 Jackpot will start out with a carryover of $1,520.

As noted earlier, Howard Welsh finished a gallant second behind Ken Seeman in The BIG One. Welsh finished second to no one, however, in…The Big Bucks!

Welsh had 2 wins and a place to take down the winner’s share of $5,250 in the $7,500 Guaranteed All Optional Live tourney that had a takeout of only 6.8%. Combined with the $32,968 he earned in The BIG One, it was a $48,218 weekend for Welsh (counting the $10,000 seat that he got along with the cash in The BIG One). Well done!

Nancy Spence was another big Sunday cash winner.

Spence captured the day’s HT Tour event, our $20,000 Guaranteed All Optional Live tourney. She selected 4 winners including a 15-1 shot and a 30-1 shot en route to a payday of $11,571. Total pot for the game came to $25,713.

Sunday’s Pegasus World Cup Betting Championship qualifier was guaranteed…so the contest “went” despite attracting just 16 entries.

The beneficiary of the “guaranteed-ness” was Evan Trommer (2 firsts, 1 second) who won under a hand ride by $34.80.

Another veritable guarantee in the tournament world is that if you’re in a contest against someone named Matties, you’re probably in a lot of trouble.

Such was the case in Sunday’s Santa Anita Opening Weekend Challenge play-in, in which prepotent sire Chick Matties prevailed under wraps by $36.80. The handicapping patriarch had 3 winners, including Fight on Lucy ($32.80, $7.50) in the 8th at Belmont.

Peter Behr (2 wins, 1 place) also had Fight on Lucy.

As a result, the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge champion will be in the field with a paid up $3,500 entry for the October 16 Keeneland BCBC/NHC Challenge.

Over at HorsePlayers, longtime NHC devotee Gwyn Houston (4 wins, 2 places) was one of two 2022 seat winners in Sunday’s $165 NHC Pick & Pray.

The other was Aaron Bernstein (5W, 1P), who got up late for second with Blast in the Snow ($13.40, $6.10) in the final contest race, the 11th at Woodbine.

Andrew Walker connected on four consecutive winners early on in Sunday’s $500 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge Low Ratio Pick & Pray.

Walker finished with 5 wins and 2 places, and that allowed him to…walk…off with the coveted $10,000 entry. Kevin Harrell, the other triple-digit scorer, finished second to garner a $5,000 partial entry.

So ends another exciting week around here. Next week certainly has a tough act to follow, but we’ll try. Again, check in to this space tomorrow for an article about The BIG One champ Ken Seeman.

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