The players came out in force over the extended Thanksgiving weekend. None of the 28 featured tourneys failed to fill, and all of the marquee cash games comfortably exceeded their purse guarantees. And yet, perhaps the best performance of all came in the very first featured tourney of the week.
Sure, Charlie Ricks romped by $39.20 to pocket $3,421 in Wednesday’s $6,000 Guaranteed cash game which had a final purse of $7,603. But the mere margin of victory for Ricks doesn’t tell the whole story.
Eight winners out of 10 races, including seven in a row! Easy to say…but Ricks might have had nine in a row had he gone with the victorious 3-5 shot in race 6 at Mahoning Valley. (His other “miss” was a 9-1 winner in the tourney nightcap.) Nice picks, Mr. Ricks!
While Ricks put up his noteworthy display right off the bat, another came at the very end of the week.
There were two horses you really wanted to have on Sunday—Hopeful Treasure in the first contest race at Aqueduct and 25-1 winner Handy Dandy in the 5th at Del Mar. Adam Lewis had ‘em both…and he added another four winners plus a place on top of that. He figured to cruise to victory with a scoresheet like that, but Sunday’s $20,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which closed with a pot of $25,423, turned out to be a nail biter.
Dave Wang probably deserved a better fate on Sunday. He, too, had both Hopeful Treasure and Handy Dandy, but “only” added 2 wins and a place on top of those. Wang’s score of $155.80 was easily the day’s second best, but he found himself in the wrong contest and had to settle for $4,576. Lewis, meanwhile, made off with the top prize of $11,440.
But wait…there’s more for Lewis. Though Sunday’s eight-entry, $7,500 Guaranteed Big Bucks game was run in Live format, Lewis used the same picks as in his Pick & Pray. Wise move. This time, the result was more like one would expect.
You don’t see many featured tourneys won by $106.00, but that was the case here as Lewis added another $5,699 to his day’s receipts. Final purse for this one came to $8,142.
Lewis rounded out his Sunday by racking up another W in the day’s Flo-Cal Faceoff qualifier.
There were enough entries here to award three $1,500 entries so Clint Littlejohn (3 wins, 1 place) and Wendy Long (4W, 3P) got equally rewarded for their strong performances—even if there was no catching Lewis.
Speaking of Littlejohn, it has been a nice little run for him of late. On November 20th, he earned $15,246 in the $33,880 featured cash tourney. And on Thanksgiving Day, he picked up his initial entry to the $250,000 Guaranteed Flo-Cal Faceoff.
Littlejohn’s 2 wins and 2 places came in second to Ronnie Ogle’s 2 wins and 2 places. Also getting seats at the table for the January 15-16 extravaganza here were the 3rd-and 4th-place finishers Ted “Big” Apple (5W, 0P) and Anthony Laurino (4W, 1P).
In addition to Clint Littlejohn, Joe Scanio also enjoyed two different winning days. The first came on Wednesday in a qualifier to the December 26th Santa Anita Opening Day Challenge.
Scanio uncovered 5 winners to secure his $1,500 entry. On Saturday, Scanio found himself back in the winner’s circle.
This time, Scanio hunted down bigger game, capturing an NHC seat in Saturday’s Low Ratio play-in. He recorded two place collections, followed by three winners that included Fact Checking ($31.80, $8.70) in the 10th at Woodbine.
Rewinding back to Wednesday, Drew Keaton won the first of what were five daily Flo-Cal Faceoff qualifiers during the week.
Keaton’s 2 firsts and 1 second came early in the competition, but he managed to hold on to preserve the sought-after $1,500 seat for January 15-16.
The featured cash game on Thanksgiving Day was taken by 2013 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge champ Peter Behr, who need a 5-1 shot in the last race to get up.
Here’s a look at the Thursday-best scorecard that got Behr an $11,363 payoff in a $15,000 Guaranteed event that finished up with a sumptuous $25,252 in the kitty:
The featured cash tourney on Friday, another $15,000 Guaranteed affair, was captured by John Kennedy…whose home state is Massachusetts, of course!
Kennedy bagged $9,650 out of a total pot of $21,446 thanks to 5 winners that included Bees and Honey ($28.20, $10.20) in the 9th at Aqueduct.
Friday was the first day of qualifying for the Bally’s NHC First Chance/Last Chance contest and—like the stores on Black Friday—this one was crowded.
There were six winners in all of $500 NHC Eve entries. Congratulations to Muggsy Krieiser (5 wins, 0 places), Stacey Rinn (3W, 2P), Karen Richards (3W, 1P), Don Allen (3W, 0P), Evan Trommer (4W, 2P) and Michael Caposio (1W, 3P).
Fifth-place finisher Trommer also got himself a $1,500 Flo-Cal Faceoff entry on Friday.
He did so by besting all but Rudy Hardin, who had 3 wins and 2 places, including Bees and Honey.
As tourneys go, this one was a “key race” of sorts because Trommer on Saturday became yet another of the week’s multiple-day grand prize winners by finishing fifth in what turned out to be a five-seat qualifier to the Bally’s NHC First Chance/Last Chance contest.
Finishing ahead of Trommer (2 wins, 3 places) to also earn $500 entries were Mark Wilgard (4W, 0P), Cara Yarusso (2W, 3P), Bob McIntyre (2W, 1P) and Dane Moore (3W, 1P).
Rudy Hardin, meanwhile, played his Friday Flo-Cal picks back in the same day’s $75 NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers.
The already-double-qualified Sarah Wiener (a Final Table competitor in this year’s NHC) was basically just on a quest for NHC Tour points, and she certainly got them by finishing first (and second!). That meant the two available NHC berths went to Dennis Bright (4 wins 3 places) in third and Hardin in 4th. Like Hardin, Bright was also a backer of the 13-1 Bees and Honey at the Big A.
Sarah wasn’t the only winner in the Wiener family.
Hubby Brett rattled off 4 winners (topped by 18-1 Hopeful Treasure in the 8th at Aqueduct) in the first four races of Sunday’s Tampa Bay Downs on-track NHC First Chance/Final Opportunity qualifier. Wiener only had one place collection thereafter, but he still held on for the $1,000 entry.
The same formula served Wiener well in Sunday’s Santa Anita Opening Day Challenge play-in.
Ditto the Bally’s NHC First Chance/Last Chance qualifier on Sunday.
Here, Wiener was one of six to take home $500 entries. The others were Kevin Engelhard (5 wins, 2 places), Mark Hackworth (5W, 0P), Patrick Cronin (4W, 1P). Paul “Morning” Kloeker (3W, 3P) and Jeffrey Pesot (also 3W, 3P).
Like Adam Lewis and Brett Wiener, second-place Bally’s finisher Mark Hackworth was another who enjoyed more than one victory on Sunday.
This one was even bigger—worth a $10,000 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge entry in 2022. As noted earlier, Hackworth had 5 winners, but he whiffed on his first 5 plays before nailing five of the next seven. Hackworth’s hot streak began with Handy Dandy ($53.20, $19.80) in the 5th at Del Mar.
Hopping back to Saturday’s featured action, the high score of the day was recorded by Bryan Ingram.
The gaudy scoresheet came in a good spot.
Ingram earned $13,998 in the week’s richest tourney, our $30,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray (and an HT Tour event), which closed its books with a final purse of $31,108.
Finishing second behind Ingram—to earn $5,699—was current HT Tour leader Jorge Cruz-Aedo. In addition to bumping up his Tour score a bit, Cruz-Aedo’s Saturday handicapping prowess also got him a spot in the January 8th on-track tournament at Tampa Bay Downs.
“J Crew” and his 2 wins and 4 places checked in second behind Randy Bauer who came up with 5 firsts and 1 runner up. There were enough entries here for three $1,000 seat winners and the third went to Dan Lytwynec (3W, 2P).
The same selections for Bauer worked nicely as well in Saturday’s Flo-Cal Faceoff play-in.
Bauer topped fellow $1,500 Faceoff seat winners James Henry (winner of the 2013 Horseplayer World Series) and Evan Trommer. It was Trommer’s second Saturday grand prize, and his third of the week.
Howard Welsh connected on 2 firsts and 2 seconds to cash for $10,686 in Saturday’s $10,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks Pick & Pray, which finished with a total pot of $15,266.
Those two Welsh winners came in the final two contest races—12-1 and 10-1 shots.
Todd Faro (5 wins, 3 places) and Ted Apple (3W, 4P) were the two winners of $1,500 entries on Saturday to the Santa Anita Opening Day Challenge at Xpressbet.
They both had Marais ($12.20, $5.80) in the 9th at Woodbine. For Apple, it was a second winning day on the week. On Thanksgiving, he gobbled up a Flo-Cal Faceoff entry.
Over at HorsePlayers, Shawn Pilar garnered a $10,000 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge entry in a $179 qualifier.
Five winners (and no places) got the job done for Pilar.
The other Saturday feature at HorsePlayers went to Jeff “Land” Ho.
Ho amassed three place collections followed by three winners—including Fact Checking ($31.80, $8.70) in the 10th at Woodbine—to land an NHC seat in Saturday’s Low Ratio qualifier that was limited to those who had yet to achieve a 2022 berth.
Both of the weekend’s $15 Pick 4 Jackpot winners—Daniel Smith on Saturday…
…and Sean O’Malley on Sunday…
…finished first on the strength of just 1 winner and 1 runner up. Since no one went 4-for-4 over the weekend, next Saturday’s $15 Jackpot Pick 4 game will start out with a carryover of $1,767.
In recapping the exploits of Adam Lewis, Brett Wiener and Mark Hackworth, we wound up covering almost all of the Sunday featured events. We did not get to Andrew Weiss’s victory in Sunday’s $165 NHC Pick & Pray at HorsePlayers.
Weiss had just 2 winners (and 2 places), but they were the two highest priced horses of the day—18-1 Hopeful Treasure in the first contest race (the 8th at Aqueduct) and 25-1 Handy Dandy in the 5th at Del Mar. When Weiss thinks of Handy Dandy in the future, he will probably think of the NHC. I will continue to think of notebooks (Blue’s Clues) or vacuum cleaners (I Love Lucy).
I digress. This was a two-seat NHC qualifier, and the other to secure a 2022 berth was runner up Jeff Higgins who hit 2 winners that were supplemented by 5 important place collections.
Thanks to all who used their handy dandy computers or smartphones to play in a tourney over the past week. We hope it was a winning featured-tourney week—and month—for you. If not, a new version of each begins on Wednesday.