Gary Brous Takes Three Tourneys, Giving Him Nine Triumphs Over Last Two Weeks; Lucas Van Zandt Captures Month-End Blowout…and a Whole Lot More; Michael Kavana Earns Seat in $75 NHC Qualifier for a Second Straight Friday (Weekend Recap, August 26-28)

Due to some vacation time last week, the normal “Weekly Recap” will be a “Weekend Recap” this week. To last week’s Wednesday and Thursday featured-tourney winners, we apologize for missing your exploits…but we also say, “Congratulations!”

All the great racing during the month of August seems to bring out the best in some players. One enjoying incredible success of late is Gary Brous.

During the weekend of August 20-21, Brous won six grand prizes, including seats to the NHC, the Keeneland Fall BCBC/NHC Challenge, the Del Mar Pacific Classic Challenge, the Kentucky Downs Turf Handicapping Challenge, plus a Big Bucks win worth $7,124. It turns out that this colossal performance was no fluke.

This past Sunday, Brous recorded another Big Bucks victory. This one was worth $7,124—the same as the previous Sunday’s windfall. 

As was the case the previous week, Brous played his sharp-eyed selections in multiple events. The result was seat #2 for Brous in this Saturday’s Del Mar Pacific Challenge.

Finishing second and also earning a $3,000 Pacific Classic entry was Jim “Never” Settle, whose 4 wins and a place including one bomb that Brous missed—Quickly Park It ($66.40, $24.80) in the 1st at Del Mar.

Brous, meanwhile, wasn’t done.

He added his name to the list of no more than 57 players who will compete in The BIG One here next month. (Perhaps fortunately for the other 56, no one can play more than one entry in The BIG One!) This qualifier guaranteed two spots and the other was snagged by runner up Matthew Nixon.

By our crack accounting department’s highly unofficial count, the nine featured-tourney prizes won by Brous over the past two weekends—plus a runner-up prize in Sunday’s cash feature—represent a total retail value (as they say on the Showcase round of The Price is Right) of $43,696.

As Paul Harvey would have said, here’s “the rest of the story.” Would you believe that Brous wasn’t the biggest winner of cash and prizes over the last two weeks? Well…he wasn’t…not even close. One player eclipsed his total just during this past Saturday and Sunday. That player was Lucas Van Zandt.

Van Zandt got a big leg up in his personal “Brous chase” by taking Saturday’s $50,000 Month-End Blowout, which went off with a takeout to players of 9.0%. The triumph earned “LVZ” $20,000. Aiding Van Zandt’s cause further was the rather amazing fact that he also finished second in the Blowout, adding another $8,000 to his Connecticut coffers. His “good ticket” score of $133.60, built on 5 wins and 3 places, was the day’s highest. There were five common horses among his two entries, and those horses accounted for 2 firsts and 2 seconds, giving him a solid foundation with which to build his pair of imposing totals. 

The Month-End Blowout was a Live-format game, but Van Zandt apparently played it like a Pick & Pray. In an impressive display of prescience, he used all 12 horses on his $133.60-entry in three other “set-it-and-forget it” tourneys on Saturday.

One was Saturday’s $179 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge Pick & Pray, which saw Gregg “Sky” Kingma pick up a $5,000 partial entry for finishing second.

Another was Saturday’s Guaranteed qualifier to The BIG One.

Van Zandt will not face fellow weekend hero Gary Brous just in The BIG One…but in the Keeneland Fall BCBC/NHC Challenge as well.

It gets better. Van Zandt will have not one, but two Keeneland entries working for him on October 15th.

Yep, Van Zandt came back the very next day and won his second $3,500 Keeneland seat in as many tries. Here, Van Zandt did all his scoring in a five-race span that started out with two place collections and finished up with three double-digit winners.

Van Zandt’s haul in the five tourneys noted above came to $28,000 in cash and another $23,000 in seats. Even our HT accountants were able to add up that total value—$51,000.

Rewinding back to Friday action, Jeff Higgins finished first in the day’s $75 NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers.

Higgins, however, was already double-qualified, so that meant that the two available 2023 spots went to the second- and third-place finishers, Robert Mack (3 wins, 2 places) and Michael “Copa” Kavana (4W, 0P). Higgins, Mack and Kavana were the only three to crack triple digits, and the latter two had Gulfstream race 8 dead-heat winner Great Adventure ($28.00, $36.20). This was a very rare instance in which the place price got trimmed down (to $22.00) for contest purposes due to the cap, but the win price did not! You almost have to have a dead heat in the win slot for this to happen. The only other scenario I can think of would be if both halves of a 10-1 or higher entry ran first and second. 

As for Michael Kavana, it’s been a really nice couple of weeks for him. Not only did he win seats last week for the $50,000 Exacta Extravaganza to be held here on December 3 and for the just-completed Monmouth NHC/BCBC contest, he finished first in that week’s $75 NHC qualifier—thus pulling off a pretty incredible “double”. It’s hard enough to win NHC in back-to-back weeks, let alone to do it in the Friday $75 qualifiers with their 300+ entrants.

Friday’s HT Tour event was our $15,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which closed with a pot of $19,118. The result could tighten up the HT Tour picture.

Travis Pearson entered the weekend in second place in the year-long standings behind Anthony Trezza, but this victory will surely help Pearson’s cause. He booked 3 wins and 3 places—including Great Adventure—to take home the top prize of $8,603.

In April, Riley “The Glide” Drexler won $161,000 in taking the Players Championship here. Next month, he will have the opportunity to capture another HorseTourneys “major”.

Drexler whiffed on the first six contest races, but he hit two winners (including Great Adventure) plus a runner up over the final four, to secure his spot in the September 17-18 The BIG One.

With the Kentucky Downs Turf Handicapping Challenge getting started this coming Thursday, business has been brisk in qualifiers for that three-day competition. 

Each day of the weekend saw three garner $1,700 worth of entry fees for the Turf-only test. Friday’s were Dave “Gambling Actuary” Nichols (3 wins, 1 place), Sean O’Malley (2W, 1P) and Timothy Lyons (4W, 2P). Nichols and O’Malley each had Great Adventure. Lyons was not part of that thrill ride, and he, therefore, needed more collections to get up and into the money.

Kirk Tesar (3 wins, 2 places) and Gregory Newell (3W, 1P) were both cool with going to Great Adventure.

The roller coster of emotions supplied by Great Adventure, which obviously included a thrill-a-minute photo finish wait, helped Tesar nail down $3,500 Keeneland seat and Newell a $10,000 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge spot.

Carl Keleman Keleman (prices ok) had Great Adventure, but Craig Rowe did not.

Nevertheless, both earned $3,000 seats on Friday for this Saturday’s Pacific Classic Challenge, playable on-track at Del Mar or at TVG.com.

Moving to Saturday action, Joseph Zuer was the biggest winner not named Lucas Van Zandt.

Zuer counted Derby Quest ($34.40, $13.00) in the 5th at Del Mar among his 3 winners and 2 runners up. Zuer bagged $9,973 in the day’s $10,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks Pick & Pray, which closed up shop with a total purse of $14,248.

Tim O’Leary had a 15-race score of $171.50 to lead the way in Saturday’s free 5-seat NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers.

Joining O’Leary at the big dance will be Shawn Khwalsingh, Mitch Stark, Paul Calia and Thomas Riccobono.

Doug Drewry (5 wins, 0 places) and Jared Henry (4W, 1P) were the two winners of $3,000 entries in Saturday’s Del Mar Pacific Classic Challenge Pick & Pray.

In what might be a good omen for September 3rd, Dreary and Henry demonstrated their Del Mar mettle by each having Derby Quest, the 16-1 winner of race 5 at the Southern California racetrack.

Frank “Kid in a candy” Stohr was the latest to earn his way into the $50,000 Guaranteed Exacta Extravaganza here on December 3-4.

Taking advantage of the same three-horse Exacta box format that will be utilized in the Extravaganza, Stohr connected on 4 successful gimmicks, including the $131.30-for-a-buck return in the Derby Quest-topped 5th at Del Mar.

As noted earlier, there were three winners in each of the weekend’s three Kentucky Downs Turf Handicapping Challenge qualifiers.

Saturday’s skillful trio consisted of Nick “48 Hrs.” Noce (3 wins, 3 places), David Nelson (3W, 1P) and Keith Van Lanen (3W, 4P). The biggest return for Noce and Nelson came via Amigo G A ($29.60, $10.60) in the 4th at Del Mar.

On Sunday, the three to squirrel away Kentucky Downs berths were Gary Lee Russell (3 wins, 2 places), Charley Witt (4W, 2P) and Jeff Bussan (5W, 0P despite whiffing on the first 5 contest races). 

Russell, Witt and Bussan all came up with Divine Encounter ($33.40, $14.80) in the 10th at Gulfstream.

It was a big Sunday for Matthew Nixon.

Not only did Nixon (4 wins, 3 places) nab a seat to The BIG One for finishing second behind Gary Brous, he left nothing to chance by finishing on top of the heap in Sunday’s $165 NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers. 

The runner-up was the already-double qualified Tim Kindlon, who was primarily playing for NHC Tour points…so the other available spot went to 3rd-place finisher Mike Steindler (3W, 0P). Steindler managed to smoke out both the 15-1 Gulfstream race 10 winner Divine Encounter and the Del Mar race 1 cap horse Quickly Park It.

Dave Wang missed Quickly Park It…but he still wound up with the highest score of the day on Sunday.

All five of Wang’s winners (and one of his three place collections) paid double digits…

…and he was rewarded to the tune of $14,371 in Sunday’s HT Tour event, our $20,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which ultimately paid out a total of $31,397. Wang’s giant performance deprived Gary Brous of what would have been a fourth Sunday victory (and 10th of the previous two weeks). Instead, Brous had to make do with second money of $5,748.

We mentioned a few paragraphs ago that Tim Kindlon was already double qualified for the NHC. He’s now at least single qualified for the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge.

Buoyed by bomb Quickly Park It, Kindlon (5 winners, 0 places) earned a $10,000 BCBC seat in Sunday’s Live-format, Low Ratio battle. Eric Pineiro checked in second to pick up a $5,000 partial entry.

Congratulations to all of last week’s winners, and we send out a big “thank you” to all participants. Next stop—Labor Day Weekend!

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