Rainy weather in Southern California really put the “off” into the Flo-Cal Faceoff last weekend. So we still have that event ahead of us this coming weekend. The purse is up to $284,000 for this first leg of the 2023 Tourney Triple, and qualifying continues through Friday.
Since we don’t have a Faceoff winner to celebrate quite yet, it means more ink here for some other big winners—especially Scott Fiedler and Peter Osella.
Both Fiedler, the 2020 Spa & Surf Showdown champ and Osella pulled off a rewarding double last week, finishing first in a featured cash game and also grabbing an NHC seat. For Fiedler, the return was a bit more lucrative. For Osella, the feat was probably a bit more challenging.
Fiedler’s deal was more lucrative because his cash-game tally came in Friday’s $15,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, an HT Tour event. He had the day’s top three winners en route to a 4-win, 3-place performance that earned him $9,052 from a final purse that ended up at $20,116.
Fiedler (brother of former NFL quarterback Jay Fiedler) ran those same plays back in Friday’s $75 NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers.
Here, Fiedler was one of three to get into the end zone, along with winner Darryl Mays (5 wins, 3 places) and 3rd-place finisher Howard Blumberg (6W, 1P). Mays’s score of $103.70 was the Friday high-water mark.
Getting back to Peter Osella, the first half of his cash-game/NHC couplet came on Wednesday.
Osella had Vintner ($36.40, $14.00) in what actually turned out to be the next-to-last contest race (by the clock), the 9th at Tampa, to finish with 4 firsts and 1 second and collect $3,297 in Wednesday’s $5,000 Guaranteed cash tourney, which closed its doors with $7,327 in the pot.
So while Osella’s cash winnings weren’t as much as Fiedler’s, his “Daily Double” was arguably harder to pull off…since it wasn’t a “daily” double at all.
It wasn’t until three days later—on Saturday—that Osella earned his NHC seat. He did so for finishing second to Christopher Dewey. Osella and Dewey were the only two competitors in the $210 HorsePlayers play-in to crack triple figures.
While Osella was busy winning cash on Wednesday, plenty of others were focused on landing $500 entries for the NHC First Chance/Last Chance contest on NHC Eve (March 9) in Las Vegas.
Tarik Koutchef uncovered 5 winners, including Vintner, to lead the way in Wednesday’s “FCLC” play-in. Also raising their wine glasses in celebration were Robert Vitale Jr., Jeff VanDrie, Todd Faro, Kirk Tesar and Patrick Runyan.
A total of 28 seats worth $1,500 each were won last week in multi-track qualifiers to the rescheduled Flo-Cal Faceoff. The first six of those were distributed on Wednesday.
Stephen Lerma had one meager place collection early on before roaring home with the final four winners to finish first. Also securing Faceoff berths were John Kite, Jeff VanDrie (an NHC First Chance/Last Chance seat winner as well on Wednesday), Chris Grutsch, 2021 HT Tour Champ Jorge Cruz-Aedo and NHC Hall of Famer Steve Wolfson Sr.
On Thursday, Joseph Brocato whiffed on the final three races, but the scoring he enjoyed from his three winners held up by $1.40
That $1.40 margin meant a $3,608 payday for Brocato after he took the day’s $6,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, whose purse ($8,018) wound up being a couple of thousand dollars more than the guarantee.
Edward “The Wright Stuff” Wright had exactly that on Thursday.
Wright was one of four winners in the day’s NHC First Chance/Last Chance qualifier. The other three were Jeff Sandler, Tim “Moose” Haas and Dave “Gambling Actuary” Nichols.
Wright and Nichols were also amongst the happy group at the conclusion of Thursday’s Flo-Cal Faceoff qualifier.
Happiest perhaps was Keith Fenton who had the high score of the day by far, thanks to his five winner’s circle visitors. Also securing their spots in the Flo-Cal starting gate this Saturday were Ciaran Thornton, Christopher Dewey (who would win an NHC spot two days later), Wright, Daniel Edwards and actuary Nichols.
We mentioned earlier that NHC qualifying winner Darryl Mays had the highest Friday score—$103.70.
Fortunately for Bob McIntyre, Michael “Copa” Kavana, Jerome Linderman, Bill Bochenek and Stephen Berdar, there were six seats up for grabs in this NHC First Chance/Last Chance qualifier.
Our first Tampa Bay Downs High Rollers Contest qualifier went to Brendan Fay.
A final table participant at the most recent NHC, Fay recorded four consecutive winners here—including El Segundo ($15.00, $6.60) in the 9th at Gulfstream—to make off with the $1,000 entry.
Kevin Engelhard seems to get his name in this blog just about every week. He made collections in each of the final five races to wind up with 5 wins and 2 places and finish first in Friday’s Flo-Cal Faceoff play-in.
Also nailing down $1,500 berths were Matthew Nixon (3W, 3P), Michael “The Coach” Goodrich (4W, 0P) and Kris Andaur (2W, 3P).
Jim Templin broke in a tangle but finished fast, sweeping the last four races to capture Friday’s Pegasus World Cup Betting Championship qualifier.
Both Templin and fellow $6,500 package earner Michael Kiatipis (3 wins, 2 places) had Conductance ($13.20, $6.40) in the 9th at Laurel.
On short rest, Kiatipis wheeled back on Saturday and entered the day’s Flo-Cal Faceoff qualifier.
Fourth-place was fine for Kiatipis in this five-seater. A couple of past The BIG One champions—Joe Pettit and Ken Seeman—took two of the other available berths. John Caro and Frank Foss accounted the other two.
It turned out to be a very nice day for Ken Seeman.
He also won a $6,500 Pegasus World Cup Betting Championship (PWCBC) package.
Joining Seeman in the field for the PWCBC will be runner up Dr. Ronald Tang (another player whose name appears in this blog seemingly every Monday).
Seeman and Tang will also have action on NHC Eve.
They finished second and fourth, respectively, in Saturday’s NHC First Chance/Last Chance qualifier. Leading the way with a formidable 7 firsts and 1 second was Rob Ramirez, whose big horse was Little Demon ($32.20, $11.40) in the 9th at Aqueduct. Also earning spots were Mark Heider, Matt “The Fly” Tietze, George Novick and Adam Lewis.
On Sunday, Ramirez ensured that he will have double-barreled action in the NHC First Chance/Last Chance tournament.
Ramirez bested all but Joe Perry, whose 5-win, 3-place solo brought down the house. The other available $500 seats went to Stephen McNatton, John Farrar, Kevin Costello, Kevin Engelhard (there’s that name again), Terence Channon and Jeff Higgins.
Returning to Saturday action, the day’s highest score was put up by Eric Morikawa.
Morikawa had each of the day’s three highest-priced winners. It’s hard to beat someone who does that…
…and no one could in Saturday’s HT Tour event, a $15,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray that finished up with a purse of $22,111. Morikawa’s share of that came to $9,950.
Howard Welsh was the winner of—yep, you guessed it—our $10,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks Pick & Pray.
Welsh picked 4 winners, topped by Opus Forty Two ($18.80, $9.40) in the 9th at Tampa Bay Downs, to collect $7,836 in a game ultimately worth a total of $11,195.
Opus Forty Two was also the big horse for John Merola.
Merola booked 4 winners and 3 runners up on the way to grabbing a $1,000 entry for the February 10-11 Tampa Bay Downs High Rollers Contest.
Chris “Hoss” Inman had the day’s biggest price—Little Demon ($32.20, $11.40) in the 9th at the Big A—among his 3 firsts and 3 seconds.
Inman is now in for the Sam Houston NHC Qualifier on January 28.
Over at HorsePlayers, Nick Yerton (4 firsts, 1 second) finished on top in Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge Pick & Pray.
Yerton’s biggest return came with Lovin Makes Cents ($21.20, $7.80) in race 7 at Gulfstream.
While there were lots of big prices on Saturday, the same could not be said of Sunday. No horse paid more than $11.40 in the win hole, and only two returned double digits. Barbara Small came up with them both, though.
For coming up with 5 moderately priced winners and 1 runner up, Small was amply rewarded.
She pocketed $13,682 in Sunday’s HT Tour game, our $20,000 Guaranteed cash tourney. It closed with a pot totaling $30,406.
Bad news for Big Bucks players…remember this guy?
That’s 2022 HT Tour champ Travis Pearson. On Sunday, he dipped his toe into the Big Bucks waters.
The rich get richer! Despite a top winner that paid just $8.40, Pearson hit the cash register for $5,699 in a high-end, $7,000 Guaranteed game that closed with a purse of $8,142.
Sunday’s highest score came in an unlikely place—the 16-entry Sam Houston qualifier.
Robert Childress did the honors there, thanks to 6 firsts and 3 seconds. His $1,000 entry for January 28th was well earned, indeed.
Since, as we know now, there weren’t any big prices out there on Sunday, the best course of action was to chip up frequently. Marc Racenstein did just that.
Like Robert Childress, Racenstein accumulated 9 collections (via 4 winners and 5 runners up). Those made Racenstein the winner of a Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge seat in Sunday’s Low Ratio qualifier at HorsePlayers.
There were two NHC qualifiers at HorsePlayers on Sunday. One was limited to those who had yet to lock down a 2023 seat.
James Costello took this one—also with 9 collections (6 firsts and 3 seconds).
The other Sunday feature at HorsePlayers was a Low Ratio NHC play-in.
Vaughn Bair was the recipient of the $10,000 seat. He didn’t have 9 collections…he could only muster 8!
Back here at HorseTourneys, there were two winners of $6,500 packages in Sunday’s Pegasus World Cup Betting Championship qualifier.
Congratulations to William Mauer (4 wins, 3 places) and Tom “Yo MTV” Rapps (5W, 1P).
An NHC Hall of Famer took the top spot in Sunday’s multi-track Flo-Cal Faceoff qualifier.
Paul Shurman will look to become the first player to win two HT “majors” after finishing first in Sunday’s Flo-Cal play-in. (Shurman was the inaugural Spa & Surf Showdown champ in 2019.) Also earning $1,500 entries on Sunday for the $284,000 (and counting) event here this coming weekend were John Farrar (who also won an NHC First Chance/Last Chance spot on Sunday), Kevin Costello (another Sunday First Chance/Last Chance seat winner), Steve Wolfson Jr. (another NHC Hall of Famer!), Nancy Spence, Lucas Van Zandt and Michael DeGrande.
We hope your weekend was a DeGrande one. If not, there’s always the Flo-Cal Faceoff to look forward to. Knock on wood, the long-term forecast looks good!