After a strong third-place performance on Day 1 of the two-day Flo-Cal Faceoff, David Wolff, a 57-year-old attorney from Holmdel, N.J., jumped into first place with five races remaining on Day 2 and held on from there to emerge with the $183,600 grand prize.
Combined with a $3,825 bonus he received for having the third-highest Saturday score, Wolff’s total winnings in the two-day event amounted to $187,425.
In addition to his Flo-Cal Faceoff prize money, Wolff now becomes eligible for a $1 million bonus (paid via annuity) should he, with his designated entry, win either of the final two legs of the 2023 HorseTourneys Tourney Triple series—the April 7-8 Players Championship or August’s Spa & Surf Showdown.
As a result of the victory, Wolff also assumes the lead in the Tourney Triple series standings, which will reward the top three overall points earners with seats to such prestigious tournaments as the 2023 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge, the 2024 NHC and the 2023 The BIG One.
The fourth annual Flo-Cal Faceoff—a $1,500 buy-in event that requires participants to make mythical $2.00 win-and-place selections on every race of the Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita cards on Saturday and Sunday—was postponed by one week this year after heavy rains in Southern California forced the cancellation of the January 14th program at Santa Anita.
On Saturday, January 21, the skies were clear on both coasts, and all systems were go for the Faceoff to finally commence. When the gates opened for the first race on Saturday at Gulfstream, a total of 384 entrants had been attracted, resulting in an overall, all-cash prize pool of $511,410.
Day 1 of the competition opened with a bang and closed with an even bigger one. When Swoonatra took the Gulfstream opener at 11-1, some four dozen contestants—including Bill Chenvert, Gregg Kingma and George Bosch—got off to just the start they had hoped for. After the day’s first five races, Chenvert was in a first-place tie with Lawrence Kahlden, Kingma was sitting in third and Bosch was not far out of things in a tie for seventh place.
By the time the horses for the 5th at Santa Anita (the 15th of 21 Saturday contest races) loaded into the gate, no winner had paid more than the $25.40 returned by Swoonatra. During that time, Chenvert had yielded the lead to Kingma, but when Horn of Plenty ($20.40, $8.20) won that 5th at The Great Race Place, Chenvert got the lead back.
The stage was now set for one of the true—and few—turning points in the 2023 Flo-Cal Faceoff. The weekend’s only cap horse hit in the 9th at Santa Anita when Stay in the Game ($44.00, $13.20) reported home first.
Those who had the 21-1 shot rocketed up the leaderboard. Others tumbled backward. No player’s ascent was more eye catching than George Bosch’s. Not only did he have Stay in the Game…he also came up with 13-1 victor Duvet Day in the race prior.
Also hitting the Duvet Day-Stay in the Game “double” were Jay Johns, David Wolff and Jason Phillips—and they finished Day 1 in that order at the top of the standings.
The late-day heroics earned Bosch, Johns, Wolff and Phillips not just a long night of handicapping and perhaps a restless night’s sleep, but (on a happier note) some day money as well. Bosch earned $12,750, Johns pocketed $7,650, Wolff got $3,825 and Phillips picked up $1,275.
On the second and final day of competition, Bosch wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire. However, things seemed to be breaking well for him. Why? Day 2 consisted of 19 races, and after 13 of them, no horse had paid more than $20.40 to win. To that point in the day, Bosch had added just $25.40 in scoring to his Day 1 total of $200.40, yet he was still in front since the relatively low win prices on Sunday precluded drastic swings in the standings.
That all changed, though, after Agree to Settle ($24.20, $7.00) took the 4th at Santa Anita.
Both Wolff and one-time leader Gregg Kingma had the 11-1 winner, and they now occupied the top two spots with just five Santa Anita races left.
The top three were still in that order with two races left.
In the next-to-last race, the 8th at Santa Anita, Kingma had the 6-5 winner, but Wolff picked the runner up. So while the standings tightened a bit, Wolff still retained the lead by a scant $2.70.
In the final race of the Flo-Cal, a maiden turf sprint, things sort of went according to Hoyle…until they didn’t.
Wolff took the tepid 2-1 favorite Ruby Nell, a first-time starter purchased for $1,200,000 and trained by Richard Mandella. Kingma opted for 5-2 second choice Playlist. A host of close pursuers went with second-time starter Ag Bullet, who was 10-1 as she loaded into the gate. One of those pursuers was Michael Somich, who was less than $21.00 out of first place.
Ag Bullet left the gate like a silver bullet and rocketed to the front. Ruby Nell, who had a rather conspicuous six gate works in her PPs, broke last. Around the turn, Ag Bullet was unchallenged on the front end…while Ruby Nell was starting to pass horses on the turn. Playlist wasn’t making much of an impact. Could Ruby Nell possibly catch the leader, having spotted that much ground?
Even before the horses passed the eighth pole, the clear answer to that question was “No.” But…wait a minute…Ag Bullet backers who allowed themselves another glance at the odds board prior to the end of the race saw something disquieting to say the least. As Ag Bullet crossed the wire 3 1/4 lengths in front, her odds were now down to 6-1. And Ruby Nell had gotten up belatedly for second, meaning that Wolff would at least pick up a place payoff on the favorite.
When the prices were posted, it turned out that Ag Bullet’s late odds drop had ultimately given David Wolff a gigantic lift.
Wolff had held on for the $183,600 by $3.30—so the $4.20 that Ruby Nell returned to place was a difference maker.
Also a difference maker was the odds drop on Ag Bullet. Had she gotten hit to even 8-1 instead of 6-1, Michael Somich likely would have been the winner.
In the immediate aftermath of the finish, Somich exhibited an exceeding amount of grace on Twitter.
Somich’s furious late rally left him just short, but he did receive a very nice consolation prize of $73,400, however, for finishing second…plus another $1,275 for having the fourth-best Sunday score.
Also earning Day 2-only bonus money were Anthony Mastropietro ($12,750), Paul Shurman ($7,650) and Jose Giron ($3,825).
Getting back to the overall standings, Alexa Zepp ($36,720) rallied for 3rd thanks to Ag Bullet, Gregg Kingma ($27,540) hung on for 4th and Anthony Mastropietro ($22,950) rounded out the top 5. Joseph Muzio ($13,770) checked in 6th, while Day 1- and longtime Day 2-leader George Bosch had to settle for 7th place and $11,475 which—combined with his Day 1 bonus money—gave him weekend winnings of $24,225.
Here’s what the leaderboard looked like among all those who finished in the money:
Meanwhile, here’s how David Wolff’s rewarding two-day odyssey went:
Even after an exhaustive two-day, 40-race, all-mandatory tournament, the result can still sometimes come down to factors beyond the scope of any player’s ability to foresee them.
We’ll be back here again tomorrow with a profile of Flo-Cal Faceoff champ David Wolff. We’ll find out what he thought about that last-race odds drop (spoiler alert: he liked it), and we’ll also learn about the rather humorous circumstances surrounding his introduction to contest play just seven years ago.