This week, the big room at Horseshoe Las Vegas might be as crowded on Thursday as it is on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
A record 413 entries to the NHC Eve contest were won here at HorseTourneys this year. We’ve never “sold” that many before. Not even close. For comparison’s sake, there were 259 seats won here last year for the same event.
Our multi-track featured tourneys last week accounted for 30 of those 413—including six on Wednesday.
On a chalky day at “HorseTourneys Downs”, Jeff Tracy put up 4 firsts and 2 seconds to lead the half-dozen $500 seat winners. The other fortunate and skillful five were Michelle “Sermon on the” Mount, Ken Jordan, Daniel Edwards, Tyler Smith and Mark Stovall.
The big “longshot” out there on Wednesday was Ruda ($10.60, $4.40) in the 7th at Tampa Bay Downs. Edward Enborg had it.
Enborg also found one other winner and three runners up to take home the $2,000 entry in Wednesday’s Players Championship qualifier.
Ruda eluded Gordon Grant…but he still put up the day’s highest score.
Grant was a frequent sighting at the cashier’s window, compiling 5 winners and 3 runners up out of the 10 contest races. He was rewarded to the tune of $4,043 in our $5,000 Guaranteed cash tourney, which closed with a purse of $8,986.
Patrick O’Connor finished with a flourish, nailing the final three winners to give him six on the day.
O’Connor will now have a “freeroll” on April 15 in the Keeneland Grade One Gamble.
On Thursday, it was the Geoffrey Schutt Show.
Schutt rattled off 6 wins and 2 places—including True Heiress ($24.20, $11.40) in the 4th at Charles Town—to collect $3,515 in our nighttime $6,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which had a final pot of $7,811.
Schutt played those same picks back in the evening’s Players Championship qualifier…
…and also in the NHC First Chance/Last Chance play-in.
There were enough entries in this one to award four $500 berths, and so Schutt shared the victory podium with Rick Vasquez, Jerome Linderman and Daven Turner.
Five were on the victory podium in Friday’s NHC First Chance/Last Chance qualifier.
Kirk Rockwell (5 firsts, 1 second) finished on top. He had both of the day’s top prices—Run for the Hills ($23.80, $9.80) in the first contest race, the 6th at Gulfstream and Early Edition ($20.80, $6.10) in the 7th at Aqueduct. Joining Rockwell in the standing-room-only crowd at Horseshoe Las Vegas this Thursday will be Todd Kostoff, Dan Piazza, Kathie Falcone and Mario St. Pierre.
Kirk Rockwell’s scoring was well distributed throughout the Friday, 10-race slate. That was not the case with Pete Acocella.
Acocella could have gone out for an early dinner halfway though. Had he done so, he would have been able to afford a really nice place, because what he did over those first five races got him $9,127 in Friday’s $15,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray.
The final total purse in this HT Tour event amounted to $20,282.
Like Kirk Rockwell, Steven Meier also picked both Run for the Hills and Early Edition. In Meier’s case, those were his only two winners.
Those two (plus a nice, double-digit place collection) were sufficient, however, for Meier to capture Friday’s Keeneland Grade One Gamble qualifier.
Kevin Willett got out of the gate fast with two nice winners.
However, it was his lone place collection, worth $13.60, that got him up for a narrow 70-cent victory in Friday’s Monmouth Pick Your Prize Challenge play-in.
Friday’s Players Championship qualifier was a tight, defensive-minded struggle.
In the end, it was Dale Hatfield (2 wins and 2 places for $51.00) and Laura Arth (3W, 2P, $49.20) who emerged with the $2,000 entries for the $350,000 Guaranteed second leg of the Tourney Triple here on April 7-8.
As is so often the case, Friday’s high scorer did his thing over at HorsePlayers.
In fact, the two highest scorers did their thing here—in the $100 NHC qualifier. Keith Simon (5 wins, 3 places) and William Haliziw (4W, 1P) each picked up late spots in this week’s big gig. Both of them had 10-1 Run for the Hills and 9-1 Early Edition en route to victory.
The richest tourney of the week is where we found the highest score of Saturday.
Vincent DePalo did the honors with 4 wins and a place. The winners included Davona Dale bomb Dorth Vader ($95.40, $36.20) and Gotham Stakes upsetter Raise Cain ($49.00, $14.60).
The extra-strong performance gave DePalo a windfall of $17,602 in Saturday’s HT Tour event, our $30,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which closed its doors with $39,116 in the kitty.
The other Saturday cash feature was our $10,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks Pick & Pray.
Big Bucks specialist Howard Welsh (who made $7,040 for finishing second behind DePalo in the $39,000 game) got the top spot here with 3 winners that included Danse Macabre ($26.80, $10.80) in the initial contest race, the 9th at Gulfstream, and Dorth Vader later on in the Hallandale, Fla., card.
Two players secured $1,000 seats in our weekly Lone Star Spring Challenge play-in.
Congratulations to Jason Hill (3 wins, 3 places) and Howard Kaplan (3W, 2P). They both did a happy dance after Danse Macabre won.
Similar dances were performed by Jacob Warden and NHC Hall of Famer Roger Cettina.
They each had the conqueror of Cairo Consort early on, and they were the two to come away with $3,500 spots in Saturday’s Keeneland Grade One Gamble qualifier.
The 2020 Spa & Surf Showdown champion Scott Fiedler had a nice Saturday.
Fiedler put on a late push with the final three winners. That gave him 4 on the day to go with 2 placings, and he took the day’s Monmouth Pick Your Prize qualifier.
Fiedler utilized the same Pick & Pray selections in Saturday’s Players Championship qualifier.
Here, Fiedler’s late rally got him the third and final $2,000 seat by a margin of 70 cents. He will bid for his second HorseTourneys “major” on April 7-8 versus a field that will include the qualifier’s first- and second-place finishers Mark Stillmock (4 wins, 1 place) and Carl Rasak (3W, 0P).
Daily Racing Form’s Kenny Peck topped a group of six $500 seat winners in Saturday’s NHC First Chance/Last Chance play-in.
Also advancing to NHC Eve were Joseph Johnson, Josh Thorpe, Joe Scanio, William Miller and Todd “American” Faro.
There were three features—including the final two 2023 NHC qualifiers—on HorsePlayers on Saturday. All three of the first-place finishers managed to come up with tote-shaker Dorth Vader.
Chris Grutsch had the Davona Dale upstager among 3 wins and a place in Saturday’s open-to-all NHC Low Ratio qualifier. There were enough entries for a second seat to be awarded, and that one went to Sheldon Usprech (3 wins, 1 place), who cheered Raise Cain home as he took his serpentine route to the finish line in the hot-paced Gotham Stakes.
There was also an NHC Low Ratio qualifier restricted to those who had yet to earn a 2023 seat.
Seth Wilkey (5 wins, 1 place) and Dan Weisenburger were the late additions to the NHC field here. They both received max returns with Dorth Vader.
So did Stephen Lerma (3 firsts, 2 seconds).
Lerma was the victor in Saturday’s $179 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge play-in.
Four different players earned two grand prizes across seven featured Sunday competitions. One was the 2021 The BIG One champ Ken Seeman.
Seeman took the two Live-format games on the Sunday featured slate.
Seeman’s lone winner in the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge Low Ratio get together came at the very end with Noble Reflection ($77.80, $24.00) in the 9th and final from Santa Anita.
The Long Islander had Noble Reflection plus one additional winner in our $7,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks game.
Here, Seeman picked up $8,559 from what was a total final purse of $12,213. And in a wonderful, post-tourney gesture, we understand that Seeman will pay tribute to his local area by donating a portion of his winnings to the George Santos Animal Rescue Fund.
Another double-winner was Bernard Reilly.
Reilly (3 wins and 2 places) and George “W.” Bosch (4W, 0P) were the clearcut “top 2” in Sunday’s Monmouth Pick Your Prize Challenge Pick & Pray after connecting with Noble Reflection at the end. More than $50 separated Bosch from the 3rd-place finisher.
Reilly also showed the way in Sunday’s Last Chance qualifier to the NHC First Chance/Last Chance qualifier.
The other eight to earn $500 seats in this “Last Chance First Chance/Last Chance” were Jackson Muniz, Brian “BC” Chenvert, John Schulist, Tyler Smith, Steven Schmidt, Brendan Fay, Don Allen and “The Boomer” George Scott.
Seventh-place finisher Fay earned a richer prize in another Sunday feature.
Fay defeated all but Michael Somich (2 wins, 3 places) and Craig “Home Sweet” Hom (3W, 3P) in Sunday’s Players Championship qualifier. All three received $2,000 berths into the $350,000 Guaranteed tourney here next month. Somich had the biggest winner of the three with Sir Saffer ($25.60, $9.80) in the 9th at Tampa.
Noble Reflection catapulted Brian O’Kane to the top of Sunday’s Keeneland Grade One Gamble Pick & Pray.
Ken Jordan, who won a First Chance/Last Chance seat on Wednesday, didn’t have Noble Reflection, but still somehow managed to finish second thanks to 4 firsts and 3 seconds. He, too, got a $3,500 Keeneland entry.
Daniel Goldstein and the final three winners (including Noble Reflection) and five on the day.
Goldstein took Sunday’s HT Tour event, our $20,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray. He pocketed the winner’s share of $13,387, in a game ultimately worth a total of $33,468.
Such enthusiastic play right on top on NHC week is a noble reflection on all of you. Thank you! We’ll still have a robust slate of featured tourneys this week, starting on Wednesday. In the meantime, safe travels to all of you venturing to Las Vegas this week.