About McKay

President and Founder of HorseTourneys

The All-Optional Format Returns – Finally

This week, we’ll begin testing the newest version of the All-Optional format here at HorseTourneys.  We’ve been working on this for quite awhile, and are relieved to finally be in a position to roll it out again.

For well over a year now, many of you have been asking us what had happened to it, and when we might be bringing it back.  We don’t blame you, as it’s a format that should be part and parcel of any ongoing tourney platform such as ours.

So you’re probably asking yourself – what in the world took you guys so long?

The answer to that question isn’t simple.  But one thing is for sure: we were lucky we got away with using it when we did. And that’s only because the racing gods spared us circumstances that would have caused havoc.  It was a little like driving in a car we knew had a loose axle.  Eventually and inevitably, the axle would break and we’d go crashing into a tree.  That’s why we shelved using the All-Optional format a couple of years ago before we started work on the new site that launched last August.  But we always vowed to get back to it as soon as we were able.

The main problem was that technically, we were not prepared to handle rare events that would require the return of a pick back to a player’s quiver of selections.  For instance, if a horse was declared a non-starter, rather than treating that like a scratch, you should get your selection back, right?  Or what if a race was declared a No Contest?  All players would need that pick back.  Races from certain tracks cancelled?  We weren’t prepared for that either.

There is a whole series of circumstances that we needed our system to be able to account for that weren’t in place previously.  It took longer than it should have, but at this point we’re confident that we have all contingencies covered.

Related to the fixes, there are two main points that players need to be aware of when playing the All-Optional format:

  • If a horse is declared a NON-STARTER, players will be given that selection back, UNLESS the race is the final race in the tournament. In that case, the non-starter will be treated like an ordinary scratch, with alternates or post-time favorites applied
  • If races are either declared a NO CONTEST, or cancelled, players will also be given back any selections that had been made in those races

If participating in this format, players must acknowledge that if there are circumstances such as non-starters or no contests that occur late in a tournament, it is possible that players may end up with more selections remaining than there are eligible races in which to use them.  This is simply unavoidable as it relates to this format.  What we cannot do as administrators is deal with individual cases on an ad hoc basis.  Therefore, the rules as they relate to procedures in the all-optional format are ironclad.

Aside from the above, the format operates exactly the same as when we used it previously.  Players will make a designated maximum number of selections from the list of eligible races.  Typically, this will be eight or 10 maximum selections among an eligible group of 15-25 races.

If a player needs to “clear” a selection in order to free up a pick, players simply need to un-check a primary selection, which will also clear the alternate pick.  The count of selections available per entry is displayed at the top of your entry in the selections interface:


We’ll likely continue with testing for a couple weeks or so.  Once we’re confident everything is in tip-top shape, we’ll start to work the format into the rotation for the Featured schedules on the weekend, as well as offering it on a daily basis when at least two major circuits are available.

Of course, please notify us of any issues you may come across when playing.  We want to know about anything that may not look right or out of place.

We look forward to making this format a standard part of offerings moving forward.  Thank you in advance for your assistance in getting there.


“Winter Rules” Now In Effect


This blog is sent out annually as a reminder of some tweaks we here at HorseTourneys employ to try and mitigate the effects of winter weather on scheduling.  For beginners and veteran tourney players alike, it’s always a good idea for a quick refresher:

As we roll into the winter months of January-February, we wanted to explain our approach to scheduling.  We’ve employed this approach every year, and it just bears a quick reminder every November or so as chilly temperatures descend across the land.

As is stated in our Support FAQ section, the race schedule for multi-track tournaments–by which we mean our Featured schedules on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays–are traditionally posted 48-hours in advance of the date of the tournament.  So for instance, the race schedule for the Featured Saturday tournaments is typically posted on Thursday afternoon.

Snow, ice and high winds will no doubt descend on some of the racetracks we like to use, be it Aqueduct in New York, Turfway in Kentucky or even some of our friends as far south as Louisiana.  We hate cancellations as much as you do and always do our best to avoid them.

Therefore, essentially through March, we’ll post race schedules a day later – or approximately 24 hours prior to the contest.  So a race schedule for a Featured Saturday will now be posted on Friday afternoon.

We realize that players like to have access to races as far in advance as possible, but for us, these extra 24-hours are often critical.  During these months, weather can change dramatically in a 24-hour span.  Having the extra time to survey what we think might happen makes it more likely that we’ll avoid making scheduling mistakes that could result in cancellations.  This approach has proven prudent, as it’s helped save more than an handful of schedules that would otherwise have been scrapped.

Generally speaking, we will also avoid using cold-weather tracks in Quick Early Bird schedules whenever an alternative with more predictable weather is available, especially on the weekends.  It is essential that Quick Early Bird schedules run on Saturdays and Sundays, since those schedules include so many feeders to the days’ Featured events.  So for instance, you’ll be far more likely to see Tampa included in a QEB schedule than Aqueduct–even though we know Aqueduct is a more popular circuit.

Lastly, since many people ask us about replacing races with “alternate” races in the event of cancellations, we feel it’s helpful to explain how we approach scenarios where races are indeed cancelled:

  • If races that are included in a multi-track schedule are cancelled the evening prior to the date, we will make changes to the Featured schedule and announce to all players
  • If races that are included in a multi-track schedule are cancelled the same day of the Featured schedule, it is our policy to never make changes to those schedules.  This is mostly because there are simply too many players that make selections the day prior and will not have the ability to make changes, or may not even be aware of the changes.  This is an untenable situation and one that is unfair to those players
  • If races that are included in a QUICK EARLY BIRD schedule are cancelled on the same day, we will refund entries in that QEB schedule and post a new schedule that includes other races, assuming there is sufficient time to do so.  We will never replace races in a QEB schedule the same day.  What this means is that players will need to re-buy into the new schedule to play the revised Quick Early Bird schedule.

Here at HorseTourneys, Eric Wing and I take scheduling very, very seriously.  You spend a ton of time preparing, and we feel the above approach is the best to ensuring your play experiences as few inconveniences as possible.

We hope this provides some insight – email us at support@horsetourneys.com with any questions.  Stay warm!

Chris Littlemore Holds on, Prevails at 2018 NHC

Despite some earnest efforts, especially those by Keith Fenton (2nd place, 315.10 points) and Garett Skiba (3rd, 314.00 points) no one from the chasing back managed to reel in second leader and now NHC 2018 champion Chris Littlemore.

Littlemore, a retired General Motors auto worker currently based in Whitby, Ontario, Canada, blazed a trail at NHC 2018 and wound up with 348.30 points for his 53 mythical $2 win, $2 place plays. He collected $800,000 US for the victory and will also receive an Eclipse Award.

Littlemore credited his selection of Holiday’s Angel ($39.00 to win, $12.00 to place) in Saturday’s Oaklawn Park sixth race as the winner that made his tournament.

Fenton, a qualifier via online play at HorseTourneys.com and resident of Fort Worth, Texas, made a steady Sunday bid and fended off the late bid by Skiba, who selected the winner of NHC 2018’s last race, the ninth from Santa Anita. The nervous moment for Fenton ended when War Heroine paid $11.20 and $5.20 which left Skiba 1.10 points short of second and its $250,000 prize. Skiba won $125,000.

Notably, St. Petersburg, Florida’s Gloria Kahlden, who qualified via HorseTourneys.com, made NHC 2018’s Final Table, ended up seventh and walked off with the handsome sum of $58,500.

Significantly, HorseTourneys.com qualifiers enjoyed tremendous success at NHC 2018 as 21 of them made the group of 71 Sunday semifinalists.

Other noteworthy performances by HorseTourneys.com include: Ernest Powers (11th place, 255.90 points, $25,000), Mike Yurczyk (18th, 242.70 points, $19,500), Stephanie Davis (21st, 240.70, $18,000), Chris Podratz (29th, 231.40 points, $13,500) and George Chute (30th, 230.00 points, $13,000).

Sincere thanks,
Bob Nastanovich
@BNastanovich, on behalf of HorseTourneys.com

Michael Ryan Sits Atop NHC Standings After Day One

On Opening Day of NHC 2018, Michael Ryan, a participant in the 2015 and 2016 tournaments, emerged with 150.80 points and a narrow win over Paul Langley (148.70 points).

However, on a day in which players made 18 plays, including 8 mandatory ones, the leaderboard is tight and littered with qualifiers who gained entry via online tournaments  at HorseTourneys.com.

The over 500 participants, many with the maximum of two entries, were able to “freelance” and choose ten plays on any race from Aqueduct, Tampa Bay Downs, Gulfstream Park, Fair Grounds, Oaklawn Park, Golden Gate Fields and Santa Anita.

Value was limited in the mandatory octet as winners ranged from $5.20 to $12.00 with Desert Folly, winner of Tampa Bay’s 7th race, offering the biggest reward amongst horses that visited a winner’s circle. Dublin Tinker, a 76-1 shot in Gulfstream’s 11th race, provided the few NHC players who chose him with the tourney maximum 22.00 points despite his place payoff of $48.20.

Amongst those who qualified via HorseTourneys.com, John Farrar led the charge with 146.80 points, good for third place tie with 25 year old Jonathan Zvara. Keith Fenton (138.80) and Jeff Bussan (137.00) were always at the forefront after solid starts. Another group of HorseTourneys.com players were clustered on the second page of the board between 12th and 16th: Jeff Einardt (124.40), Brad Anderson (124.20), Frank Perri (120.60) and Mike Yurczyk (120.20). Notably, Perri finished strongly after declaring, “Why are you taking my picture? I haven’t gotten a thing” earlier in the day.

With the same format in place on Saturday, most players I spoke to remained hopeful they could turn around their Friday mediocrity and reach Sunday’s top 70 semifinalists group. Eighteen more swings at the handicapping plate on Saturday should encourage most or all who avoided the dreaded “Goose egg” or 0.00 points today.

Bob Nastanovich
@Bnastanovich, for HorseTourneys.com


Sixth NHC Berth Added, 2017 Tour Points to be Awarded, $50 Credit Toward Future NHC Play Added to Impacted HorsePlayers.com Accounts

The NHC Tour “Final Five” Contest has been re-scheduled forSaturday, January 13.  A sixth berth in the NHC has been added to the contest prize structure and 2017 NHC Tour points will be awarded.

Participation in the January 13 contest will be limited to only those individuals who entered the January 6 contest, which was postponed after the first race due to technical issues.

Your entry(s) have been automatically entered in this Saturday’s contest.  There is nothing players will need to do in order to register for the event.  Selections may be made in the View/Make picks section once selections are available on Friday afternoon, January 12.

Full refunds are available to any individual who cannot participate in Saturday’s re-scheduled contest.  If you wish to cancel and receive a refund of your entry(s), please email support@horseplayers.com and your request will be accommodated promptly.

All participants in Saturday’s canceled contest will receive a $50 credit for future NHC contest play on HorsePlayers.com.  This credit will appear in your account by Monday morning, January 8.

We sincerely apologize for the events that forced us to postpone Saturday’s NHC contest and hope that you can join us for this Saturday’s Final Six Contest.


Updates on Today’s Website Problems

LATEST NEWS (3:45pm, January 7): The NHC Final Five contest has been officially rescheduled for Saturday, January 13. An additional NHC seat has been added (six will now be awarded), and all players impacted by the postponement will receive $50 in HorsePlayers.com credit.  Full details are available here.

Beginning at around 3:30pm ET on January 6, our website began experiencing issues with our hosting solution, which impacted site accessibility for over an hour.  We’ve now determined this to be primarily related to a minor flaw in our code that had the potential to impact LIVE format events in particular at high entry levels.  In other words – the fault lies with us.

All of today’s LIVE events (minus the SURVIVOR games that had already been decided before issues arose), and all tourneys in the SANTA ANITA schedule, have been refunded.  

Today’s PICK & PRAY events that were unaffected (those that began before the Santa Anita schedule) will be scored per usual.

The NHC Qualifier on HorsePlayers will be rescheduled for a later date.  Details will be posted on HorsePlayers.com and sent via e-mail once this is determined.  While entries to the re-scheduled event will be automatically carried over from today’s event to the new date, players may certainly cancel those entries for a full refund.  Please be patient as we work on rescheduling the date and populating the new event with today’s entries.  We will let you know when you have the option to cancel for a refund.

We pride ourselves on this stuff not happening here (this is our second major disruption in nearly eight years), so we’re as angry and disappointed as you are.  We have identified the problem, and will ensure that this does not create an issue again.

Again, we sincerely apologize for your trouble at our website today.

McKay Smith

Notice from HorseTourneys on Racetrack Content

Until further notice, races from racetracks of The Stronach Group will be featured only in tournaments related to industry sponsored, on-track/on-site events (in other words, in feeders and qualifiers to brick and mortar tournaments).  Races from those tracks will not be featured in cash-only tournaments.

Be assured that HorseTourneys management has been involved in ongoing dialogue with management of The Stronach Group regarding a long-term solution to restoring the full tournament menu for those racetracks.  We hope to have positive news to report shortly.

Please note that this will not affect HorsePlayers.com and in particular, all NHC and BCBC qualifiers will continue to run as usual with all racetrack content available.

Thank you for your patience and for your continued patronage.


McKay Smith