Thompson Wins $75,000 Game, Kavana Pulls Rare Win/Place-Exacta Double, Giant Score in Tiny Tourney (Weekend Recap June 9-11)

It may not have been the greatest Belmont Stakes of all time. But from purely a tournament perspective, it was a pretty darned good renewal with its large, hard-to-separate field and no scary looking favorite. It was a terrific race to serve as the climax of a lucrative bunch of contests—especially for our $75,000 Guaranteed tourney.

It was by no means a prerequisite that our $75,000 winner get the Belmont right. And yet it seemed very appropriate when each of the top two finishers, Stephen Thompson and Shane Irish both correctly selected Tapwrit to win the Test of a Champion in the contest finale. For their overall handicapping prowess on the day, Thompson and Irish were rewarded with $30,000 and $15,000 respectively. The next 10 finishers also got paid. And while Steven—who picked five winners and two runners up—clearly deserves highest honors for winning, I am taking the liberty of awarding special kudos to Shane for playing Tapwrit when others could have laughed at him for not playing his namesake had Irish War Cry won!

The $75,000 tournament (stay tuned for news about our next big game) was just one of 17 featured tournaments, however, during the weekend at HorseTourneys and HorsePlayers. The contest weekend got off to a fast start with a nailbiter in Friday’s $7,500 Guaranteed game.

Every dime counts in a win/place contest. Just ask Raymond Riley, whose 20 cents extra got him the $3,750 top prize.

There was another exciting and unique contest on Friday over at HorsePlayers with an NHC qualifier that cost just $50 to play.

Making key use of our alternate selection option, Mike Sylvester was able to scratch into 18-1 winner Templar (#3) in the 6th at Santa Anita. That back-up choice won him an NHC berth, along with Arthur Guglielmo, who finished second.

Thousands of people were playing contests on Belmont Stakes Day, thanks to the free NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers. And it was nice to see that the winnings were spread out. There were 14 top prizes among the seven featured tournaments at HorseTourneys and HorsePlayers. And 14 different people won those top prizes.

There were 2,252 players in the free NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers.As usual in these high-participation games, the leaderboard was tight.

Congratulations to the five who prevailed in the 10-race free roll: David Messir Jr., Robert Barbaro, Brady Wolfgram, Jesus Atok and Patrick Runyan.

For those who don’t like big crowds, there was also a paid NHC qualifier (with 12 races) at HorseTourneys.

Just 116 entries here, and for Ernest Powers and Cheryl Tayala, the $165 entry fee was money well spent and, as a result, it is on to Treasure Island for them next February.

Cheryl wasn’t the only woman to land a big tournament seat on Saturday.

Jennifer Viens did so as well, earning a $10,000 entry to the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge with a thrilling, last-race victory in the guaranteed qualifier at HorsePlayers. Fellow distaffer Sarah Wiener won a partial $2,500 BCBC entry, as did older male James Casey.

A familiar name finished on top of the heap in our Del Mar qualifier.

Eric “The Money Man” Moomey parlayed his $350 entry into a $7,500 Del Mar package. If he wins at Del Mar, he will also receive a $10,000 HorseTourneys site credit bonus, which Eric would undoubtedly put to good and strategic use. (It was another frustrating finish on the day for James Zaccagnino, who did very well in several Saturday tourneys but didn’t quite get home in any.) You can join Eric at Del Mar this summer by winning one of our upcoming Del Mar Handicapping Challenge qualifiers. We will now be offering them once a week, rather than every other week. So be on the lookout!

There were also Saturday qualifiers hosted for two highly anticipated summertime Las Vegas tournaments—the Wynn Handicapping Challenge and the Gold Coast Summer Classic.

Congratulations to Wynners Todd Stark and Ron Tackett—and to Gold Coast package winners Brad Gerson and Robert Crupi, both of whom put together shockingly high scores to land their respective Gold Coast prizes. And condolences yet again to James Zaccagnino.

There were several noteworthy performances on Sunday, led by that of Michael Kavana…not just because he won an NHC berth—along with George Bosch—over at HorsePlayers…

…but because he showed off his versatility in winning that day’s Exacta game as well.

It’s always impressive—but not necessarily rare—to see someone enter the same picks in two contests in one day and win them both. It is, indeed, rare, however, for someone to win both a win/place and an exacta tourney in the same day. Kavana is believed to be just the second to accomplish this in 2017. Key to Kavana’s Sunday success were the 7th and 8th races at Churchill where Kavana had both the winner and the exacta.

Another Sunday star was Charles Browning, who won our $10,000 Guaranteed game…

…just eight days after topping the standings in our $15,000 Guaranteed event.

That’s $12,000 in earnings across the two tournaments for Charles.

Dan Kovalesky had a very productive Sunday as well. He had a pair of second-place finishes…

…that were just as good as victories in terms of winnings. Note that Dan’s totals varied quite a bit between the two live-format tourneys despite the fact that the same races were used for each.

This could mean a number of different things. But most likely, it means that Dan played very strategically in the two events, picking live horses that would get him where he wanted to be, rather than merely selecting without regard to the scoreboard. Strategery can be very important in live-format tourneys!

But let’s not forget to congratulate first-place finishers Stephen Diaz (Arlington) and Mark Hagenbuch (Monmouth NHC Super Qualifier) who will again look to stay one step ahead of Kovalesky–and the other–at their respective brick-and-mortar events. And in another contest oddity, note that Hagenbuch and Kovalesky combined to account for the full tourney “superfecta” in the Monmouth qualifier!

Our qualifier to The BIG One on Sunday also had an exciting finish.

Sarah Wiener led going into the final race (the 7th at Santa Anita). Gary Blair was within close range yet still opted for 11-1 first-time starter Reiki Baby, who ran down the chalk late and secured Blair an all-inclusive trip to Laurel this September for The BIG One.

If you’ve never been to Laurel, you’ll be impressed by the contest facilities, and by the Charm City hospitality displayed by the Laurel staff.

If you’ve been to Laurel, but not in the last couple of years, then you will likely be even more impressed when you see what they have done to the old facility in terms of improvements.

Starting this weekend, The BIG One qualifiers will send their top TWO finishers on to the September final. So make plans to play!

Someone who has been playing—and winning—a lot in recent weeks is Chuck Myers. His latest conquest came Sunday in our Surfside qualifier.

Myers will now head West with three days worth of entry fees in his pocket plus $500 for travel expenses.

Sunday also featured a special, one-time-only, entry-only qualifier for this weekend’s Louisiana Downs NHC qualifier. I guess you could call this one both a “First Chance” and a “Last Chance” qualifier.

In any event, the winners were Robert Childress (by a wide margin) and million-dollar NHC champ Michael Beychok, who will travel from Baton Rouge to Bossier City to compete against Robert and the rest this weekend.

So that about covers things in terms of featured tournaments this past weekend. And yet we are not done, because one (or two) of the weekend’s very best performances may have taken place in the least likely place: a free tournament for players whose accounts were less that 30 days old. The freebie drew just 10 entries, but take a look at the top two scores!

Safe to say Chris Pomerleau’s score of $163.90 would have won just about any Sunday tournament with the exception of Michael Kavana’s NHC win at HorsePlayers. And even there, he would have placed second. And though the races were slightly different, Chris and Phil Johnson would have likely also both done very well in our $10,000 guaranteed game.

For the curious, here’s what Pomerleau’s full scoresheet looked like on Sunday.

It remains to be seen whether Pomerleau’s and Johnson’s HorseTourneys careers turn out to be more like that of Albert Pujols or Joe Charboneau. But what a beginning!

No matter how you did last weekend, thanks for spending part of your Belmont Stakes weekend with us.