Stephen Diaz Again Scores Economical NHC Seat, Bruce D’Agostini Doubles Up, David Nelson Has Nice Saturday Both Live and Online (Weekend Recap September 29—October 1)

Last Friday’s $75 NHC Qualifier at HorsePlayers was very well attended. Despite a somewhat imposing winning ratio of 1 in 143, the tourney attracted 314 entries.

You need to have a very good day to earn an NHC seat in such a low-entry-fee, high-entry contest and Charles Myers (six wins and one place horse from 10 races) and Stephen Diaz (five wins and one place) were the two best on this day.

For Myers, one has to think it was one best tournament days ever from an R.O.I standpoint.

For Diaz, it wasn’t even his best R.O.I. tourney of the month.

That’s right—for $125 spread out over two online events just a couple of weeks apart, Diaz is now double-qualified to the NHC. It is one of the more stunning online tournament accomplishments one will ever see. (Stephen must be hoping that, next year, the NHC offers $25 qualifiers!)

Less spectacular, perhaps, but very nicely rewarding was Daniel Fischer’s win in Friday’s $6,000 Guaranteed Pool-Style tournament.

Fischer had three winners (at odds of 9-1, 7-2 and 15-1) in the 10-race competition that finished with a total purse of $7,230 (of which Fischer won half). Jobby Blevins finished a strong second.

You wouldn’t know it just from the HorseTourneys and HorsePlayers leaderboards, but Saturday was pretty much David Nelson’s day.

At HorsePlayers, Nelson won a a BCBC entry in Saturday’s Super Qualifier by finishing just just 50 cents behind winner Rob Henie and just 20 cents ahead of third-place finisher Joel Wincowski. Meanwhile, onsite at Gulfstream Park, Nelson finished second overall in Saturday’s Gulfstream Park Pick Your Spot Tournament. Laurel was the only track common to both competitions but Nelson still brought home major pieces in both. It pays to bring your computer (or at least your phone) with you to these onsite competitions.

In the other Saturday feature at HorsePlayers, David McCarty finished first in our NHC qualifier.

But McCarty was already double-qualified so the NHC berths went to the second- and third-place finishers, Zachery McLeod and Matt Strutzel in a close one.

Tight finishes were also the rule of the day at HorseTourneys on Saturday.

Reid Hill, Joseph Boyle and David Brown were the three winners in a “pitcher’s duel” for entries to the Orleans Fall Classic.

And Adam Thoutt won the day’s richest event—our sold-out $25,000 Guaranteed tourney.

For his “very-solid-for-the-day” score of $78.40, Thoutt earned first money of $12,500. Look for Thoutt to be a “player to be reckoned with” in this Saturday’s $100,000 Guaranteed event.

While low scores were the norm on Saturday, you needed triple figures to get a sniff on Sunday, thanks in large part to a series of Sunday Santa Anita longshots.

Greg Gass had just two winners in our $15,000 Guaranteed game.

But those two winners were a capper and a 16-1 shot. Plus he mixed in four nice place payoffs to take the $7,000 top prize.

Bruce D’Agostini had a capper and the 16-1 winner in Santa Anita races 4 and 5. He didn’t hit a single thing beyond that—not even a place horse.

But those two Santa Anita wins did the trick for him, and he won our last-chance qualifier to (appropriately enough?) next week’s Santa Anita Autumn Championships.

D’Agostini didn’t stop there. He finished a fine second to Allen Sadler in our Horse Player World Series qualifier, and now both men have $1,500 World Series entries in their portfolios.

Somewhat surprisingly, D’Agostini used almost entirely different horses in the two successful live-format tournaments.

George Henning parlayed three winners and one runner-up…

…into a lucrative $12,500 package to the Pegasus World Cup Challenge next January 26-27 at Gulfstream Park.

Jim Staub was anything but rusty in Sunday’s qualifier to the October 15 Keeneland NHC-BCBC Challenge.

Staub blasted out of the starting gate hitting the first three races with winners going off at 16-1 (SA1), 26-1 (BEL5) and 2-1 (WO6). Good thing he added a couple more winners later (at odds of 9-1 and 4-1) because this was a run-and-gun affair that required a score of $140 to taste success. The only two others who managed that lofty level were John Roe and Vaughn Bair who will very deservedly be joining Staub at Keeneland later this month.

For the second straight day, our NHC qualifier was won by someone who was already double-qualified.

This time the winner of NHC points (but not an actual NHC seat) was Sally Wang Goodall, who will be making her 16th appearance at the NHC next February. No one has appeared in more.

Thomas Blosser earned a seat for his second-place finish, and the beneficiary of Goodall’s “relinquished” seat was none other than NHC Hall of Famer Paul Shurman—who will also be making his 16th trip to the NHC.

When the 7th race at Santa Anita was made official and the $1 exacta payoff of $263.70 was posted, our $2,500 Guaranteed Exacta tourney became a two-horse race.

Only Charles Hatton and Rex Robinson included the 5 and the 7 in their three-horse boxes for the race. But Hatton did the best job of chipping up around that windfall payout, so he earned the top money of $1,250 in the contest.

Over at HorsePlayers, 2011 NHC Champ John Doyle caught a $6.80 place horse in the contest finale to edge into triple figures and snag the second and final available BCBC entry in Sunday’s Low Ration Qualifier won by contest stalwart Brian Chenvert.

The day’s regular BCBC qualifier was captured by Gwyn Houston.

Houston had no problems after hitting three races in a row midway through the competition at Belmont (3-2 odds), Woodbine (8-1) and Santa Anita (capper). Overall, the Marylander had five winners and one runner-up from the 12 tournament races.

* * *

We thought the weekend was a marvelous and fun one–just like always. And then we received news of the horrifying events in Las Vegas on Sunday night.

If there is a “capital city” on the handicapping contest map, it is Las Vegas—both for the prestigious events that are hosted there, and for the many great players who live there (Sally Wang Goodall, her husband Richard, and their son Chris among them).

Whether you are a tournament player, one who helps host tournaments, or simply one of the circuit’s many interested observers, it is our sincere hope that those of you in the Las Vegas area—and your friends and loved ones—are all safe and sound. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.