Mark Vitaliano Hits Giant “Late Pick 4” to Earn NHC Berth; Joe Pettit and Jon Nichols Keep Winning (Weekend Recap December 22-24)

Eric Wing blog pic

It was a curtailed weekend of contest action by the calendar. But not really in terms of the number of featured tourneys. Heck, even our single-track Gulfstream Pool-style tourney on Sunday wound up paying out more than $10,000. So despite the Christmas holiday, there’s still a lot to catch up on.

For the second straight week, our Friday headline performer earned his laurels over at HorsePlayer. This isn’t all that surprising, since Fridays feature our $75 NHC qualifiers, which draw a lot of entries. But last Friday’s contest featured a truly impressive handicapping display—and, in many respects, an inspiring one at that.

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Winner Mark Vitaliano and third-place finisher Don Allen walked away with the NHC spots in this one. Runner-up Ed Lawless was already double-qualified and was in it just for the NHC Tour Points. So that second available NHC spot dropped fortuitously down to Allen. (Though you see a lot of this at this time of the year.)

The leaderboard alone, however, doesn’t really do Vitaliano justice. Had there been “in-game betting” on this tournament halfway through, Vitaliano would have been about 10,000-1 to walk away with one of the big prizes. But fortunately for him, the contest was 10 races long, not five races long.

Mark Vitaliano scoresheet

The harmless little place collection in the 6th contest race seemed to get Vitaliano going. And then…look out! He not only hit four races in a row, he hit four prices in a row in this Pick & Pray. The $2 Pick 4 parlay he “hit” would have paid about $22,287. (Or $5,571 for 50 cents). If he’s sorry that he didn’t play that parlay with real money, he can console himself with knowing that if he can put on another handicapping display like that out in Vegas in February, he might win a whole lot more than $22,000.

Mark McClyment also went on a nice Friday hot streak, though his came during mid-tourney rather than at the end.

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McClyment hit four out of five during his heater to capture the $5,867 top prize in Friday’s $10,000 Guaranteed tourney that ended with a total pot of $11,735.

Friday’s Horse Player World Series qualifier ended in a dead heat.

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But to the great relief of the HorseTourneys stewards, who were looking at the prospect of having to again do forensic research and break a tie for the second straight week, this qualifier offered two $1,500 entries. And that meant that Adam Thoutt and Craig Popowcer could both go home smiling. No kissing of sisters here!

Joe Scanio and Steve Arrison rounded out the roster of Friday featured tourney winners.

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They each earned $500 entries to the February 8 NHC Last Chance tournament at Treasure Island.

The bulk of our featured weekend tournaments came on Saturday. And this was a good horse to like that day.

Zanotti pic
Zanotti gets up to win the Queens County at Aqueduct. (Photo credit: Coglianese Photos/Joe Labozzetta)

Say hello to Zanotti, the upset winner of the Queens County at Aqueduct. Ontrack, he paid $78.50 to win and $25.20 to place. To those of us in contestland, we know those prices better as $42.00 to win and $22.00 to place. But even at the “haircutted” $64.00 return, this was a very important horse to have.

Eric Pineiro and Grier Bibby both had him.

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And due in large part to that, they’ll both be betting large at Gulfstream come the end of next month in the Pegasus World Cup Betting Championship.

Joe Pettit and Frank Foss each had Zanotti as well. But Pettit and Foss were anything but one-hit wonders.

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Pettit had six winners in all and Foss accounted for a total of four winners. And that got each of their tickets punched to the NHC this coming February. For Pettit, it was a nice follow-up to the previous Saturday, when he came in second in our $23,240 game.

You’d think that Zanotti plus five other winners would represent the top score of the day. But you’d be wrong. That honor went to Rick Vasquez in Saturday’s $20,000 Guaranteed game.

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Rick’s score of $144.10 earned him the $11,286 top prize in a game that finished with a total purse of $25,080. And note that while Grier Bibby won a $12,000 live bankroll to the Pegasus tournament, he’ll also have plenty of money for a few nice dinners in Miami thanks to his third-place finish here behind Rick Vasquez—good for $2,508.

One player who didn’t have Zanotti but lived to tell the tale was David Brown.

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So now Brown can tell that tale out at the Horse Player World Series—to which he and victor Robert Childress (who DID have Zanotti) each won full packages.

If you think the Zanotti win/place mutual paid big, imagine the exacta that he keyed.

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Edward Osterhout doesn’t have to imagine. He knows. Zanotti over Alex the Terror returned $168.25 for a buck, and Osterhout was the only player in our Exacta tourney who played a three-horse box involving those two. So he won the top prize of $1,000 in the $2,000 guaranteed affair that operated with a takeout of just 1%.

Count Christopher Dewey among the growing membership of the Zanotti fan club.

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The Big A longshot was one of two winners he had (plus two places) en route to victory in our Surfside qualifier.

Mike Martin and John Nichols were the winners in our qualifier to next weekend’s Hawthorne Holiday Extravaganza (which this year includes a lucrative Hawthorne-NHC bonus).

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For Nichols it was his second Hawthorne prize in the last six days (and he also won $3,200 in a cash game six days ago as well). Mike Martin — and a few other Hawthorne qualifiers here at HorseTourneys — probably hope Nichols cools off some by next weekend.

Speaking of John Nichols, he was one of a six-pack of winners in Saturday’s Treasure Island NHC Last Chance qualifier.

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Congratulations also to Carolyn Stovall, George Bosch, Roger Forget, Brian Johnson and Gene Cahalan.

And over at HorsePlayers, it was William Smith who put Zanotti to most favorable use.

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Smith augmented Zanotti with two other winners to capture the top spot (and an NHC seat) in our NHC Super Qualifier, which featured a tight finish among the top four.

Last but not least, we want to properly recognize the winner of Sunday’s Gulfstream-only Pick & Pray. It wasn’t nominally a featured tourney…but it sure paid like one. A game we hoped would just get past its $2,000 guarantee on Christmas Eve wound up with a pot of over $10,000.

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Santa came early to Eric Israel—to the tune of $5,044. But this was no Christmas Eve miracle. Israel earned every penny, hitting four out of the first five Gulfstream winners, and finishing with five wins (all at 5-1 or below) and two runners up overall in the 10-race competition.

We hope you enjoyed your Christmas weekend. And, of course, we’re ready for you here on the other side of it for more handicapping fun.