Jim Benes Earns Late NHC Spot in Bid to Become First Two-Time Winner; Scott Fitzgerald Wins Three NHC Last Chance Entries (Weekend Recap February 2-4)

Eric Wing blog pic

Will there ever be a two-time NHC Champ? It hasn’t happened yet, but the chances of one became a little more likely after Saturday’s NHC Super Qualifier at HorsePlayers.

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Jim Benes, the 2013 NHC Champ, registered four winners and two runners up to grab a late invitation to next weekend’s lucrative tournament at Treasure Island. While we know the Chicagoland native is a terrific handicapper, we also know he is anything but a publicity hound. Nevertheless, we are confident that he wouldn’t mind posing for another one of these.

Benes pic

We’ve yet to award any of those funny big checks at HorseTourneys. But if we did so on Friday, Geoffrey Schutt would have won two of them.

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Perhaps channeling his inner Rocky Balboa in our $6,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray that finished with a total purse of $8,575, Schutt selected Gonna Fly Now in the final contest race at Santa Anita. Schutt had enjoyed a great tournament to that point with five winners and three runners up from nine races, yet he still found himself in second place.

Rocky pic

Schutt was determined to go the distance, however, and he let loose with Gonna Fly Now, who delivered the $12.60-to-win-and-$5.00-to-place knockout blow he so desperately needed in the final round. No championship belt (or big check) for Schutt, but he did win $4,287. Schutt is from Massachusetts, not Philadelphia, so perhaps he didn’t enjoy it—but Gonna Fly Now’s Friday win may have boded well for other City of Brotherly Love competitors doing battle on Sunday…

Getting back to Friday—it was a Pick & Pray day, and Schutt entered his same picks in Friday’s NHC Last Chance qualifier. Good move.

0202 TI NHC Last Chance

Schutt led the way in that one as well, besting fellow $500 entry winners Jerry McClenin, Scott Fitzgerald and Nathaniel Gines.

John Vogel was the other featured-event winner on Friday.

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His three wins and three places from 10 races in Friday’s qualifier earned him a $1,500 entry at March’s Horse Player World Series.

Along with Jim Benes, one of the clear stars of Saturday was Adam Thoutt.

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Thoutt played two entries in our $20,000 Guaranteed event that ended up with a purse of $24,850. He had three common horses across the two entries with two of the three winning. On his “good” entry, he added another three wins and two places. But his “bad” entry wasn’t exactly chopped liver, grabbling third money. Total earnings for Thoutt in the contest: $13,667. Kudos also to runner up Jason Hill and his score of $99.70, which was worth $4,473.

Randy de la Gardelle (that would be a great hockey name) and Samuel Sherman also had strong Saturdays with each winning an NHC seat in the final $165 qualifier prior to next weekend’s event.

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Randy, who had five winners and three runners up, was obviously the high scorer in the tourney. But I think it’s always a thing of beauty when a player reels off a whole bunch of winner. So I thought you’d enjoy a look at 2nd-place finisher Samuel Sherman’s scoresheet.

Samuel Sherman scoresheet

Seven wins, including four in a row. Regardless of odds, that’s some nice picking.

In other featured Saturday action, David Bloom, Robert Barbaro and Gary Russell each earned full packages to the Horse Player World Series.

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And another trio earned $500 Treasure Island Last Chance tourney entry fees.

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Congratulations to Ron Tackett, G.T. Nixon and Joe Johnson.

Sunday offered the unique twin bill of having “split divisions” of a Treasure Island NHC Last Chance contest at both HorseTourneys and HorsePlayers.

0204 HP TI NHC Last Chance

In the HorsePlayers version—which drew a much shorter field—Joel Wincowski, Scott Fitzgerald and Tony Calabrese prevailed. As you may recall from your readings of a couple minutes ago, Fitzgerald also won one of these $500 entries in Friday’s qualifier.

Make it three.

0204 TI NHC Last Chance

Yes, there’s Fitzgerald’s name at the top of Sunday’s other NHC Last Chance tourney qualifier. Looks like Scott will be able to cover quite a few horses in those Treasure Island mandatory races! Due to the overflow field, we were able to award no fewer than a dozen Treasure Island entries in this event. So congratulations as well to the 2nd through 12th place finishers Joe Scanio, Daven Turner, Rick Leoni, Josh Thorpe, Brendan Fay, Joe Johnson (2nd Treasure Island win in two days for Joe), Robert Ramirez, Eric Gielata, Michael Tomatz, Mark Stovall and Matthew Ache.

Joe Pettit was the big cash winner on Sunday at HorseTourneys.

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Pettit earned $6,445 in our $12,000 Guaranteed game that ended with a total purse of $14,323.

I’m not sure if he is any relation to Scott, but Kyle Fitzgerald was also a cash winner on Sunday thanks to our $2,000 Guaranteed Exacta tourney.

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Kyle did the majority of his scoring in the 11th at Gulfstream when he hit a $1 exacta worth $232.40. He didn’t move into first place, though, until the very end when he cashed the $42.30 exacta (for a buck) in the contest curtain closer, the 9th at Santa Anita. For those late-game heroics, Fitzgerald made $1,146 from a pot of $2,293.

Horse Player World Series spots continue to be exceedingly popular here at HorseTourneys. Sunday saw another four win their berths to the annual “major” at The Orleans.

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Lucas Van Zandt only had two wins and two places, but one of those wins was a cap horse in a Gulfstream turf sprint. That was more than enough to get Van Zandt home (or to Vegas, I guess), just ahead of Steven Meier, Mark Detro and Chris Russo who will also now be spending some time at or near the famed Alligator Bar.

Lastly, if you believe in the Biblical phrase, “The last shall be first,” then good things may be ahead for Derek Dickson, Frank Polk, and Matthew Bickey.

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Dickson, Polk. and Bickey were the final three online qualifiers to the 2018 NHC. Dickson got himself into the money thanks to an 8-1 win by Paddy Jean in the last contest race from Santa Anita. Sometimes “the last shall be first” works really well when it comes to airline luggage. We’ll see about the NHC.

Thanks for your part in another fun and exciting weekend here at HorseTourneys.