Saratoga Challenge Qualifier Joins Weekend Lineup that Includes Three Keeneland Qualifiers, Free NHC Contest

Eric Wing blog pic

It may just be March, but it’s time to start thinking about Saratoga. That’s because our very first qualifier for the 2018 Saratoga Challenge (to be held for the first time on a Friday-Saturday) is this Sunday. This is by far the earliest that we’ve ever offered Saratoga qualifiers, but as far as we’re concerned, it’s never too early to begin thinking “Spa.”

More on Saratoga in a bit, but, as always, our featured weekend schedule begins on Friday and this week there’s a new addition to the normal Friday schedule.

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Our Keeneland Grade One Gamble qualifiers have been so popular as the April 15 event approaches that we decided to schedule one on each day of the weekend. Like the others, it carries a $164 entry fee with one in 25 entries from this Pick & Pray earning a $3,500 package that includes $500 travel to Big Blue Nation…err…Lexington.

Of course, it wouldn’t seem like Friday without our up-to-$10,000 Pick & Pray with $6,000 Guaranteed. The entry fee is $190, and there is a limit of 60 entries.

There’s also an important event at HorsePlayers on Friday.

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It’s a free NHC qualifier with three seats to the 2019 event guaranteed. The fourth and fifth place finishers win a Roku device with a free one-month subscription to Roberts Television Network included.

Most of you know this already, but please be aware that in order to participate in/win this contest, you must be a member of the 2018 NHC Tour. (Trust me, the first thing they do when this contest is over is check the winners against the list of current, paid-up Tour members!)

Contest races for the Friday featured tourneys are: races 6 through 10 from Gulfstream; the 6th, 8th and 9th from Tampa Bay Downs; and the 5th and 6th from Santa Anita—10 in all.

Saturday has a similar ring to it as Friday, in that you can win a trip to Keeneland, a trip to the NHC…or lots of money.

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If you don’t succeed against the large field in Friday’s free NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers, you might want to try your luck for $165 here at HorseTourneys on Saturday. No Rokus in this one—but you won’t have to beat thousands of opponents to punch your ticket to Vegas. One per every 65 will “get qualified” in this live-format event.

There’s also a second consecutive (of three consecutive) qualifier for the April 15 Keeneland Grade One Gamble, one of the year’s best-loved, best-run events. This, too, is a Pick & Pray with a one in 25 winning ratio.

Our richest Saturday tourney is our up-to-$30,000 Pick & Pray with $20,000 Guaranteed. Each entry costs $260 and there is a maximum of two entries allowed per account and a cap of 133 entries overall.

The Saturday contest race menu looks like this: races 7, 8 and 10 from Tampa Bay Downs; the 9th, 11th, 12th and 13th from Gulfstream; the 7th through 9th from Aqueduct; and the 6th and 9th from Santa Anita—12 races in all.

The Sunday headliner, as noted earlier, is your first chance to qualify for the 2018 Saratoga Challenge. The Spa Pick & Pray  is one of seven featured events at HorseTourneys on Sunday.

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The Saratoga tournaments will again be run as two separate single-day affairs. For the first time, however, they will be held on a Friday and Saturday…as opposed to a Wednesday and Thursday. So the racing should be better than ever for this, and this could be a good development for HorseTourneys stalward Terence “TGIF” Cook. Last year, he swept both days of the Saratoga tournaments when it was held on a Wednesday and a Thursday. Imagine how dangerous he’ll be playing on his lucky day of the week.

Incidentally, the Friday Saratoga contest—known officially as the Saratoga Challenge—carries a $1,000 buy-in and offers a minimum grand prize of $15,000, plus one seat to the 2019 Belmont Stakes Betting Challenge and three to the 2019 NHC.

The Saturday version–dubbed the Fourstardave Challenge—carries a $2,000 buy-in and offers a minimum grand prize of $25,000, plus one seat to the 2019 Belmont Stakes Betting Challenge and five to the 2019 NHC. (I am officially lobbying for next year’s Friday contest to be named the Quick Call Challenge…but you have to be of a certain age to agree with that, I suppose.)

If you qualify for Saratoga on HorseTourneys, you don’t have to worry about names or days of the week…because you’ll be good to go on both days. Our packages are worth $3,500, including an extra $500 for travel. (Or, instead of travel, you could use the $500 for one, possibly two, dinners in downtown Saratoga Springs!)

Enough about the Spa for now, because in addition to yet another crack at the Keeneland Grade One Gamble, you can qualify on Sunday for the 2018 The BIG One in September at Laurel. At The BIG One, the field is limited to no more than 57, and you play for 10 NHC seats, 10 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge entries and 10 HPWS entries (or $1,500 cash if the player prefers)—plus a lot of cash. And your hotel stay is on us, as is full buffet and open bar during the two days of competition, along with a welcome dinner on Friday night. Sunday’s qualifier will be run as a live-format game (we try to alternate this every two weeks), and it carries an entry fee of $515.

Cash game specialists will also be busy on Sunday thanks to an up-to-$20,000 Pick & Pray with $12,000 guaranteed regardless of how many sign up. This one costs $195 per entry with total entries limited to 118.

Also on the cash frontr is an up-to-$5,000 Exacta tourney with an entry fee of $72 (maximum of 79 entries). This game guarantees a purse of at least $2,000. Here what you do is pick a $1 three-horse exacta box for each contest race. He or she who achieves the highest return over the 12 races wins. And there are no payoff caps in our exacta games, so as long as there’s one race left, you still have a chance.

We talked a lot about Saratoga but you may qualify on Sunday for another NYRA contest coming up a lot sooner: the Wood Memorial Challenge—a $500 contest to be hosted at Aqueduct on April 7 that offers Belmont Stakes Challenge and NHC spots. You can qualify at HorseTourneys for just $59 with one entry in 10 winning.

Last but far from least is our Sunday qualifier for the Monmouth Pick Your Prize Challenge. This popular onsite contest takes place on June 2 and offers an array of BCBC, NHC and straight cash prizes. The higher you finish, the sooner you get to “pick” which prize you win. One per 25 entries in our Sunday Pick & Pray qualifier will receive a $2,000 entry plus $500 for travel to the Oceanport, N.J., oval.

HorsePlayers is also back in the mix on Sunday.

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The featured event here is a “regular” qualifier with one entry per 65 (at $165 each) earning a spot to the 2019 NHC. Two seats are guaranteed to be awarded regardless of participation.

Also, we want to remind you that feeders remain available virtually every day ahead of our big up-to-$150,000 event coming up a week from Saturday on Florida Derby Day. It’s our richest cash contest ever.

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Good luck in whichever tourneys you select, and enjoy the weekend ahead.