Anthony Laurino Prevails in $101,000 Tourney over Michael Gotkin, Who Also Grabs BCBC Entry; Ken Seeman Wins Three on Sunday (Weekend Recap March 30-April 1)

In what was our richest tourney ever, Anthony Laurino of Clayton, N.C., recorded four winners—including three of the last four among the 15 contest races—to claim the top prize of $40,594 in Saturday’s live-format contest that closed with a total pot of $101,487.

Michael Gotkin finished second to win $16,237 and Anthony “Doczilla” Trezza reported home third to add $10,148 to his coffers. Here is a look at the top of the leaderboard.

Laurino did hit 16-1 shot Helooksthepart in the 7th at Aqueduct, but not a whole lot else until striking with cap horse Lightning Dove in the 12th of 15 contest races, the 7th at Santa Anita. That put Laurino squarely in contention.

He missed in the 8th at Santa Anita but then pulled what might have turned out to be an interesting head fake on the field. In the penultimate contest race, the Florida Derby, Laurino brought himself to within about $20 of the lead by connecting with 8-5 winner Audible. A 6-1 shot or thereabouts probably would have gotten the job done for him in the last race. Perhaps that what his live-format opponents were thinking…but Laurino went bolder than that and selected 13-1 proposition Infuriated Gary in the anchor race, the 9th at Santa Anita.

When longshot Gary won, Laurino was anything but infuriated.

Anthony Laurino

We’ll get to know Anthony a little better in tomorrow’s blog and find out more about his late-game strategy. In the meantime, here’s a look at his winning Saturday score sheet.

And don’t look now, but there’s another big-money game right around the corner on Saturday, April 7. It’s an up-to-$75,000 event with $50,000 Guaranteed. The contest menu will, of course, center around the day’s major races including the Wood Memorial, the Blue Grass Stakes and the Santa Anita Derby.

The holiday weekend began quickly on Friday as our up-to-$10,000 Pick & Pray was a sellout.

The primary beneficiary among the pot-swelling throng was Edward Wright who had four wins and a place from 10 races to earn top money of $5,044. Of Wright’s four winners, two went off at 15-1 and two at 4-5, so he obviously did an excellent job of picking his spots.

Scores were lower in the first of three consecutive qualifiers for the April 15 Keeneland Grade One Gamble.

Frank Foss may have started off slowly, but he closed like Mariano Rivera by cashing in the last three races, including nailing the winners of both halves of Gulfstream’s late double with Doritza (15-1) in race 10 and wire-to-wire winner La Piu Bella (5-2) in race 11.

Our second of the Keeneland Grade One Gamble qualifiers was held on Saturday.

The three winners of $3,500 Keeneland packages were Brian Herrity, Ryan Flanders and Kyle Fitzgerald. Herrity played two entries in the tourney. His first entry bulls-eyed each of the first two contest races and at nice odds—12-1 and 14-1. Yet this entry cooled off and finished off the board. His other entry wound up with just two winners, but also five place horses, and this is the entry that ultimately propelled him (or will propel him) on to Lexington.

Remember Michael Gotkin…the runner up behind Anthony Laurino in the $100,000 tourney? Well he didn’t have to settle for being a bridesmaid on Saturday over at HorsePlayers in what was the year’s first online qualifier to the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge.

Gotkin hit a 12-1 winner early, a capper in the middle and three straight place horses late to seal his $10,000 entry. (He played the same horses in the $101,000 event.)

HorsePlayers also offered a “regular” NHC qualifier on Saturday.

He isn’t really the guy who headed up the NTRA in its early years, but we still enjoy calling our Tim Smith “The Commissioner.” Smith had four winners including the aforementioned 13-1 shot Infuriated Gary in the last race to punch his ticket to Vegas along with second-place finisher Mark Feld.

Sunday’s Easter schedule was short on racetracks but not on featured tourneys…there were eight…and 37.5 percent of them were won by the same person.

Playing three live-format tourneys as though they were Pick & Prays, Ken Seeman knocked off not just the above Saratoga qualifier, but also the Monmouth Pick Your Prize qualifier, in which Mark McGuire also earned a $2,500 package…

…and the last-chance Wood Memorial Challenge qualifier.

At the Big A (not far from Seeman’s home), Ken will be joined by fellow $500 entry winners Damian Terenzio, Stacey Rynn and Michael Kavana.

For all his winning, Seeman only hit two winners and two places from the 12 contest races. But those place payoffs were key—they paid $22.00 and $14.60, respectively.

Christopher Dewey only had four collections (three wins and a place) from 12 races as well.

But that got the job down for Dewey in the weekend’s final Keeneland Grade One Gamble qualifier of the weekend. Dewey’s most seminal victory was Shy Carmelita in the 6th at Santa Anita. The near-capper paid $41.00 to win and $14.40 to place.

Our richest tourney of Easter was our $12,000 Guaranteed contest that closed with a total pot of $14,496.

Alan Baze had four wins (including Shy Carmelita) and two places to prevail by 20 cents over David Ruge and win the grand prize of $6,523. Ruge collected $2,899.

To say that this one came down to the last race (the 8th at Golden Gate) would be an understatement. It actually came down to the parimutuel place payoffs that weren’t revealed until the 8th at Golden Gate went official.

That’s because Baze whiffed on the last race, while Ruge had 23-1 shot Hal’s Buddy who closed late for second. Unfortunately for Ruge, the horse that finished ahead of Hal’s Buddy was the tepid, 3-1 race favorite, which served to depress the place payoffs just enough that Hal’s Buddy paid $16.00 to place—30 cents less than what Ruge needed to win. (Ruge would have lost a tiebreaker to Baze based on number of first-place finishers.)

In the end, I suppose it was fitting that a tourney containing a couple of Golden Gate races was won by a fellow named Baze.

Our other cash game on Sunday was our $2,000 Guaranteed Exacta tourney. It finished with a purse of $2,421.

And it was won by Cruz Talamantes, who has captured several of these three-horse-box contests. Cruz (winner of $1,210 here) hit four exactas from 12 races, most notably the 6th at Santa Anita where the $1 payoff was $152.20. Another top Exacta tourney player, Kyle Fitzgerald was just $8.00 back in second place.

On a weekend where place payoffs were unusually important at HorseTourneys, the same held true at HorsePlayers.

In what was the first-ever, BCBC Low-Ratio Qualifier, Brett Wiener made the 1 in 23 winning ratio work to his favor by first connecting with three winners, and then adding three place payoffs to claim the $10,000 entry.

On the same day, HorsePlayers hosted an NHC Super Qualifier where the winning ratio was 1 in 21.

Here, John Vogel had just one first-place finisher (one!). But he had four runners up, and it was the last one, Hal’s Buddy, whose $16.00 return put Vogel over the top and on his way to Treasure Island.

What an exciting—and somewhat out-of-the-ordinary—weekend it was. Thanks to all of you for playing. Again, a reminder, we’ll profile Anthony Laurino in a blog that should be up sometime Tuesday evening.