Karen Carey Strikes Again; Stephen McNatton Scores Big; Michael Kavana Shows his Patriotism Once More (Weekend Recap June 15-17)

The life of a horseplayer is often one of streaks. Just ask Karen Carey.

The 61-year-old nurse from New York City is on one of those runs we all long to have. On Belmont Stakes Day, Carey defeated 55 opponents to win the Belmont Stakes Betting Challenge—in the process, turning her starting bankroll of $10,000 into approximately $116,000 worth of cash and prizes (including a 2018 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge entry and a 2019 Belmont Stakes Challenge entry).

Her winnings weren’t quite as immense last Friday, but her performance was arguably even more impressive in our $75 NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers.

Carey chalked up five winners—including 12-1 shot Fabulista in the 10th at Laurel and 15-1 proposition Axtell in the 7th at Belmont—from just 10 contest races to win an NHC seat along with runner up Tom O’Connor and 3rd-place finisher Mike Yarusso. So in a mere seven days’ time, Carey showed off both her live-bankroll and mythical-money skills. Keeping such streaks going is far easier said than done but, all the same, we’re looking forward to seeing what Carey might do for an encore next week.

The other big winner on Friday was Gaylord Grundy.

The Alberta native, who has visited more than 120 racetracks, had four winners and one runner up to win $5,548 in Friday’s $7,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which closed with a final purse of $11,097. Grundy’s parade of winners was led by Kitten’s Covergirl ($34.40, $15.00) in the 5th at Belmont.

Saturday’s spotlight performance also took place over at HorsePlayers.

Here it was Stephen McNatton who earned a $10,000 BCBC entry by nailing four winners in the 12-race tourney. He didn’t have any place horses among his eight losers, but with winners like his, who needs place payoffs?

McNatton, a 50-year-old computer consultant from Cary, N.C., forced his competition into “chase mode” by doing all his damage in the first seven races, including a run of three in a row. His final score of $138.00 was the best of the day.

Back here at HorseTourneys, Louis Licata selected three winners at odds of 11-1, 14-1 and 6-1.

That trio of winners rewarded the Chagrin Falls, Ohio, attorney and global business advisor to the tune of $9,000 in our $20,000 Guaranteed tourney, which was run with a takeout rate of just 5%. Licata would have to charge his clients some handsome fees to match a day of earnings like that.

Big Barrel, who ran in the 9th race at Santa Anita, was a key horse on Saturday for both Joseph Rosen and Christopher Fischer.

Big Barrel didn’t win the race, which was the final event among our 12 featured tourney races, but he came in second and paid $16.20 to place. That elevated both Rosen and Fischer to the “in the money” positions in our two-seats-guaranteed NHC Lower Ratio qualifier.

Our Saratoga Challenge qualifiers continue to be very well supported.

Troy Robertson and Craig Spencer were the only two contestants who scored in triple digits, and that earned each a $3,500 package to both of the Spa’s single-day “Challenges” on August 10-11. Robertson had an impressive five wins on his card. And though Spencer scored slightly lower, some might be even more impressed by his day of six wins and one runner up.

A similarly gaudy handicapping performance was turned in by Nick Fazzolari.

Fazzolari, who had five winners and a place horse, won’t get a chance to defend his title as the Wynn champion, since Wynn officials indicated last week that they, unfortunately, won’t be holding a 2018 competition. Perhaps, however, Fazzolari’s Las Vegas form will translate to the Orleans Fall Classic where he will be heading along with Jake Tyler. Qualifiers for the Fall Classic continue weekly at HorseTourneys.

Last Thursday, June 14, was Flag Day. We’re guessing that Michael Kavana had Old Glory flying proudly outside his home that day because, on Sunday, he showed himself to be the most patriotic handicapper at HorseTourneys. There are, of course, many ways to demonstrate one’s patriotism—flying the flag on national holidays…chanting “U.S.A.!” at international sporting events…knowing the words to the second stanza of “America, the Beautiful.” At HorseTourneys, however, we gauge it by how one fares during qualifiers to Belmont’s July 7 Stars and Stripes Challenge.

Yes, Michael Kavana finished first on Sunday, besting Lynn Ray and Rock Edwards who also won $500 entries for the July 7 battle. But anyone can be patriotic for a day. We look for sustained patriotism, and Kavana certainly passes that test.

Tune in this Sunday to see if Kavana can pull off a rare “Stars and Stripes Qualifier Triple”—a feat that would certainly put him right up there with the likes of George Washington, Nathan Hale and Betsy Ross.

Of course, patriotism can’t pay the bills, but Turner West can pay them.

A tough-luck third in Saturday’s Saratoga qualifier, West won $6,298 in Sunday’s $12,000 guaranteed event that finished up with a purse of $12,597.

For better or worse, there are some in America who take a dim view of those who take advantage of public assistance. We don’t feel that way at HorseTourneys, though. In fact, we applaud it and, for that reason, we salute Robert Zostautas.

Robert won $1,400 in our $2,000 Guaranteed Exacta Tourney which, unfortunately for us, only attracted $1,296 in entry fees. When we don’t hit a guarantee, our loss is your gain…in this case Robert’s gain…but good for him, and good for everyone who took a swing at a tourney that ran as a whopping 50% overlay to players. It often pays to study those entry counts as guaranteed tourneys near their closing time!

Dan Shugar also capitalized in a similar but different way in our guaranteed qualifier to The BIG One.

Shugar earned an all-inclusive package to the September 22-23 event at Laurel by besting just 14 others. (Apparently a lot of players were taking Father’s Day weekend off!) Shugar will now go on to compete for cash, 10 NHC seats, 10 BCBC entries and 10 Horse Player World Series entries against a field at Laurel that will number no more than 57.

Some may remember Indiana native (and Chicago White Sox fan) Kirk Tesar as a winner of one of our $75,000 tourneys last year. This year, he will be representing HorseTourneys at the October 14 Keeneland NHC/BCBC Challenge.

Tesar used a small, but very important $4.00 place collection from Johnny U in what turned out by the clock to be the final contest race, the 12th at Monmouth, to get himself into that top position, which rewarded him with a nice $3,500 to Bluegrass Country.

We also ran a special, one-time-only qualifier on Sunday to the June 23 tournament at Santa Anita.

With a score of $74.60, Gary Blair was the winner of what was certainly a substantial prize—a $3,000 entry to next Saturday’s competition at Santa Anita. It should be an exciting contest—and I get a kick out of its unassuming name. In this time when every onsite contestant seems to be a CHALLENGE or a BETTING CHAMPIONSHIP, Santa Anita has opted—best I can tell—to just call next Saturday’s contest, “The June 23 tournament.”

HorsePlayers offered a couple of qualifiers on Sunday to tournaments with much fancier names. Shane Muscarello prevailed in a tight battle…

…to win a $10,000 entry to the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge in a Low Ratio event.

Meanwhile, in a 2-seats-guaranteed “regular” qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship, otherwise known as the NHC, Preston Ward and Robert Schintzius Sr. were the two players who cracked the $100 mark and that got their ticket punched to Vegas.

Both Ward (5 winners and 2 places) and Schintzius (4 wins) benefited greatly from having 8-1 rock-hard-turf-course speedball Battle Joined add to their winning total in the 10th at Belmont.

Thanks for spending a portion of your Father’s Day weekend with us. Summer begins—officially—this week, and we’ll be here to help you ring in what many consider the most fun of the four seasons…packed with fun, sun, vacation time (we hope), and tournaments. Have a great week—and season—ahead.