Dale Holman Reminds Us That Missing the One Big Price isn’t Always a Death Sentence; Peter Osella, Robert Flaska and Christopher Podratz Each Win Twice (Weekend Recap June 29-July 1)

Hot weather was an issue throughout much of the nation last weekend. Fortunately, it only knocked out one race card and none of our featured tourneys—and that allowed for plenty of winners, including a few double grand-prize victors despite the fact that most of our featured events were run in live format.

Les “The Captain” Harris was the high flyer on Friday.

The retired long-haul pilot was traveling under the radar for much of Friday’s $7,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray (which ran with just a 5.5% takeout). However, winners winners in the final two contest races from Los Alamitos (Honey Dont, $10.00, and Aurora d’Oro, $4,80) propelled Harris into the high altitude and a $3,500 first prize.

Peter Osella was the Saturday star, thanks in large part to his triumph in the day’s BCBC qualifier at HorsePlayers.

Osella had “only” three winners (plus a place), but they were the right winners, connecting at odds of 15-1, 22-1 and 9-1, to secure himself the coveted $10,000 entry to Churchill Downs (or a satellite location) in November.

Osella didn’t score quite as well in Saturday’s Saratoga Challenge qualifier, but we doubt he’s too upset over that.

Osella’s $120.60 total got him second place behind tournament stalwart Rich Nilsen, and in this two-packages-available contest, second place was just fine. Both Nilsen and Osella will be at the Spa come August 10-11.

Michael Pirrung was Saturday’s top scorer.

Pirrung had the same three winners that Osella used in the BCBC qualifer, and added three place collections on top of that to win an NHC seat in Saturday’s “Lower Ratio” qualifier. Joining Pirrung at Treasure Island will be runner-up Lawrence Kahlden, who certainly knows his way around NHC venues.

Jimmie O’Nail was the big cash winner on Saturday.

His score of $127.80 translated into a pay day of $8,750 in our $17,500 Guaranteed event, which operated with a bankroll-friendly takeout rate of just 3.8%.

Elsewhere on the Saturday slate, Thomas Kirchoff and John Melting (an appropriate winner’s name for this weekend) were the only two to reach triple digits in our Orleans Fall Classic qualifier.

As a result, both will be in the big ballroom at The Orleans in October with $500 entries, plus another $500 for their travel (or Fortune Cup) needs.

Robert Flaska was our low scorer among the Saturday featured tourney winners—and (as is often the case in lower scoring games) every penny counted.

Flaska edged recent Woodbine Spring Meet Horseplayers Tournament winner Russ Wilkes out by 20 cents to earn $800 in entry fees that will cover him for both days of the July 27-28 Hawthorne OTBs Summer NHC Qualifier.

Sunday’s 12-race featured tourneys were reduced to 10-race featured tourneys after the last-minute Belmont heat cancellation knocked out two of our dozen races. As a possible by-product of losing two races, winning scores at HorseTourneys were largely in a $70-$80 range, with almost all winners having 10-1 winner Funny Bean in the 7th at Los Alamitos in the next-to-last contest race.

Robert Flaska, winner of Saturday’s Hawthorne OTBs qualifier, was in the upper end of this range.

Flaska had four winners, including those in each of the final three tourney races to capture his second contest in as many days—this time earning an $8,500 package to this month’s Del Mar Handicapping Challenge.

Stephen Lerma was in the lower end of the range, but his $71.20 on two wins and three placings made for a very successful day.

Lerma had a $3.40 place collection on the final race of the contest (LRC8) that made the difference in his first-place finish, worth $6,000, in our $12,000 Guaranteed game that went off as a 4% overlay to players.

Christopher Podratz was cold early in the day, but heated up thereafter, hitting back-to-back winners in mid-tourney and again in the final two races…

…to earn an all-inclusive package to The BIG One along with runner up Don Chung.

Both the qualifier for The BIG One and Sunday’s qualifier for Keeneland NHC/BCBC Challenge were live-format games, but Podratz used the same picks in each game, and his The BIG One score played in the Keeneland contest as well.

We don’t know whether Podratz just treated the two tourneys as if they were Pick & Prays. That may be the likeliest scenario. Though it is also quite possible that, because there really wasn’t a big price until Funny Bean ($23.40, $10.20) in the next-to-last contest race, Podratz never felt out of contention and could, therefore, stick to the horses he liked best, rather than feeling the need to bend his standards and reach for longer shots.

Peter Behr, winner of the 2013 BCBC, had Funny Bean, and that served him well in our first qualifier for the Woodbine Mile Horseplayers Tournament.

Behr added three other winners plus a runner up to get to his winning total. Look for Behr to be a key factor at Woodbine, playing on his native Canadian soil!

While Woodbine was a “first chance” qualifier, we also offered a “last chance” competition on Sunday. This one was for next Saturday’s Belmont Stars & Stripes Challenge.

Business was brisk thanks in part to time running out. We wound up awarding four packages, and this was the one HorseTourneys featured event on Sunday in which you didn’t need to score in the 70s to prevail. Congratulations to all four of our winners: Lynn Ray, Darren Yarwood, Louis Melone and Richard Smith. Good luck next weekend!

Frank Fosbre won an exciting edition of our weekly $2,000 Guaranteed Exacta tourney.

Fosbre hit four three-horse, $1 exacta boxes, including scores in the final two races of the contest worth $74.40 and $11.30. This got Fosbre past William Epp and earned him top money of $1,471. Epp actually had more winners (five) than Fosbre, but Epp didn’t have the $74.40 collection in the pivotal 7th race at Los Alamitos.

The only HorseTourneys featured event we haven’t covered yet is Sunday’s qualifier for the Stars of Texas Betting Challenge at Lone Star Park on July 15. The winner was Dale Holman, with Tony Fox also earning a $350 entry for finishing second.

As our featured events go, this was not a lucrative one. In fact, it was the least lucrative of the weekend’s 17. But it demonstrated an important lesson that’s worth repeating. Holman didn’t have the day’s most valuable winner (Funny Bean–$23.40, $10.20), but his handicapping was so good—he collected in all but the last of the 10 races—that it didn’t cost him.

Having the big longshot of the day may be the quickest and surest way to tournament success, but it isn’t the only way. If you’re on your game, you can often overcome failing to land “the big one.” This is not intended as a lesson in strategy, but simply as a reminder of the importance of staying positive—even when you think a tournament may be irretrievably lost. Sometimes slow and steady actually does win the race.

The winners of the two featured events at HorsePlayers on Sunday broke the mold as to what was par for the course on this day.

Jay Johns had what was, by far, the highest winning score of the day thanks to four winners and two places. And R. Scott Coles’s runner-up total of $81.20 was also above the amount needed to win any of the featured HorseTourneys events during the day. Both Johns and Coles, thus, got their tickets punched to the 2019 NHC.

The BCBC Low Ratio qualifier was on the opposite end of the spectrum. The operative word being “Low.”

Frank Gryboski Jr. whiffed on the last three races and, yet, his score of $47.80 still held up to earn himself the $10,000 entry. The two players who did have 9-1 winner Funny Bean at Los Alamitos (#4 in LRC7) only had one other collection in their 10-race totals, leaving the door open for Gryboski and his shorter-priced winners. So here’s another way to win despite missing out on a big price: pray that your opponents are having a rough day!

Whether you were slow and steady, fast and early or dwelt and eased, we hope you enjoyed playing. We’ll have a special slate of holiday races on Wednesday, the Fourth of July, in case you want to get an early jump on your upcoming weekend’s action. And, of course, the weekend will be topped by Saturday’s $50,000 Guaranteed, No Limit Pick & Pray. Feeders for that one continue all week long.