Kevin Engelhard Wins NHC, The BIG One Seats on Back-to-Back Days; Jorge Cruz-Aedo Pulls Off Tricky Win-Place/Exacta Double; $20 BCBC Qualifier Won Via Tiebreaker (Weekend Recap July 27-29)

It’s always exciting when a tourney’s result comes down to the last race. It’s also interesting anytime we offer a brand new event. On Sunday, we got the best of both worlds with our $20 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge direct qualifier at HorsePlayers.

The event exceeded internal expectations by attracting 511 entries for a 10-race tourney that was promoted on national television and, not coincidentally, began with the Haskell Invitational.

The photo finish camera couldn’t separate Nathaniel Crumsley and Paul Cyr, both with $85.70, after the 10th and final race, so the HorsePlayers stewards (who bear a striking resemblance to the HorseTourneys stewards) were called in to adjudicate. Tiebreaker #1 was a wash. Both players had four winners. Tiebreaker #2 was no help either. Both Crumsley and Cyr had the same highest-price winner (Uno Mas Model0, $33.20 in the 7th at Saratoga). Alas, it came down to Tiebreaker #3: most number of place horses. Crumsley won that battle 2-1 and the $10,000 BCBC entry was his. We wish Nathaniel luck in the BCBC. And we hope that some of the first-time tourney players taking part in this one had enough fun to try it again!

The weekend featured tourney action got underway on Friday. Gary Blair selected winner Thermopolis in the final contest race (Del Mar 3)…

…and that put him into first place, ahead of previous leader Darryl Lacy. For his efforts, Blair earned $4,119, in the $5,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray that ended up with a pot of $8,239. It wasn’t a bad day for Lacy either. The “other half” of his uncoupled entry came in third, resulting in a total, second- and third-place haul of $2,883. Making Lacy’s double-placing somewhat more impressive is the fact that he only had two common selections among his 10 picks for each entry.

There was also a $75 NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers on Friday.

Brent Sumja showed the way with five winners and one runner up. The other NHC berth in this 2-seats-guaranteed event went to second-place finisher Gloria Kahlden, who had four winners and two places from the 10 races.

On Saturday, the richest tourney of the day was our $17,500 Guaranteed event.

Adam Lewis didn’t bother to pick any runners up—but you can get away with that sometimes, when you nail five winners. Lewis took home $8,756.

Matthew Ache was feeling no pain in Saturday’s NHC Lower Ratio qualifier.

Ache put a hurt on the competition by tabbing five winners and three place horses to grab one of the NHC seats. The other was captured by Kevin Engelhard, who showed strong consistency in here by picking seven winners and two runners up. Here’s a look at how his day of frequent cashing went.

Engelhard on Saturday was like that annoying guy in the off-track betting parlor who exclaims “I got it” after every race. Except in this case, Engelhard—more often than not—actually did.

Saratoga Challenge qualifiers continue to be popular as the event approaches. On Saturday, we awarded three more $3,500 packages.

Congratulations to Peter Rogers, Darren Yarwood and Lucas Van Zandt who will be enjoying the Spa on August 10-11 under a veritable best-possible scenario—staked with a sizable, HorseTourneys-earned betting bankroll each day. Don’t miss this coming weekend’s “Last Chance” qualifier for the Saratoga Challenge.

Robert M. Moore finished fast in Saturday’s Orleans Fall Classic qualifier.

Moore had five winners, two of which came in the final two contest races, to garner a $1,000 package along with runner up David Bloom, who had four wins and two places on the day.

Not surprisingly, Saturday’s high score came in the day’s free NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers.

Redoubtable contest player Rich Nilsen was responsible for the gaudy tally of $129.60. He received and NHC berth along with unofficial second- and third-place finishers (pending NHC Tour membership verification) Matthew Scholten and Jim Stirr.

What was a little bit surprising was that a couple of Saturday’s winning Pick & Pray scores would have gotten second place in the free NHC qualifier. One of those was Matthew Ache’s above-noted $114.50 in the NHC Lower Ratio tourney. The other was the score Chris Collins put up in winning Saturday’s BCBC qualifier.

Collins had three winners and four places. Among his winners were the day’s two highest win returns–$21.40 for Glorious Empire’s dead-heat win at Saratoga, and $26.80 for Terrys Tom Cat’s triumph at Del Mar. It all added up to a comfy $43.10 margin of victory for Collins.

The other featured event at HorsePlayers had the day’s most exciting finish.

Winner James Michelson was playing with house money, so to speak, after winning a HorsePlayers feeder for this event last Thursday. Michelson—sire of 2005 NHC Champ Jamie Michelson—took the lead with one race to go thanks to 12-1 winner Terrys Tom Cat in the 5th at Del Mar.

Proud son Jamie picks up the story from here:

“But in final contest race, [my father’s] selection ran out. Bold Fantasy (only real closer in speed laden race0 rallies to win at 4-1. The gentleman in 4th picks that horse and…wait for official tote. He needs $15.50 to tie and gets $15.40. My father holds on by a dime!

“Note: Joe Scanio was in second place and played #1 Tough But Nice at 18-1 who was nosed for the place. That place price would have given him the win. Great contest drama.”

Kudos to James for the victory. Kudos to Jamie for the recap. And kudos also to “the gentleman,” Timothy Vatne, who suffered the tough beat in second place, just a dime away.

On to Sunday.

For the longest time, Jorge Cruz-Aedo was known as—week in, week out—a force to be reckoned with any time an Exacta tourney was scheduled. Then, on July 7, he laid waste to that label by winning $22,500 in our $50,000 Stars and Stripes Day tourney.

On Sunday, Cruz-Aedo took yet another sledgehammer to those preconceived notions.

Here Cruz-Aedo had five winners (including two at $20+ win mutuels) plus a place horse to win $6,644 in our $10,000 Guaranteed tourney, which closed with a final purse of $13,288.

The problem with Cruz-Aedo is…just when you think you have him figured out, he throws you another curveball.

Cruz-Aedo was probably feeling good after hitting a $1 exacta for $223.25 in the first contest race. The problem was that two others in the field of 16 had the exact same exacta. But Jorge Cruz-Aedo (Jorge Winplace-Exacta?) added two more exacta hits totaling $80.20 to take top money of $1,400 for a Sunday sum of over $8,000. Perhaps he will next set his sights on Survivor games (?)

Kevin Engelhard also showed a measure of versatility on Sunday. Remember on Saturday when he won an NHC berth by collecting on nearly every race?

Here, Engelhard collected on winners and winners only—four of them to be exact—to earn the 35th of 50 online, all-inclusive berths to the September 22-23 The BIG One at Laurel. The 36th seat winner, Sunday runner up Cheryl McIntyre, was also our 30th seat winner, having captured the July 7 qualifier. But while players may only play one entry in The BIG One, entries one are fully transferable to another player. So look for the McIntyres to be descending en masse on Laurel. Especially if Cheryl keeps winning more seats. (She was 6th with her second entry on Sunday.)

On Sunday, we also learned that “The Commissioner” Tim Smith will be heading to Keeneland in October.

No, he won’t be bestowing an NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance flag or giving a speech on NTRA legislative initiatives…because it’s not THAT Tim Smith (who retired long ago anyway). It’s the contest-playing Tim Smith, whose latest victory came in Sunday’s Keeneland NHC-BCBC Challenge qualifier thanks to five wins and three places. Three of Smith’s victorious runners paid $27.60, $33.20 and $20.20 to win, leading to a day-high tally of $138.60.

Players continue to take aim at the August 25 Monmouth Park Super Qualifier. On Sunday, we added two more names to the growing roster of HorseTourneys qualifiers.

Congratulations to Pete Acocella (second behind Smith in the Keeneland qualifier) and John Gaspar who will head to the Jersey Shore armed with $1,000 packages.

HorsePlayers had a pair of featured tourneys in addition to the $20 BCBC qualifier. One was a BCBC Low Ratio qualifier (sort of the other end of the BCBC qualifying spectrum).

Dan Richards had two wins and two places, then held on for dear life after whiffing on the last four races. Evan Trommer, meanwhile, closed stoutly by collecting in four of the last five races. He couldn’t catch Richards, but he was still rewarded with a $5,000 partial BCBC entry for his late run.

In baseball, the Mendoza line (.200 batting average…named for the notoriously light-hitting Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop of the 1970s, Mario Mendoza) is a bad thing that you don’t want to fall below. At HorsePlayers on Sunday, the Mendoza line was a good thing that proved impossible to rise above.

Norma Mendoza hit the same three high-priced winners that Tim Smith selected in the Keeneland tourney, and she added a place collection to “lead the league” with $114.00 in our 2-seats guaranteed NHC qualifier. (For all we know, Norma is probably a better hitter than Mario as well.)

In case anyone wonders why we don’t offer “Women Only” tourneys, among other reasons, it’s because we find women do just fine here without any artificial restrictions. So it was in this NHC qualifier where Michelle Hartsell scooped up the other available NHC berth. Hartsell didn’t hit the last race, but she had the four winners before that (plus a win and a place earlier) to finish fast and edge early-leader Bob Gilbert, who did all of his scoring in the first five of the 12 contest races.

It seems like there’s a special game or an extra-rich cash game each week at HorseTourneys at this time of the year. Next week is no exception as we’ll be offering a $40,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray on Whitney Stakes Day, Saturday, August 4. Until then, have a great week ahead.