Kevin Willett, Stephen Thompson and Jon Petoskey Record Lucrative Wins for Second Straight Week; Gary Machiz Makes a Lot from a Little; Ricky Schraber Makes a Little from a Lot (Weekend Recap November 21-25)

It was a busy—and long—holiday weekend at HorseTourneys that saw 21 featured tourneys conducted, and saw several players either continue on their hot streaks or start new ones of their own. The action got started on Wednesday, Thanksgiving eve.

Mike Yurczyk began our parade of Thanksgiving weekend champs despite not having longshot Johnny Jump Up ($42.00, $20.00) in the 3rd at Penn National. But with four winners and two runners up elsewhere on his scorecard, Yurczyk didn’t need “Johnny” in order to jump up and collect $1,328 in Wednesday’s $1,000 Guaranteed tourney, which finished up with a purse of $2,656.

On Friday, November 16, Kevin Willett crushed our $75 NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers with a score of $141.60 built on the strength of seven wins from 10 races. Willett’s batting average wasn’t as high in Thursday’s $15,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, but his score—and his winnings—were even larger here.

Willett continued his ability to combine a high strike rate with nicely-price winners by hitting five out of 10 on top…plus a place…to pocket $8,853 in a tourney that closed with a pot of $19,763. Willet’s big Thanksgiving day hit came on India Montuana ($39.60, $15.00) in the 6th at Del Mar.

The other Thanksgiving Day feature was an entry-only Horse Player World Series qualifier and Russell Priola and Stephen Thompson were thankful that we offered that one.

Buffalo native Priola had two winners and five big place runners, while Thompson hit the first four races right out of the box and added a win and a place thereafter to claim the two available $1,500 entries. For Thompson, it was his second HPWS entry won in as many weeks. This coming Saturday, he’ll be looking to bury the competition in the Gulfstream Park Conquer the Crown Challenge—a contest that he won a $3,000 entry to last week as well.

The Friday after Thanksgiving was anything but Black for Stephen Luca.

Luca connected with Papacho, a $25.80 winner in the 8th at Laurel, to go along with two other first-place finishers and two runners up in taking our $5,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which closed with a final pot of a robust $10,089.

Gary Sutton closed Friday’s Horse Player entry-only Pick & Pray with a rush.

Sutton hit the last three winners—and his start wasn’t bad either, collecting on two winners and two runners up from the first seven races—to earn the day’s $1,500 entry to The Orleans next March.

Black Friday has become a day synonymous with bargains—and that certainly proved to be the case for Derek Isenberg and Ron Tackett.

Isenberg and Tackett each bagged NHC berths for just $75 in Friday’s qualifier at HorsePlayers. Isenberg (4 wins, 2 places) did so despite not having Papacho. Tackett did have Papacho plus two other on-top selections plus a place.

Of Saturday’s five featured tourneys, three were qualifiers to the NHC.

The first-ever “NHC Maiden Special”—for players who had yet to earn a 2019 NHC seat went to Timothy Hughes, who whiffed on the last two races but still put up a day-high score of $142.40 on five wins and four places. Now there’s a maiden winner who looks like he can handle a step up in class!

The other NHC qualifier on Saturday at Horse Players was a Low Ratio tourney with a buy-in of $500.

Anthony “Doczilla” Trezza normally specializes in Pick & Prays, but he found success in this live-format event, recording four wins and three places. Most of his scoring, the four wins plus a place, came in the final five races.

Another member of the group good-naturedly dubbed “Team Whodat” fared well in the “regular” NHC qualifier back here at HorseTourneys on Saturday.

Here it was 2012 million-dollar NHC winner Michael “The Champ” Beychok who punched his ticket to Vegas by virtue of a second-place finish behind Dave Durkin (no relation to Tom, as far as we know). Durkin registered five winners and appeared to win with something left…(cue the Tom Durkin dramatic voice here)…something left for the NHC!

In Saturday’s $17,500 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, Keith Allan flaunted his early speed (this is the last Durkin reference…promise!) by recording five wins and a place just in the first six races.

He added one win after that for good measure to collect $8,801in a tourney that ended up with a purse of $19,558.

Stephen Diaz (5 wins, 2 places) and Chad Sears (5 wins, 1 place) were neck and neck in Saturday’s full-package qualifier to the Horse Player World Series.

Fortunately for them, there were enough entries to award two full packages, and that means that both Diaz and Sears will be on their way to The Orleans next March with not just $1,500 entries paid for, but a four-night hotel stay plus an extra $500 for travel as well.

There were 10 featured tourneys on Sunday—and several noteworthy performances spread across the 10. There was also a noteworthy performance in a lesser event—but let’s start with the marquee contests.

If the name Jon Petoskey sounds familiar, it should. Last Saturday, he won $8,800 in a $19,558 cash tourney. Petoskey struck again here in our Pegasus World Cup Betting Championship qualifier. After five races, Petoskey had just three bucks to his name (so to speak). But he hit 37-1 capper Mimic in the 9th at Aqueduct…along with two other winners and one other runner up over the final seven races, and that won him his $12,000 entry to the Pegasus, plus $500 for travel.

Mark Aylward certainly had a nice Sunday.

He, too, had Mimic as the cornerstone of his winning score in our $10,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which ultimately offered a total purse of $12,425 and a winner’s share of $6,212 to Aylward.

Aylward scored slightly lower in our “regular” NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers…

…but it was still good for second behind Wendy Long in this two-seats-guaranteed tourney. Thus, both Long (4 wins, 3 places) and Aylward (3 wins, 1 place) are headed to Treasure Island next February.

On Saturday, it was Michael Beychok who was the former NHC winner to earn a featured-tourney prize. On Sunday, it was 2015 NHC Champ John O’Neil.

Garden Stater O’Neil will make the short trek to Monmouth on December 29 to play in the Jersey Shore track’s last-chance qualifier. O’Neil won a $400 entry plus $500 for travel…meaning that O’Neil can afford a round-trip limo ride if he so chooses.

We finally got the qualifier to the NTRA/Fair Grounds NHC Super Qualifier on December 22 to fill, and the beneficiary was Cayne Collier.

Collier had 3 wins and 2 places to earn a $1,500 entry plus $500 for travel to The Big Easy. Look for these qualifiers to fill more quickly as the date draws closer.

The Horse Player World Series is still four months away…but you wouldn’t know it from the way that qualifiers for that “major” are filling up.

Sunday’s entry-only qualifier attracted 60 entries, which meant the top three finishers all won $1,500 entries. Congratulations to Earl Pratt (4 wins, 4 places), Howard Johnson (5 wins, no places) and Robert Courtney—won won a featured-tourney prize with the unlikely total of one win and one runnerup. That winner was a doozy, though…37-1 shot Mimic, who accounted for all but $3.60 of Courtney’s scoring.

Eddie Inman had an uncommon total on the other end of the spectrum.

Or maybe it’s not so uncommon anymore. For the fourth straight week, a player—in this case, Inman—recorded seven winners. He and runner up Mark Simonovic each earned $500 entries in our last-chance qualifier to next Saturday’s Lone Star Park NHC Qualifier.

Here’s a look at the scoresheet of Inman, who also tossed in a place collection.

In our next two summaries, we’re going to focus on Gary Machiz, who (no offense to Gary) turned in a somewhat pedestrian score of $65.10.

Pedestrian in as pedestrian does! Machiz’s 3-win, 2-place tally was sufficient to take down top money of $7,836 in our $10,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks Pick & Pray, which had a final purse of $11,195. Second behind Machiz was Ryan Flanders ($2,239) and third was Evan Trommer ($1,119).

Of course, the Big Bucks tourney only had 11 entries. Certainly Machiz’s score wouldn’t be effective in a larger contest, right? Guess again!

Machiz’s exact same picks as in the Big Bucks Pick & Pray got him second place, just $1.50 behind winner John Caro, in our last-chance Pick & Pray to next Saturday’s Gulfstream Park Conquer the Crown Challenge. Not surprisingly given the scores, none of the 42 entries here had 37-1 bomb Mimic. That omission by all made it a wide-open competition—one that rewarded a fat $3,000 entry to each of the top two finishers…despite their somewhat skinny scores.

You could certainly say that Machiz won a lot with a little. And that takes us, finally, to Sunday’s $1,000 Guaranteed Exacta tourney. For an event that’s at the lower end, financially, of our featured games, it often produces some of the more interesting results.

On the face of it, nothing all that unusual would jump out at you from this leaderboard. I can tell you that winner Frank Fosbre connected on three exactas, including an $84.50 hit for a dollar in the 8th at Laurel. I can also tell you that Fosbre won $1,471, that the total payouts in this $1,000 Guaranteed game were $2,101, and that no player hit the monstrous 9th race exacta at Aqueduct.

I can also tell you that Frank Fosbre was quite lucky that Ricky Schraber didn’t enter this tourney.

Without further ado, I present to you the full results of Sunday’s three-person, $14 buy-in, Aqueduct-only Exacta Box tourney.

Just $7.60 out of first-place heading into the 9th at Aqueduct, Schraber elected to use both 37-1 winner Mimic and 51-1 runner up She’s a Lumberjane in his mandatory three-horse box play. This turned out to be like killing an ant with a sledgehammer…or a scud missile. The $1 exacta paid $633.50 and our eventual featured-tourney exacta winner, Frank Fosbre was left gasping for air here, a whopping $625 behind in second place.

Schraber’s return for this final-race show of force? $37.17.

As third-place finisher Tom Stoner mentioned Sunday night on Twitter, we can only hope that Schraber had a buck or two on this 9-11 gimmick in real life.