New Spa & Surf Showdown Among Three Sunday Seat Scores for Steve Arrison; Pete Acocella and His Money Headed to Keeneland; Seven More Punch Their Tickets to Vegas (Weekend Recap January 18-21)

There was action and then some over the long, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. weekend holiday with 23 featured events (most of them Pick & Prays) spread across four days. One of Friday’s stars was a player who would figure to be very good at calculating spots in which he has an edge.

Dave Nichols is an actuary by trade, and even if he goes oh-for-three days at the NHC, he will be taking home $8,500 for finishing 7th in the 2018 NHC Tour standings. At HorseTourneys, however, we require that players do more than just show up!

No problem there for Nichols. He hit the last three races and wound up with six winners out of 10 tries to win $4,792 in Friday’s $5,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which closed with a purse of $9,584. Though not a mathemetician, I’m confident that a 60-percent strike rate would serve Dave very well in Vegas.

George Bickey and Wendy Long both “saw” Nichols’s three straight winners and raised him one.

Bickey connected on races five through eight to lead the way with five wins and two places in our Horse Player World Series entry-only qualifier. For a long time, it looked like the only way Wendy Long would be getting to Vegas would be via Delta Airlines. Perhaps that is still the case…since this was an entry-only qualifier. But regardless of which airline she flies, she’ll be travelling with a $1,500 HPWS entry in her pocket because she hit the final four races after only scraping together a measly place collection over the first six.

Another weekend, another 20 entries awarded to the Treasure Island NHC Last Chance tournament.

Five of those 20 came in Friday’s Pick & Pray—led by none other than…Wendy “It’s Never Over Until I Say It’s Over” Long. Joining Wendy at the TI on NHC eve as a result of their Friday exploits will be John Vogel, Tina Torbatti, Dave Cichy and Mark Feinberg.

The first of seven weekend NHC seats was up for grabs on Friday in a $100 qualifier at HorsePlayers.

William Haliziw didn’t string together winners to the same degree as some of the other Friday standings toppers, but he had five on top—at win prices ranging from $5.80 to $18.20—and that got him his second seat at the big dance after just recently qualifying for seat number one via NHC Tour points.

Two more NHC seats were on offer at HorsePlayers on Saturday via two Lower Ratio qualifiers that guaranteed one spot each.

Nick Kochanski earned his second seat to the February 8-10 NHC in the Lower Ratio qualifier that was open to all. Kochanski recorded six wins plus a runner up in a tourney that he took control of early on with four consecutive winners.

There was also a Lower Ratio qualifier restricted to those without a 2019 NHC seat.

Jason Alonzo’s winning performance here mirrored that of Nick Kochanski, save for not hitting a runner up. Alonzo had six winners, including four in a row at one point. Kochanski’s and Alonzo’s scores were the highest posted in Saturday featured tourneys.

There were four important contests at HorseTourneys as well on Saturday including, you guessed it, an NHC qualifier.

This one was a Low (i.e. lower than “Lower”) Ratio qualifier that went to Curtis Meyer with a very modest-looking score of $64.50. But pretty is as pretty does—and don’t think there wasn’t some strong handicapping involved in this winning entry.

Meyer missed out on each of the three highest-paying winners ($16.20, $12.00, $16.80) among the 12 contest races. How could he have possibly prevailed? Let’s look at his scoresheet.

That’s seven winners—six of which paid less than $7.00. It’s always nice to hit a bomb…but it’s not always necessary.

David Nowlin had better luck on Saturday than the Saints did on Sunday.

Nowlin’s five winners and one second carried the day in our full-package Horse Player World Series qualifier. Also winning an entry-hotel-travel package to The Orleans was runner up Christopher Fischer (5 wins, 2 places).

Pete Acocella caught a key $15.80 place horse in the final contest race of Saturday’s $17,500 Guaranteed Pick & Pray.

It was Acocella’s third place collection—to go along with three victories—and that got him first prize of $10,561 in an event that closed with a sizable pot of $23,470.

Robert Masterton hit the 7-2 winner of the final race (the 12th at Gulfstream) and that cinched top honors—and a $3,500 package—for him in the Keeneland Grade One Gamble qualifier.

Don’t feel sorry for the runner-up that Masterton edged, however. It was cash-game winner Pete Acocella who also picked up a Keeneland package that paired nicely with his five-figure haul. Not surprisingly, Acocella used the same picks in both contests.

On Sunday, Steve Arrison did Pete Acocella one better.

Arrison whiffed on the last five contest races, but his three wins and three places before that more than got the job done in our first qualifier to the brand new Spa & Surf Showdown—a two-day online event in August that will feature races from Saratoga and Del Mar in a $100,000 Guaranteed tourney. Joining Arrison as the first to earn $2,000 entries to the Spa & Surf Showdown are Frank Fosbre, Allan Sadler, Terence “TGIF” Cook and James Michael, who won a fifth-place tiebreaker by virtue of having a higher top win mutuel than tough-luck sixth-place finisher Angelo Romeo. Your next chance to qualify for the Showdown comes this Sunday, January 27.

Arrison used those same picks that added up to a total of $120.60 in Sunday’s Horse Player World Series entry-only qualifier, and the result was another victory—this one worth a $1,500 entry to the signature event at The Orleans.

Joining Arrison in the second-floor, off-strip ballroom will be Chris McDonald and Ted Hanna.

The Sunday winning wasn’t over for Arrison. He also was one of 11 (!) to grab a $500 entry to the NHC eve Treasure Island NHC Last Chance tournament.

The others were Douglas Schenk, Kevin Harrell, David Durham, Dan McCormick, Crescencio Dacayanan, G.T. Nixon, Gregory Lewis, Shawn Heron, Russell Wilkes and Keith Castleberry.

The highest score of the weekend—a whopping $152.80 built on the strength of seven winners—was registered by Brad Henry in our last-chance qualifier to next weekend’s Pegasus World Cup Betting Championships.

Interest was high in this one despite the stiff $480 entry fee. That meant there were two additional $12,500 packages available, and those two went to Eric Pineiro and Bill Chenvert. Good luck this weekend, gents!

There was a pair of $10,000 Guaranteed tourneys on Sunday. One was our Big Bucks event…which didn’t fill.

When guaranteed tourneys don’t fill, it’s our problem, not yours. This one went off at an 8% overlay to players and the primary beneficiary of all that was Thomas Clark, who took home $7,000 for his four winners and one runner up.

The other Sunday $10,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray (the one with the $195 entry fee) DID fill. In fact, it closed with a final pot of $12,252.

The result was Camelot for winner John Kennedy who won the handicapping debate in a landslide with five wins and four seconds to earn top money of $6,126. In fifth place, well behind Kennedy, was Nixon.

Also enjoying a five-winner day was Dave Gray in our NHC Lower Ratio Pick & Pray.

The victory meant Gray was the latest to add his name to the list of those competing in the 20th annual NHC—now just two and a half weeks away.

Craig Hall had some fame in Sunday’s $1,000 Guaranteed Exacta tourney.

Hall finished with a monster total of $439.20 to earn the first prize of $1,239 in the contest that had an overall purse of $1,770. As it turned out, Hall could have taken the last 11 races off. He reeled in a $208.60 gimmick in the first contest race (the 8th at Gulfstream) to provide all the scoring he would need.

The final two of the weekend’s seven NHC seats were the object of battle at HorsePlayers on Sunday, and both were well-deserved victories.

Robert Rosette triumphed by $37.80 in the Low Ratio qualifier that was open to all. For Rosette, it was his first seat earned to the 2019 NHC…which makes it interesting that Rosette opted to play here, instead of in the Low Ratio qualifier that was restricted to players without a seat. And—wouldn’t you know?—Rosette wouldn’t have won that one.

Tim Gavin bested all actual and theoretical comers with a 3-win, 3-place score of $118.60 that put him on top by $30.60.

It’s on to the NHC for Rosette and Gavin. And for us, it’s on to Monday.

If we didn’t know that John Gaspar was a sharp and serious handicapper, it would have been fun to speculate that he was simply picking names en route to a victory worth $6,816 in Monday’s $10,000 Guaranteed, No Limit Pick & Pray.

Gaspar’s biggest collection among his three winners and two places in the $13,633 tourney came via the $34,40/$14.60 win-place return in the 7th at Santa Anita provided by Handsome John. In fact, it was Handsome John who put Handicapping John in front to stay.

(Though even if Gaspar HAD BEEN picking them by their names, he would have deserved a measure of credit for picking Handsome John over John’s Intuition…who was also in that same Santa Anita race.)

Handsome John also rewarded Stephen Diaz and Thomas Blosser…handsomely.

They both used the Santa Anita longshot as their cornerstones to victory in Monday’s Horse Player World Series qualifier.

Meanwhile, Keith Castleberry snatched up his second Treasure Island Last Chance entry in as many days on Monday. On Sunday, he earned a seat finishing 11th; here he was first.

Joining him at “The TI” will be Chris Inman and a couple of past NHC champions hoping to make history in 2019—Judy Wagner and Stanley Bavlish.

You might not make history this Saturday at HorseTourneys, but you can have a heck of a payday.

Low-cost feeders and qualifiers continue all week long leading up to Saturday’s $40,000 Guaranteed Pegasus Day tourney.

Have a great week ahead.