Robert Shoemaker II Wins $40,000 Game; George Larrick and Coyne Kaylor Each Win Two Qualifiers; Last-Race Longshots Mean Big Paydays for Stephen Thompson and Steve Pavich (Weekend Recap January 25-27)

It was an $18,174 windfall for Robert Shoemaker II, winner of Saturday’s $40,000 Guaranteed tourney. That was just one of 22 featured weekend events—many of which involved late-game tension.

Some of that tension was provided by Brahm’s Forest, winner of the 6th race at Santa Anita on Friday.

The 29-1 longshot tally in the final Friday contest race made a winner out of Stephen Thompson in our $5,000 Gtd. Pick & Pray, which closed with a purse of $9,080. Thompson’s take: $4,540.

Brahm’s Forest had much the same effect on John Spignesi’s Friday.

Here, a contest return of $42.00 to win and $17.80 to place meant a $1,500 Horse Player World Series entry for Spignesi.

The “Brahm’s Forest effect” was on particularly vivid display in Friday’s Treasure Island NHC Last Chance qualifier.

Three players—G.T. Nixon, George Larrick and Joe Scanio—selected Brahm’s Forest, and that meant that they cruised to victory (if you can call a big hit in the final race “cruising”). This, however, was a four-grand-prize contest…and check out that Secretariat-to-Twice-A-Prince-like gap back to fourth-place. It was Kevin Harrell who did the best of the non-Brahm believers, the only one of which to win a Friday top prize.

One of the true believers was Treasure Island runner up George Larrick, who also used Brahm’s Forest in the $100 NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers.

This was no one-hit-wonder tourney for Larrick, however. Brahm’s Forest was just one of five Friday winners for him, and he was in fourth place, just $2.40 out of first place, heading into that last contest race.

Saturday belonged to “The Shoe” and his seven winners.

Three of those winners for Robert Shoemaker II came in the final three contest races, starting with 9-5 shot City of Light in the Pegasus World Cup and continuing with Littlebitamedal ($11.80, $4.20) and Christy Jackson ($5.40, $3.20) in the 7th and 8th races at Santa Anita. The fast finish to what was already a more-than-solid day rewarded Shoemaker with $18,174 from at total pot of $45,435.

Coyne Kaylor had a pretty terrific Pegasus Day as well.

His score of $84.80 got him a $3,500 package to the Keeneland Grade One Gamble on April 14. Kaylor, however, saved his very best work for Saturday’s Horse Player World Series full-package qualifier.

Kaylor struck for a remarkable nine wins plus a runner up from 12 contest races to roll home first by more than $30. Here’s a look at his scoresheet:

Things were much tighter when it came to second-place, which also had a Horse Player World Series package attached to it. Brian O’Kane’s final-race selection of Don’teatmycookies was second best in the 8th at Saturday, but the $4.60 place return was sufficient to secure O’Kane the other $1,500 entry/hotel/travel package to The Orleans in late March.

Kaylor nearly pulled off a third live-format, featured-tourney win in Saturday’s NHC Low Ratio qualifier, but he fell just short.

It took five wins, two places and a score of $71.60 for Daniel Edwards to wrest the available NHC seat away from Kaylor by $2.60. Kaylor was leading going into the nightcap, and had he used final-race winner Christy Jackson ($5.40, $3.20) here—like he had in the Horse Player World Series qualifier—he would have blocked Edwards and won an NHC seat to go along with his Keeneland and HPWS packages. (Perhaps he thought that Edwards thought he would use the favorite, so he opted to go with Don’teatmycookies instead.) In any event, it was still a fabulous day for Kaylor—and Edwards, too, of course.

Over at HorsePlayers, Alex DeVito picked up his second 2019 NHC seat after getting his first via Tour Points.

DeVito blasted out of the starting gate with six out of the first seven winners. Thereafter, he added just one winner, but that did the trick in Saturday’s Lower Ratio qualifier.

The year’s very first qualifier to the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge also took place on Saturday at HorsePlayers.

A score of $70.10 got the job done here for Daniel Jablanski, who had five wins and a second. He’s now the first (I think) to earn his $10,000 entry to the next BCBC.

A definite first took place on Sunday when Steve Arrison became the initial qualifier to the 2019 The BIG One.

One of the key horses to have on Sunday was 11-1 winner of the 10th at Santa Anita, Mesut. Arrison had him among his four wins and three places, and by having Mesut, Arrison zoomed by his friend and past The BIG One tablemate Howard Welsh, who wound up second.

Dan Dalfiume had #3 Mesut in the Santa Anita 10th as well, and it propelled him to victory in Sunday’s lone Pick & Pray, an NHC Lower Ratio qualifier.

Once again, Howard Welsh was left holding the bag in second.

In our $10,000 Guaranteed tourney, it was Steve Pavich who had Mesut and rocketed to the top.

Pavich pocketed $6,911 from an overall pot of $15,359. One of his victims: you guessed it…Howard Welsh…who led this one, too, going into the final race. At least here, Welsh collected $1,151 as a consolation prize. Still, the $1,151 had to be cold comfort for Welsh given that, had runner up What’sontheagenda not blown his 3 1/2-length lead at the eighth pole and lost to Mesut by a neck, he would have swept the NHC qualifier, the $15,000 tourney and The BIG One qualifier. The game can be painful sometimes.

One who undoubtedly took a different view of the Mesut result was Gary Machiz.

“The Macho Man” had the Santa Anita final-race hero among his three firsts and three seconds to capture the year’s first seat to the June 1 Monmouth Park Pick Your Prize tournament.

The 6th and 7th spots in August’s new Spa & Surf Showdown were also awarded on Sunday.

Congratulations to Gary Sutton and William “The Explorer” Clark who joined last week’s winners Steve Arrison, Frank Fosbre, Allan Sadler, Terence “TGIF” Cook and James Michael as Spa & Surf Showdown contestants in good standing.

Scoring in the 90s got you where you wanted to be in Sunday’s Horse Player World Series entry-only qualifier.

Moving on to The Orleans are Tony Martin, Randy Bauer and Michael Stiscak. Unlike most of the other successful Sunday players, Bauer achieved his winning total without the benefit of Mesut.

Unlike virtually all featured Exacta tourney winners in HorseTourneys history, Brian Graziano took first place with a final score of less than $60.

The going may have been rocky for Graziano, but he came out ahead on each of the judges’ scorecards, thanks to three small collections—none more than $22.80. His reward: $1,393 from a prize pool of $1,991 in what was a $1,000 Guaranteed affair.

We had more than a table’s worth of winners—10 to be exact—in Sunday’s qualifier to the Treasure Island NHC Last Chance tourney on February 7.

Congratulations to $500 entry winners Joe Johnson, Scott Fitzgerald, Michael Labriola, Christopher Podratz, Edward Wright, Ken Kingsbury, Mark McGuire, Stanley Bavlish, Jayson Rockett and Josh Thorpe.

That Treasure Island qualifier attracted 103 entries. There was also a Treasure Island qualifier slated for Sunday at HorsePlayers. This one drew just 16 entries.

Wouldn’t you know it? Not only did Mark Polivka (6 wins, 1 place) outscore everyone in the 103-entry Treasure Island qualifier, his score of $109.10 was the highest posted all day (even counting the exacta tourney). Here’s a look at the bigtime scoresheet that came in an unlikely spot:

The other three featured Sunday events at HorsePlayers all carried $500 buy-ins. One was our “open company” NHC Low Ratio qualifier.

Mike Stich was one of the many rooting like hell for Geovanni Franco to get Mesut up at the wire. When Franco did so, it meant an NHC berth for Stich who had five winners and two places en route to becoming the only player on the day other than Mark Polivka to score in triple digits.

Sunday’s NHC Low Ratio Maiden Special went to fellow Mesut backer Timothy Jacobs.

The Mesut winner was one of two for Jacobs, who also added three runners up to his scoresheet. Next stop, Las Vegas!

Our last featured tourney to report on is Sunday’s Low Ratio Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge qualifier—a contest that Ryan Mueller won by $29.00.

Mueller pulled it off despite not having Mesut. His six wins plus a place, though, certainly did a nice job of covering up his final-race transgression.

Whether your weekend was Mesut or kaput, we thank you for playing and reading.