First 2020 NHC Online Seats Awarded; Mark Aylward Cashes on Back-to-Back Days; Ron Ferrise Doubles Up; Steve Arrison First to Double Up on Spa & Surf Showdown (Weekend Recap February 15-18)

One event that never takes a breather is the NHC. Just five days after Scott Coles was crowned champion of the 20th edition, HorsePlayers was offering seats to the 21st renewal during a holiday weekend that had a robust 22 featured events (and, yes, a total of five 2020 NHC seats up for grabs).

It’s got to be a great feeling to have an NHC seat locked up with 360 days to go before the event, and that’s what Peter “Sharp Dressed Man” Dresens and Nick “529” Fazzolari did on Friday in the $75 qualifier at HorsePlayers.

Dresens had five wins and two runners up (from just 10 races). Fazzolari did almost as well, checking in with four wins and two seconds. Both had Solar Kitten ($22.20, $9.80) in the 10th at Gulfstream, which made the biggest difference in terms of wrestling the wristbands (gold, aqua and red, of course) away from the competition.

HorseTourneys had a pair of featured events as well on Friday.

Peter Rogers “picked six”…meaning he had six winners out of 10 races, and that elevated him to the top of the heap in our $5,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray. The event closed with a final purse of $9,080, and Rogers’s take from that was $4,540.

In Friday’s Horse Player World Series entry-only qualifier, winners Thomas Bryan and Robert Courtney each recorded four winners.

Bryan’s winners came in the first two and last two races. (He also added a pair of runners up.) Courtney didn’t bother with place horses…and he didn’t bother with cashing at all during the first four races. All of his winners came over the final six heats. (And he also finished fourth and fifth despite only having one common horse across the three entries.)

Saturday saw two more guaranteed NHC seats put on the table.

Coleen Curley broke fast in this one, connecting on the first three winners en route to a five-victory day. Monte Engler opted for a slower, steadier approach—registering four wins and four seconds from the 12 races. Both approaches worked and both are headed to NHC20 (or is it NHC21??)

In any event, it’s too bad that Lawrence Kahlden came in 50th in this one rather than somewhere in the top three. Had he done so, it would have represented a contest first: A Larry, Mo and Curley trifecta!

Saturday’s Horse Player World Series full-package qualifier had three winners and they were certainly no stooges.

John Melting had six winners, led by Bonus Points ($25.40, $7.80) in the 7th at Laurel, the John B. Campbell Stakes, to show the way. Also winning entry, hotel and travel packages were Ronnie Henderson (four wins, four places) and Ron Ferrise, who will have some options on what to do with that $500 travel award since he lives in Las Vegas.

Ferrise won’t have any options with respect to his schedule on the second weekend in April. He’s heading to Keeneland.

Unfortunately, this contest trip will run into some money for Ron, though we’re confident he doesn’t mind. Also winning a $3,500 package ($3,000 entry plus $500 travel) to Bluegrass country on April 14 was Brett Wiener, who finished just $5.00 behind Ferrise.

Like John Melting, Tim Catlett also counted Bonus Points among his Saturday winners.

That pick, plus three other wins and three places, got Catlett top money of $9,733 in Saturday’s $17,500 cash tourney, which finished up with a final pot of $21,629. Nicholas D’Agostino ($4,325) checked in second; Mark Aylward ($2,595) reported home third.

The day’s lone featured tourney at HorsePlayers was a “regular” Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge qualifier that came down to the final race.

Winner Emad Himaya caught a $6.40 place horse in the contest finale to squeeze past Anthony “Doczilla” Trezza, whose last-race 2-1 shot finished third, a length and a quarter behind Himaya’s horse—and that is basically what the $10,000 entry came down to.

After the BCBC qualifier was over, there was a nice little exchange on Twitter (read from the bottom up):

Who says people can’t be nice on Twitter?

Mark Aylward had a nice day on Saturday, having finished third in our $21,629 game. His Sunday was even better.

Aylward had three wins and four places en route to first place and $6,601 in Sunday’s $10,000 Guaranteed cash game, which closed with a final purse of $14,668. His total weekend cash game winnings: $9,196.

Craig Hom was the primary beneficiary of our other $10,000 Guaranteed cash event on Sunday.

This one was our Big Bucks tourney which, unfortunately for us, only attracted nine entries. This meant that the game operated at a loss for us (factoring in deposit fees) and at only a 3.4% for players. The game operated at a major profit for Craig, though, who pocketed the $7,000 first prize for finishing best of nine.

Even better for Craig, he essentially had the $7,000 first-prize clinched even before the last race was run.

That’s a nice, if rare, feeling.

The day’s other featured cash game was our $1,000 Guaranteed Exacta tourney.

Adam Lewis rang the bell here, connecting on four successful three-horse exacta boxes, including a $54.80-for $1 score in the 7th at Santa Anita. Lewis received $1,393 from an overall pot that ultimately closed at $1,991.

There were five big direct qualifiers at HorseTourneys as well on Sunday, including our first “play-in” to the TSG Ultimate Betting Challenge on March 9.

Three players were within $2.60 of each other heading into the final contest race. Matthew Rentze cashed on a $5.40 place horse in that last event to get himself into the “money”—a $3,500 package that includes a $3,000 entry for March 9 that can be played at Gulfstream, at Santa Anita, or on Ed Peters held on for the second available package.

There was also a “first” of sorts in Sunday’s Spa & Surf Showdown qualifier.

Steve Arrison (five wins, one place) and Joe Johnson (five wins, two places) each had Risky Proposition ($26.00, $9.60) in the 7th at Santa Anita, which propelled both to the two top spots, which offered $2,000 entries to the August 3-4 online event (guaranteed at $100,000). In the process, Arrison became the first player to nail down two entries to the Spa & Surf Showdown. Good news for other players: Arrison is no longer eligible to win any more Spa & Surf entries for himself!

Sunday’s Horse Player World Series entry-only qualifier, which offered five $1,500 entries, featured an exciting finish.

Thirteen of the 104 entries were within $11.00 of each other going into the final race (the 8th at Santa Anita). In the end, it was the five of those 13 who selected winning 2-1 shot Bitter Ring Home ($6.80, $3.60) who prevailed.

Bitter Ring Home also sounded a melodious note for Bob Bandzwolek.

The 8th-race Santa Anita winner popped Bandzwolek over Spa & Surf Showdown winner Steve Arrison and into a $2,500 package for the June 1 Monmouth Park Pick Your Prize (MPPYP) tournament.

Meanwhile, Jason Alonzo will be making a second straight appearance at The BIG One.

The Chappaqua, N.Y., resident had winners in each of the last three races to close up shop with four firsts, two seconds and an all-inclusive entry/hotel/travel package to the high-expectation September tourney at Laurel Park.

Over at HorsePlayers, there were two Low Ratio qualifiers—one to the NHC and one to the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge.

The NHC seat went to Craig Spencer who had four winners, including 12-1 shot Risky Proposition, and finished best of 17 to punch his ticket to the NHC in 11 months and three weeks.

A similar winning score got Jeffrey Schmitz (3 wins, 2 places) home first in the BCBC qualifier, earning a $10,000 entry to the big Breeders’ Cup weekend betting blowout.

We had a special quartet of featured President’s Day tournaments. If there was someone to sing “Hail to the Chief” to, it was Jobby Blevins.

Blevins had five winners out of 12 races, led by Mucho Unusual ($23.80, $11.20) in the 5th at Santa Anita to capture top money of $7,377 in our $10,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which finished up with a nice pot of $16,393. Finishing second, and earning $3,278 was Sean Nolan, who had a pretty presidential day, himself.

Nolan (five wins, two places) used the same picks as in the $16,393 Pick & Pray to win a $2,000 berth in August’s Spa & Surf Showdown. Key to Nolan’s victory was the fact that he cashed in each of the final four races, earning $71.90 of his $103.90 in those four late-tourney events.

Monday’s single highest score was turned in by Ryan Mueller.

Mueller led the way in Monday’s Horse Player World Series entry-only qualifier, which also saw $1,500 worth of prizes go to Larry LaTour (where was he when we needed him in Saturday’s NHC qualifier?) and Michael Lazarus.

We also had a qualifier on Monday for the Keeneland Grade One Gamble. It was a competition that probably left one player shouting “Oh Man!” and another yelling Oh….(something else).

There were two available packages and leader Dan Dalfiume was in good shape prior to the last race (the 6th at Santa Anita) and in good shape after it. Second place is where things got dicey.

Brian Noyes was in second place by $3.60 over Ted Apple going into that final contest race. And Noyes had to—at least initially—be feeling good when his last-race selection, Oh Man (#3), won at odds of 7-5. However, Apple’s pick, Buck Duane (#6), managed to get second at 15-1. Would Buck Duane pay enough to place to overcome Oh Man’s win and place payoffs PLUS Noyes’s $3.60 advantage going in?

The answer was yes…by 20 cents. Buck Duane’s place return of $12.20, barely got the job done over Oh Man’s win-place mutuels of $4.80 and $3.60. That was good news for Apple and very, very tough news for Noyes.

Hang in there, Brian. Keep handicapping that well, and the calls won’t be nearly that close in the future.

As for the rest of you, we hope your President’s Day weekend—and the week ahead—is way more pleasure than pain.