Gary Blair the Only Player to Double Up During a “Spread the Wealth” Pick & Pray Weekend (Weekend Recap March 8-10)

Gary Blair is a five-pin bowling center manager from Toronto. Similar to many people who work in a leisure-based industry, the 60-year-old has a busy work schedule filled with a lot of nights and weekends. Horse racing is his number one pastime, however, and he devotes much of his free time to carefully mapping out the plays that will be the foundation of his near-daily contest entries.

“I have no wife, no kids, no pets and no plants,” Blair laughed. “So that helps me set aside the time that I need.”

Gary Blair

It is typically time well spent for Blair, and it was especially so on Saturday night as he looked at Sunday’s races.

Blair only collected three times out of the 12 contest races, but they were all extremely worthwhile cashes—winners at odds of 11-1, 29-1 and 7-2. That got the job done, but just barely, as he held off a fellow Gary, Gary Machiz, and captured the first prize of $7,765 in Sunday’s $10,000 Guaranteed tourney, that closed with a final pot of $17,257. Machiz had to settle for second, which paid $3,451.

It turned out that he didn’t need to, but Blair actually improved on his score in the Sunday qualifier for the Spa & Surf Showdown.

So in addition to his $7,765 (U.S.) in prize money, Blair now also has his August 3-4 weekend accounted for with a paid-up, $2,000 entry to the Spa & Surf Showdown. The other two competitors to break triple digits—Dan McCormick and Matthew Thomas—also earned $2,000 entries. (We tossed in a third prize even though we didn’t quite reach 60 entries in this 1-per-20 qualifier.) The Spa & Surf field now numbers 25…and counting. Your next chance comes on Friday.

Blair’s victories came during a weekend that contained predominantly Pick & Pray featured tourneys. Such weekends typically mean plenty of multiple wins by players who are having a good day and take part in more than one event. That didn’t happen much last weekend. In fact, Blair was the only one who scored more that one featured victory. Our other 14 spotlight contests were won by 14 different individuals. Overall, the 32 featured prizes on offer were accounted for by 31 different contestants. The slightly unusual “trend” began on Friday.

Joe Ward got the “Spread the Wealth” weekend started with a triumph worth $4,792 in Friday’s $5,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray. Ward had eight collections from just 10 races en route to a final score of $80.80 and victory in a game ultimately worth a total of $9,584.

A similar final tally landed Jimmie O’Nail on top in Friday’s Horse Player World Series entry-only qualifier.

O’Nail accumulated his total on the strength of three wins and two runners up. It was a long way back to Jayson Rockett in second, but he, too, won a $1,500 HPWS entry with his two wins and two places. Both O’Nail and Rockett used Zoe My Love ($22.80, $10.80 in the 8th at Tampa) as a springboard to victory.

As was the case on Friday, scores in the 80s landed Saturday players in a sweet spot for success.

Mark DiLorenzo captured our richest event of the weekend—Saturday’s $17,500 Guaranteed Pick & Pray—thanks to a couple of cashes in two of the day’s Kentucky Derby preps. DiLorenzo had 8-1 hero Tacitus in the Tampa Bay Derby and, just as important, he picked up a $20.20 place collection in the Jeff Ruby Steaks Stakes with longshot Dynamic Racer. DiLorenzo earned $10,665 in the event that had a final purse of $23,700. And to that, we offer up a phrase not often heard in high-end steakhouses but one that seems appropriate here: “Well done!”

There were four other players who pulled down the full-packages in Saturday’s Horse Player World Series qualifier.

Herman Robinson, Kyle Anderson, James Zaccagnino and Joel Baltazar all scored in the 80s, and all are headed to The Orleans in two and a half weeks with not just a $1,500 entry in their hip pocket but a $500 travel stipend and a four-night hotel stay as well. Anderson and Baltazar got their prizes thanks to that final-race, late close by Dynamic Racer in the Jeff Ruby.

Saturday’s Keeneland Grade One Gamble was the one featured Saturday tourney that sort of broke the mold in that the winning scores were just in the 60s.

Only four players out of the 83 entered cleared the $60.00 bar, and the top three of those snatched the $3,500 packages. Congratulations to Darrin Dares (who got $20.20 of his score via Dynamic Racer in the last race), Luke Peltz (4 wins, 3 places) and Rick Broth (2 wins, 3 runners up). All will be heading to Keeneland on April 14 with $3,500 packages in their luggage.

The Laurel Champions tournament is next Saturday…so last Saturday’s qualifier was our last chance to win a $300 entry to the March 16 event.

Stacey Rynn leapfrogged her way into the top spot thanks to Dynamic Racer. Rynn also had five winners and one other place horse. Joining Rynn at Laurel will be George Carr and Frank Schultz (whose other entry finished right behind in fourth, good for a $35 breakage refund).

There was a pair of “regular” qualifiers on Saturday at HorsePlayers.

Matthew Ache (3 wins and 4 places) was feeling no pain at the end of the NHC Pick & Pray. He had 8-1 winner Tacitus in the Tampa Bay Derby, as did runner up Steve Nemetz (4 wins, 2 places). Both got their tickets punched to Las Vegas for next February.

Tacitus was also the instrumental horse in Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge qualifier.

Here it was Ronald Riccio (5 firsts, 2 seconds) who used the Bill Mott trainee to greatest advantage. His score of $86.30 secured the $10,000 BCBC entry by $7.40 over runner up Chris Cupples. Louis Filoso was third.

Moving back to Sunday featured tourneys (those not won by Gary Blair), scores were generally much higher on this day, when you needed to hit triple figures to be confident about your outcome.

Michael Lazarus was the high scorer of the day (and weekend) with his $123.80 mark posted in the Horse Player World Series entry-only qualifier. Thanks to 106 entries, there were five winners in this event, so joining Lazarus at The Orleans (home of Bailiwick’s) will be David Bloom, Carl “I Dream Of” Geonie, Adam Lewis and Josh Thorpe. Lazarus, Bloom, Geonie and Lewis all scored above the century plateau. Thorpe squeaked in by 50 cents…but he’ll still be tied for first when HPWS play commences!

Built on three winners and two runners up, Dan Richards put up a strong Sunday score to win our qualifier to The BIG One.

Richards won by more than $50…helped in large part by the fact that he was the only entrant to have selected cap horse winner Sweepingthenation, who scored at 29-1 in the 10th at Tampa. Richards receives an all-inclusive (entry, hotel, travel stipend, welcome dinner, track buffets) for the September 21-22 The BIG One, which will offer 10 NHC seats, five BCBC spots, five Pegasus entries, five Horse Player World Series entries, plus a guaranteed cash prize pool of at least $75,000.

Louis Filoso had four winners (including Sweepingthenation) plus four runners up.

That earned Filoso a comfy, $26.00 victory margin (and the $2,500 package that went with it) in Sunday’s Monmouth Pick Your Prize qualifier. Holding second place by an even greater margin—and also winning a Monmouth package—was runner up Peter Rogers, who had five winners plus a place and was one of the few Sunday winners to taste success without having picked Sweepingthenation.

Neal Thomas had Sweepingthenation in a big way.

Talk about kill shots. Thomas used Sweepingthenation plus the 11-1 runner up in his three-horse exacta box for the 10th at Tampa in our $1,000 Guaranteed Exacta tourney. The result was a $1.00 payoff of $587.20, which left his opponents reeling and fighting strictly for the minor awards. Thomas, meanwhile, received $1,161 from the final total pot of $1,659.

Steve “People Are” Stange also used Sweepingthenation as his foundation for success.

Stange whiffed completely on his first six Sunday picks. Then he hit the Tampa 29-1 shot and added one winner and two places thereafter to grab the $700 worth of entry fees that will cover him for each of the two, single-day tournaments in suburban Chicago.

Over at HorsePlayers, Thomas Michael Abinanti didn’t bother with place horses…but he did have five winners.

One of the winners was Sweepingthenation, and that bomb was the first of four consecutive winners for Abinanti, who earned the coveted $10,000 entry in this low-ratio, 1 per 23 qualifier.

That about covers things for last week. Next weekend features our Horse Player World Series Blowout, plus a Big Bucks tourney…and also what might be the most anticipated seven-player contest in HorseTourneys/HorsePlayers history. We’ll be back next Monday with all the coverage.