Easter Prayers Answered in a Big Way for Lucas Van Zandt and Gary Blair; David Bloom Takes Old School Route to Victory in Exacta Tourney (Weekend Recap April 19-21)

It was Easter Weekend and the beginning of Passover, so HorseTourneys stayed true to that religious theme by having last weekend be dominated by Pick & Pray games. (That plus the fact that we alternate the slant each week, and the previous weekend had a live-format tilt.) The results had many giving thanks to the heavens above.

One of those was Ken Jordan who engaged in a spirited Good Friday battle with Dan Zaretsky.

Both Jordan and Zaretsky had 34-1 Aqueduct Race 8 winner Bronx Bomber to vault themselves into early contention in Friday’s $5,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray. But though it was a longshot that got them into the red zone, it was chalk that got Jordan into the end zone. He had Royal Insider ($2.80, $2.40) in the final contest race, the 8th at Santa Anita, and that got Jordan top money of $5,464 in a game that closed with a purse of $10,929. Zaretsky finished $2.20 behind in second and earned $2,185.

By far the richest tournament of the weekend took place on Saturday when a large group of 106 plunked down $260 each to participate in our $17,500 Guaranteed Pick & Pray (which wound up with a final pot of $24,390).

This one had a similar flow to it as the Friday $10,929 Pick & Pray. Jon Petoskey (4 wins, 2 places) started fast with two 15-1 winners in the first two contest races. The field gradually caught up, though, and Lawrence Kahlden wrested the lead away with one race left. But Petoskey reclaimed the lead at the end by just 80 cents thanks to Stradella Road ($5.60, $3.20) in the 8th at Santa Anita. (Sometimes the favorites are your friends in the last race of Pick & Prays.) For pulling out the win, Petoskey received $10,975, while Kahlden had to settle for $4,390.

The other Saturday feature at HorseTourneys was won in runaway fashion by Ernest “Say” Hey Jr.

Hey racked up five wins and a place to jog home by $44.80 in our Saratoga Challenge qualifier over Robert Rosenzweig (4 wins, 1 second). Fortunately for Rosenzweig, there were just enough entries in this 1 per 25 game for us to award a second $3,500 package to Saratoga, so both he and Hey will be in the Spa fields for the two single-day contests on August 9 and 10.

There were three featured events at HorsePlayers on Saturday and one of them was won by a very prominent name in contest circles.

John Doyle, who won $500,000 as the 2010 NHC Champion at Red Rock (hard to believe it’s been nine years already), had two winners including Funny Guy ($29.20, $10.60 in the 9th at Aqueduct) plus three runners up to earn a $10,000 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge entry in Saturday’s Super Low Ratio qualifier.

There was also a “regular” BCBC qualifier at HorsePlayers on Saturday…one with a $179 entry fee…and this event produced the day’s highest score.

Kevin Booth’s four winners and three runners up led to a score of $151.80 (40 cents more than the total on Ernest Hey Jr.’s scorecard in the Saratoga qualifier). That meant a $10,000 BCBC entry for Booth—and a tough beat for Bernard Reilly, who posted a strong score of $148.60 in defeat. Here’s a look at Booth’s gaudy scorecard.

The finish of Saturday’s regular NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers was tight enough that the occasionally-vigilant HorseTourneys stewards (they pull double duty at HorsePlayers) had to be pressed into service.

Brendan Fay (4 wins, 1 place) won by $2.40. That was a wide margin compared to the battle for second—which was very important since this was a two-seat tourney.

In fact, there was nothing separating physical therapist Stephen Luca and 2015 Horse Player World Series Champ Jim Meeks in the key battle for second. So the HorseTourneys stewards were called in. While they calculated furiously, Meeks waited and Luca, no doubt, did a few stretching exercises. The verdict—and more importantly, the NHC seat—went to Luca by virtue of his having four winners to Meeks’s three.

On Easter Sunday, several racetracks were closed, but we were open—and in a big way. We had two featured events at HorsePlayers and nine here at HorseTourneys. Most were Pick & Prays, and they left a couple of our top players with particularly full Easter baskets.

Lucas Van Zandt won $5,694 in Sunday’s $10,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which ended up with a total pot of $11,389. He had five wins (including 11-1 shot Pure Comedy in the last contest race) plus a place. Here’s a look at Van Zandt’s Sunday scoresheet.

Van Zandt played those exact same picks in Sunday’s qualifier to The BIG One and got the exact same results.

On this day, Van Zandt was more like the Energizer Bunny than the Easter Bunny…because he kept going and going.

Here there were enough eggs (batteries?) to go around so that David Herberholz could also grab a $2,000 entry to the $100,000 Guaranteed Spa & Surf Showdown on August 3-4. (We’re up to 37 entries in the Showdown already.)

Van Zandt was the only player during the weekend to win three featured tourneys. The person who took down the biggest haul in terms of cash and prizes, however was a Sunday dual winner…and someone who has gotten a lot of coverage in this space of late.

Yes, that’s our favorite Toronto bowling center manager Gary Blair once again on top of the heap, this time in our Sunday $10,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks tourney. Blair didn’t have Pure Comedy in the last race, but he had five wins and two seconds before that to claim the top prize on $9,261 in a game that finished up with a pot of $13,230.

Blair then got even more serious in our first qualifier to the July Del Mar Handicapping Challenge.

Here, he DID have 11-1 Pure Comedy in the contest finale at Golden Gate, and that boosted his score all the way up to $130.60—high score of the day and best by almost $45 in this race for an $8,500 entry to Del Mar. Here’s a look at his loftier Sunday scoresheet.

Blair’s total winnings on Sunday (cash and prizes) were $17,761. That’s a great contest year for many of us. Blair may now view that sum as small potatoes, though.

Gary Blair

Since February 23 (less than two months’ time), Blair has won $63,129 in seats, cash and travel stipends. And that’s just in our featured games. We know that part of Gary’s handicapping routine is to track which horses get an inordinate amount of tote action in any given race (regardless of how they finish in that race). Right now, he is getting an inordinate amount of money himself!

Blair and Van Zandt were kind enough to not enter every single featured tourney on Sunday, and that left some very nice prizes to others.

There were two last-chance qualifiers on Sunday. One was to the NHC Super Qualifier at Santa Anita next weekend.

Daniel Fischer has 5 wins and 1 place to take top honors (and a $1,500 entry). Also packing his bags for Arcadia will be runner up Brett Wiener (second behind Blair in the Del Mar qualifier).

The other “last chancer” was to next Sunday’s Steve Sexton Mile Day Challenge at Lone Star Park.

We already had a nice roster of HorseTourneys qualifiers to this one, and the list will now be augmented by the names of Eddie Inman, Robert Courtney, Don Allen and Ralph Pearce. Good luck in Texas, all.

Also on the Sunday schedule was a qualifier to the June 1 Monmouth Pick Your Prize tournament.

Sean Alvarez led the way here with five victories and two almosts. Joining Alvarez in Jersey with a $2,500 package in pocket will be Cheryl Tayala, who was not too far back in second…and just 10 cents ahead of Frank D’Angelo in third. The top 10 finishers in this affair all had Pure Comedy, though the horses only elicited real belly laughs from the top two.

Of late, it seems that several of our Sunday $1,000 Guaranteed Exacta tourneys have been won with a single nuclear-bomb-type strike that obliterates the opposition. Not this week.

David Bloom won the top prize of $929 (in a game worth a total of $1,327) by chipping up repeatedly. He had five cashes in all, including a final race hit for $59.20 in the 8th at Golden Gate. Here’s a look at his somewhat “old school” Exacta tourney scoresheet (all payoffs based on $1.00 exacta returns):

Scoring was tight heading into the last race of this one, and it is interesting that in this (always) live-format tourney, Bloom opted for price horses that his close pursuers largely eschewed. Perhaps, he figured the others would be on the shorter-priced horses and he preferred the road less traveled. In any event, it was a winning strategy for him.

Glenn Coombs utilized an often-effective strategy at HorsePlayers on Sunday.

That strategy was to pick six winners (an accomplishment that allowed him to get away with having no place runners). The victory, by $39.20, meant an NHC berth for Coombs in Sunday’s Low Ratio qualifier. Here is his six-win sheet:

Jeff “Boom Boom” Joffrion only lowered one boom on Sunday but it was a nice one…in the Low Ratio BCBC qualifier.

Joffrion had a more-than-solid day with three wins and two places, but he found himself in second place with one race to go. He opted for Pure Comedy ($24,00, $9.40) in the 8th at Golden Gate and he brought down the house, earning himself the coveted $10,000 BCBC entry.

Win or lose, we hope you had an enjoyable holiday weekend, and we really appreciate that you opted to spend a part of it with us (even if just to read this). Have a great week.