Clint Littlejohn Wins $30,000 in Overlaid $75,000 Guaranteed Preakness Day Tourney; Joe Johnson Sweeps Saturday HorsePlayers Features (Weekend Recap May 17-19)

The bad news for us here at HorseTourneys was that Saturday’s $75,000 Guaranteed tourney didn’t quite fill. The good news for you is that a guarantee is a guarantee and, of course, we paid out the full amount despite taking a loss. And we’re game enough (some might say foolhardy enough) to do it all over again on Belmont Stakes Day. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s take a look at the Preakness Day victory that put $30,000 into Clint Littlejohn’s pockets last weekend.

Littlejohn wound up with the day’s high score, but that didn’t seem likely early in the day. He had just one place collection (albeit a nice one at $17.00) from the first six of the day’s 15 contest races. Fortune turned his way in the next race, that crazy, blanketed-finish Chick Lang Stakes when Littlejohn had 17-1 winner Lexitonian. Three races later, he experienced that rare feeling of having a Chad Brown-trained winner at 10-1 (Seek and Destroy in the Soaring Softly at Belmont).

After a couple of swings and misses, Littlejohn checked in again with his second double-digit place collection of the day, this time at Santa Anita. And then it was time for the horse that put him up and over the top—31-1 winner Fleet Admiral in the 12th at Belmont. (Fleet Admiral is trained by Leo O’Brien, who has been on a bit of a cold streak since the glory days of Fourstardave and Fourstars Allstar.)

All that remained was the Preakness Stakes. Littlejohn, ahead now by $12.30, was on Anothertwistafate. Second and third positions were held by John Gaspar and Jorge Cruz-Aedo, who both had Fleet Admiral. The previous leader Joe Pettit was shuffled back to fourth. But Gaspar, Cruz-Aedo and Pettit were all within $20 of leader Littlejohn.

Gaspar, however, went with Owendale in the Preakness. Cruz-Aedo picked Anothertwistafate which left him in the unsmooth situation of being blocked by Littlejohn. And Pettit, meanwhile, took Warrior’s Charge. None of those horses finished in the top two (though Owendale was close), which mean none of the standings at the top of the board changed. Littlejohn was the winner, John Gaspar took home $12,500 for finishing second, Jorge Cruz-Aedo ($7,500) was third, and Joe Pettit had to settle for fourth place and $4,500.

I don’t know what it means, but it is interesting to note that none of the 15 cashers in this event had War of Will in the Preakness. Two of them had Bodexpress. That couldn’t have been much fun.

Anyway…here’s a look at Littlejohn’s $30,000 scoresheet:

As noted earlier, our next $75,000 Guaranteed cash game comes in three weeks on June 8, Belmont Stakes Day.

The Preakness weekend featured events got started on Friday, led by our $5,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray.

Unlike the $75,000 game, this one blew well past the guarantee. Ultimately, it was worth $11770, and that big pot was good news for James Lisowsky who had 14-1 longshot Fear (Belmont race 8) followed later by Morgan S. ($18.20, $8.20 in the next to last contest race, the 5th at Santa Anita) to secure the top prize of $5,885.

For the first time this year, we offered a Friday qualifier to the June 1 Monmouth Pick Your Prize tournament, and there were enough entries in it to award two $2,500 packages to the Jersey Shore.

Scores were modest but in the end, a pair of Floridians prevailed—Rich Nilsen (3 wins, no places) and Lawrence Kahlden. Kahlden got second despite having just one first and two seconds. He also got zeroes in the final four races of this 10-race contest…which, of course, will mean nothing when he walks into Monmouth with his paid-up entry (the second he has won here in as many weeks).

For the second time this year, we offered a Friday qualifier to the $100,000 Guaranteed Spa & Surf Showdown.

John Fisher did not fear Fear ($31.20, $10.80). The $42 collection was the foundation of his winning total of $76.80—the same score Nilsen recorded in winning the Monmouth qualifier. Fisher, thus, moves on to the Showdown on August 3-4 right here at HorseTourneys.

There were three other featured events on Saturday in addition to the $75,000 tourney. One was a qualifier to the Saratoga Challenge…run as two single-day contests on August 9-10.

Ken Jordan checked in with a pair of wins and a quartet of placings to take top honors here. Ernest “Say” Hey Jr. said “Hey” again this week with three wins and four places to grab the other available $3,500 package to Saratoga. Hey had War of Will in the Preakness to move himself up into the two hole.

There were two featured events on Preakness Day over at HorsePlayers…but just one winner.

Joe Johnson was golden from three-point land, scoring three wins and three places to win the first package in the two-spots-guaranteed, “regular” NHC qualifier. Fleet Admiral at 31-1 was his big winner. Vincent Easley (4 wins, 1 place) got the other “Bally’s berth.”

Johnson then outdid himself in the regular Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge qualifier on Saturday.

In this one, Johnson again had three winners, but he subbed out one of his lesser winners in the NHC contest for 17-1 Chick Lang victor Lexitonian to amass an even higher score of $154.20—good here for a $10,000 BCBC entry.

Sunday was a mix of four Pick & Prays and five live-format tourneys, and the riches were well spread out. No one won more than a single grand prize. The biggest score of the day was posted by Bruce Pratt, so perhaps it is fitting that he thereby won a seat to The BIG One.

Pratt’s ostentatious score was made possible by his successful selections of longshots Happy Hat (29-1 in the 11th at Gulfstream) and Ironwood (37-1 in the 11th at Monmouth). He didn’t wind up even needing that last capper, though. Pratt’s margin of victory was more than $68. He will move on to Laurel in September with an all-inclusive (entry, travel, hotel, track transfers, welcome dinner, buffets) package.

Thomas Catapano was another for whom Happy Hat was a springboard to victory.

After seven races of our $10,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, Catapano’s total was a nice round number: zero. However, he had Happy Hat plus two other winners and a runner up over those final five races to capture the up-top money of $6,903 in a tourney that closed with a final purse of $13,806. Nice late charge, Thomas!

Peter Osella also closed from far back.

He had winners at odds of 29-1 (Happy Hat) and 7-2 in the final two contest races to prevail by 60 cents over Brendan Fay (who also had those same two late winners) in Sunday’s live-format Belmont Stakes Challenge qualifier. Osella will be tripping the light fantastic on June 7-8 with a $10,500 package.

The Spa & Surf Showdown field is now officially up to 48.

Rich Pawlowski and Michael Caposio were the latest two to add their names to the roster of participants for the August 3-4 online tourney focusing only on Saratoga and Del Mar races. Pawlowski’s three wins and a place all came during the second half of the Pick & Pray tourney. Caposio had two wins and two places.

As June 1 draws near, seats to the Monmouth Pick Your Prize tourney have become a very hot item. Sunday’s qualifier awarded three $2,500 packages to the popular Jersey Shore competition.

Ironwood, a 37-1 winner at (appropriately) Monmouth, was the big horse of Frank Foss among his four victories and two placings. Mark Hagenbuch accumulated most of his $118.60 score via Happy Hat, though he also needed that last-race 7-2 shot to get himself into the money. G.T. Nixon, the only other player to crack triple digits, reported home third to get the other Oceanport berth. Look for some last-chance Monmouth qualifiers next weekend.

Neal Thomas had three successful exacta boxes in our $1,000 Guaranteed Exacta tourney…but only one of them really mattered.

Thomas hit a $1.00 exacta to the tune of $216.20 in the Happy Hat race (the 11th at Gulfstream) to essentially clinch the first prize of $851 in a game worth a total of $1,216.

Two very skilled women accounted for the co-features at HorsePlayers on Sunday.

In the NHC Low Ratio qualifier, Sally Wang Goodall assured that she will be making a record 17th NHC appearance next February when she posted four winners (including Happy Hat) plus a place. The pressure is now squarely on NHC Hall of Famer David “Trey” Stiles to qualify for the Vegas extravaganza. Stiles and Paul Shurman are the only other players besides Goodall to have competed in 16 NHCs. Shurman has already qualified (twice!) for the 2020 NHC. So Stiles now needs to get to work to keep the three-way tie at the top going.

The BCBC qualifier was also a Low Ratio get-together, and the winner here was Sarah Wiener.

Like a few others during the day, Wiener hit the last two races at odds of 29-1 and 7-2, respectively, to finish best of 24 and garner the coveted $10,000 entry.

Thanks to all who played. Here’s a special note for next weekend: The “All-Optional Live” format will return for all of the featured tourneys on Saturday and Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend. Each tourney will consist of 25 available races, from which players must choose 10 races in which to make their mythical $2.00 win/place selections. More on that in tomorrow’s blog.