Emulating Babe Ruth and Joe Namath, Anthony Trezza Calls His Shot in $21,000 All-Optional Tourney; Kevin Willett Wins On Saturday and Monday; All Good for the Goodalls on Sunday (Weekend Recap May 24-27)

There was a lot of chatter regarding the long-awaited return of the All-Optional Live format to HorseTourneys. Many seemed to enjoy the opportunity to select which races (from a bank of 25) they played. Others may have just been excited to try their hand at a new format.

Not everyone was 100% thrilled, however. Anthony “Doczilla” Trezza, a staunch proponent of the Pick & Pray format, opined within a long, multi-person Twitter thread that the All-Optional Live format was an improvement over traditional live-format tourneys, but that he would have preferred an All-Optional Pick & Pray setup. He capped his Saturday morning thoughts with the following tweet:

It turned out the Pennsylvania-residing, New Jersey-practicing optometrist had a pretty clear view of how the day would unfold.

Not only did Trezza’s three wins and a place capture the grand prize of $9,733 in the $21,659 cash tourney, Trezza zoomed to the top by having Air Strike ($27.40, $10.40) in the final contest race.

Anthony Trezza

The Contest Players branch of the Twitterverse immediately went abuzz over Trezza’s pre-visualized triumph. (They even seemed to forgive him for wimping out and playing a 12-1 shot in the nightcap instead of an actual 40-1 shot.) There were more congratulatory tweets on Saturday night than I have room for here. Here was one of my favorites, though.

No one likes it when the facts get in the way of a good story. However, journalistic principles (very rarely on display here) require us to convey, as Paul Harvey would have said, the rest of the story.

Jake Taylor didn’t hit a home run at the end of “Major League” when he pointed a la Babe Ruth to the outfield stands. He legged out a bunt single instead.

Along the same lines, Anthony Trezza wasn’t merely stabbing at a longshot that he didn’t care for in that last race. He came clean on this to Lisa Blevins in the afterglow of victory!

In any event, it was a great highlight to the first day back for these All-Optional tourneys. Kudos to Anthony for a great win and near 20/20 foresight…and to Lisa for smoking out that nice little postscript.

Some more last-race, cash-game heroics were turned in on Friday by Derek Isenberg.

Isenberg connected on Duranga ($7.80, $4.10) in the final tourney race, the 8th at Santa Anita, to squeeze past Peter Rogers by $1.80 and take the top prize of $5,380 in Friday’s $5,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which closed with a pot of $10,761. Duranga was the final of five winners for Isenberg, who also had a place collection for good measure. Rogers pocketed $2,152 for his strong second-place finish.

The final three qualifiers for this Saturday’s Monmouth Pick Your Prize tourney took place over the weekend—the first of which was on Friday.

Christopher Olsson (3 wins, 2 places) and Bill Duncliffe (also 3 wins, 2 places) each whiffed on the final two races, but they held on (Duncliffe by just 50 cents) to capture the $2,500 packages to the Jersey Shore next weekend.

The other Friday feature was a $75 NHC qualifier over at HorsePlayers.

Thomas Bryan had five wins and two places. David Snyder had a somewhat similar five wins and no places…but their pathways to victory were significantly different. Bryan jumped out to an early lead by cashing in each of the first six races of the 10-race affair. Snyder did his best running from the back of the pack, recording all five of his winners from among the final seven races.

Getting back to the Saturday, All-Optional excitement, Anthony Trezza wasn’t the only one whose day was made by Air Strike.

We don’t have any tweets to tell us whether Kevin Willett’s marriage to Air Strike was one of love or necessity, but they are now living happily ever after, and Willett, who had two wins and three places, will be on his way to Santa Anita for the June 22 Spring Challenge.

George “Ki“ Bosch and especially Mike Yarusso will likely have warm and fuzzy thoughts of Air Strike as they fly to Vegas next February.

Yarusso needed the majority of that last-race $27.40/$10.40 collection to cinch his trip to the NHC in this “regular” qualifier. It’s possible that Air Strike was just another notch on Bosch’s belt, though, since he had three other winners and didn’t actually need the $37.80 provided by Air Strike in order to come in first.

The two exceptions to the “Air Strike rule” at HorseTourneys both came in the same qualifier.

Neither Alexander Calzi nor John Fisher had Air Strike, but they still managed to claw their way to the top of what was a very tight leader board in Saturday’s Saratoga Challenge qualifier. Calzi, in fact, had no cashes from his first seven plays, but he hit winners that paid $34.80 and $23.20 late in the game to go from worst to first.

Over at HorsePlayers on Saturday, the format for both of the featured tourneys was Pick & Pray, but Air Strike was key—very key—for David Basler.

Basler had four winners and two runners up to grab a Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge entry in this Super Low Ratio qualifier. More than half of his scoring, though, was courtesy of Air Strike.

The big horse for Jim Crews wasn’t Air Strike but, rather, Daytime Lover in the 10th at Monmouth.

The Jersey longshot returned $34.80 and $11.60, and that propelled Crews to a $10,000 BCBC entry in Saturday’s “regular” (i.e. $179 entry fee) qualifier.

On Sunday, the All-Optional games continued, and two of the stranger results came on opposite ends of the spectrum…in the richest and least rich games of the day.

David McCarty only scored a total of $44.40. That was the bad news. The good news was that McCarty was the only player of 13 to turn a flat-bet profit in our 10-race, All-Optional Big Bucks tourney. McCarty had two winners—at odds of 11-1 and 2-1—and that was it. He’ll be crying all the way to the bank—where he can deposit his winner’s check of $8,549.

The other result that struck me as a bit offbeat came in our live-format Pick 6 Jackpot tourney, which carries an entry fee of $8.00

Richie Bennett was the winner, but no one swept all six races, so the jackpot (of more than $1,600) carries over to next week. Bennett had three winners, and the funny thing was…his winners paid $24.80, $19.00 and $6.20. The winners of the three races he missed paid $5,20, $6.00 and $4.40. So Bennett hit the three longest-priced winners, but didn’t connect on the three shortest.

For the record, the jackpot did appear to be in some peril when eventual runner up Kirk Tesar swept the first three events, but Tesar went cold thereafter, missing the final three.

The high score of Sunday was posted by Eric Pineiro.

Pineiro had four winners—paying $35.20, $24.80, $5.20 and $19.00 in the win hole—plus a place to earn a big $10,500 package to the June 7-8 Belmont Stakes Handicapping Challenge, where Pineiro will also be treated to the song stylings of both Southside Johnny and Flo Rida.

Their final scores were different, but John Ukleja and William Holmes each turned in identical four-win, two-place performances.

And that earned Ukleja and Holmes identical first prizes—$2,000 entries to the August 3-4 Spa & Surf Showdown.

Andrew Walker’s three Sunday winners were topped by the 16-1 Tree Shaker in the 7th at Monmouth.

That victory, plus his other victories at odds of 11-1 and 8-1…plus two place collections…earned Walker top money of $5,090 in Sunday’s $10,000 Guaranteed cash tourney.

Tree Shaker was also an instrumental horse in Sunday’s (next-to-last) qualifier to the Monmouth Pick Your Prize tournament.

The three $2,500 package winners Greg Knepper (3 wins, 1 place), William “Stay Out of My Crease” Smith (also 3 wins and 1 place) and Edward “The Price is” Wright (2 wins, 1 place) each had Tree Shaker en route to the finish line, and the three will now do battle once more in less than a week’s time at Monmouth Park.

Michael Bailey parlayed that Tree Shaker win into a $1.00 exacta worth $116.00…

…and that gave Bailey all the scoring he would need in order to collect the grand prize of $1,006 in a $1,000 Guaranteed Exacta tourney that closed with a final purse of $1,438.

At HorsePlayers, the Sunday star was 2008 NHC Champion Richard Goodall.

Rich hit the final two races among his five winners on the day (win payoffs of $16.00, $15.80, $24.80, $19.00 and $6.20) to win a $10,000 BCBC entry in the day’s Low Ratio qualifier.

The Goodall family did Richard one better in the Sunday qualifier to The BIG One back here at HorseTourneys.

Here it was an All-Goodall exacta with Richard’s wife Sally besting Richard’s son Chris. (Unfortunately there was just one all-inclusive package up for grabs here.)

An incredible 17-time NHC qualifier, Sally had three winners, topped by the 23-1 victor in the 9th at Belmont, Light the Posse. Interestingly, Sally’s strategy in this All-Optional tourney was to save her ammunition for the end. She skipped the first 11 of the 25 contest races, and made her requisite 10 plays on the final 14.

There were a lot of familiar names on the Memorial Day featured-tourney leader boards.

Gary Blair’s name was in these blogs more than my own during a February-March run that netted him over $35,000 in cash-game winnings plus several tournament seats. Perhaps at an unfair advantage due to being unfettered by holiday responsibilities, the Canadian was back at it again on our Memorial Day, hitting 32-1 last-race winner Bolo to go along with three other firsts and three seconds. The end result was another $8,697 for the Blair coffers in a $15,000 Guaranteed event that closed with a final pot of $20,004.

Blair was at it again in Monday’s Last Chance qualifier to Saturday’s Monmouth Pick Your Prize tourney.

Here Blair finished second—surrounded by Saturday’s Santa Anita Spring Challenge qualifier winner Kevin Willett who won two Monmouth packages for finishing first and third. Willett had Bolo on both of his Pick & Pray entries. In fact, the top 11 finishers in this 92-entry tourney all used the Carla Gaines-trained longshot (who finished 12th behind American Pharoah in the 2015 Kentucky Derby).

The trend of familiar names continued in Monday’s Spa & Surf Showdown qualifier.

The two players who cracked triple digits—Joe Ward and John Ukleja—were the winners of the $2,000 entries, thus becoming the 51st and 52nd qualifiers for the August 3-4 online event. For Ukleja, it was the second Spa & Surf Showdown entry he won in as many days. Ukleja now joins Steve Arrison and Lucas Van Zandt as players who have reached the maximum of two Spa & Surf Showdown entries.

At HorsePlayers, there were co-features on Memorial Day. One was an NHC qualifier with a new price point of $120.

That in-between entry fee of more than $75 but less than the usual $165 seemed to be a hit with players as 258 entries turned out…which meant that a third NHC berth could be awarded. Joseph Rumfolo (4 wins, 2 places), Robert Pennell and Ernest Powers III were the skillful trio who punched their tickets to the NHC. Bolo was the big horse for Rumfolo and Powers. Pennell managed to secure his position in second with the benefit of the Shoemaker Mile bomb.

There was also a Low Ratio Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge qualifier, and here again, Bolo was not a prerequisite to success.

Bolo was not among them…but Joseph Rosen had six winners plus a runner up. Here’s a look at Rosen’s high-strike-rate scoresheet:

Pick & Prays will be the predominant tourney format next week, but look for more All-Optional Live tourneys before too long. Last Saturday’s and Sunday’s certainly provided for some fun and lively competition.

Whether you won, lost or took the Memorial Day weekend off to spend time with family and friends, we hope you enjoyed yourself. Thanks, as always, for reading.