Free NHC Qualifier and Belmont Stakes Last-Chance Tourney the Top Attractions During First Weekend in June

On a weekend when many will be at Monmouth hoping to “Pick Their Prize”, the rest of us (and probably those at Monmouth as well) can count on being able to “Play for Free.”

That’s because another free opportunity to qualify for the 2020 NHC takes place at HorsePlayers this Saturday. The top five will secure full packages to next February’s event at Bally’s. Please note that, as always, you must be a current, paid-up member of the 2019 NHC Tour in order to play and win. Also, note that—for this particular free qualifier at least—the NTRA has gone back to a single-day format. Finish in the top five on Saturday, and you’re on to Vegas. No need to worry about surviving a Day 2.

It all takes place on the first day of June…but before we get there, we have to put May to bed.

Most of this weekend’s featured tournaments are Pick & Prays…and our Friday marquee games are always operated in that mode, led by our up-to-$12,500 cash game with $5,000 guaranteed. It has an entry fee of $190 and entries are capped at 75.

Friday is also your first of two weekend opportunities to qualify for the Spa & Surf Showdown. (The other is on Sunday.) The roster of Spa & Surf Showdown qualifiers now numbers 52—though Steve Arrison, Lucas Van Zandt and (as of last weekend) John Ukleja all have a pair of $2,000 entries. Stay tuned for purse updates as it is now a veritable certainty that the Showdown’s purse will exceed its $100,000 guarantee.

Contest races for Friday are the 5th and 9th from Laurel; the 5th, 6th and 9th at Belmont Park; the 7th and 8th north of the border at Woodbine; and the 7th through 9th at Gulfstream—10 races in all.

On Saturday, HorsePlayers has that free, members-only NHC Pick & Pray that we mentioned at the beginning. And sharing the Saturday spotlight there is a Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge qualifier.

It’s a “regular,” $179 competition with a winning ratio of one per 65, though one $10,000 BCBC entry will be bestowed even if fewer than 65 sign up. Note that, unlike the free NHC event, this game will be run in live-format mode.

Back here, Horse Tourneys counters the two features at HorsePlayers with two very good ones of its own.

One of those “very good” ones just happens to be the richest tourney of the weekend—an up-to-$30,000 Pick & Pray with $17,500 Guaranteed. The entry fee is $260 and no more than 133 may participate.

The other Saturday tent-pole tourney is a qualifier to the Saratoga Challenge (August 9-10). The Spa event is run as two single-day tourneys, and our Saturday winner or winners will receive $3,000 in entry fees (good for both days of competition) plus $500 for travel. Entries to this Pick & Pray are $166 each, and the winning ratio is 1 per 25.

You’ll also find on Saturday a Round 2 feeder to the big $75,000 Guaranteed Belmont Stakes Day cash game. There will be another Round 2 feeder to the $75,000 tourney on Sunday as well.

Contest races for the big Saturday events listed above at HorseTourneys and HorsePlayers are the 7th, 9th and 10th from Monmouth; the 7th, 9th, 10th and 11th at Gulfstream; the lidlifter (aka the first) and fifth from Santa Anita; and the 6th, 8th and 9th at Belmont Park—a dozen races all together.

There are seven featured events to choose among at HorseTourneys on Sunday, including one “Last Chance” qualifier that should bring out some of the higher rollers.

Sunday is your final opportunity to secure a $10,500 package to the Belmont Stakes Challenge on Belmont Stakes eve and Belmont Stakes Day (June 7-8). There will be one winner per each 25 entries in this live-format qualifier with that winner (or winners) earning a $10,000 entry plus $500 for travel to Big Sandy’s big weekend.

Speaking of big, there is a Sunday qualifier to The BIG One at Laurel Park on September 21-22. Winners receive an all-inclusive package to this high-expectation competition that awards 10 NHC seats, five BCBC spots, five Pegasus entries, five HPWS entries, plus a guaranteed cash prize pool of at least $75,000. No more than 57 entries are allowed at The BIG One, so a lot of prizes will be fought over by not a lot of people. At least one package will be awarded regardless of participation in this Sunday qualifier. Packages to The BIG One include entry plus hotel, transfers from hotel to the track and back, a welcome dinner, plus buffet/open bar at Laurel and a $500 account credit for you to put toward your travel if you wish.

In addition to Big Sandy and BIG Ones, there is also big money available on Sunday in the form of our up-to-$20,000 Pick & Pray ($10,000 Guaranteed) with an entry fee of $195.

Somewhat smaller money is available in Sunday’s up-to-$5,000 Exacta box contest (always run in live format). Offering a guaranteed purse of $1,000, this game requires players to play a three-horse exacta box in each of the 12 contest races. The winner is whoever gets the highest total return (from a $1.00 base play). This tourney carries an entry fee of $125, entries are capped at 45, and payoff caps are never in effect in these Exacta tourneys. What your exacta pays is what your score gets credited with. So in Exacta games, it ain’t over until the fat lady taps out.

For featured-tourney fun at a miniscule cost, there’s our Jackpot Pick 6 tourney. The entry fee is just $8, with 70 percent of the net pool going to the top finishers, and 30% being directed to the carryover pool should no one get all six contest races right. If someone does, though, that $8 would take down the jackpot pool (currently more than $1,600). If more than one player does so, then the jackpot pool is shared. This one is a live-format game…so if you like, you can just play all the post-time favorites.

Another Sunday qualifier is for the June 22 Santa Anita Spring Challenge. Winners (one per 20) in this $176 Pick & Pray receive a $3,000 entry to the Santa Anita competition where (based on 100 entries) two seats each will be awarded to the NHC, the BCBC and the Pegasus World Cup Betting Championship. Bonus money will also be a significantpart of the prize pool. Should you win one of these available $3,000 entries, you can choose to play the Spring Challenge in person at Santa Anita or online at

Rounding out the Sunday HorseTourneys slate is the weekend’s second qualifier to the Spa & Surf Showdown. The buy-in is again $113, and if you win, you’ll be competing online here for a pot of at least $100,000 on August 3-4, handicapping strictly the races from Saratoga and Del Mar.

Over at HorsePlayers, you can play for a seat at the NHC and the BCBC.

If you didn’t fare well playing for free in the NHC qualifier on Saturday, you can cut down your field of opponents by quite a bit here by plunking down Sunday’s $165 buy-in. It’s a regular, one-per-65 tourney with a live-format and at least two NHC package winners guaranteed, no matter how many show up.

If the BCBC is more your thing, there’s our live-format, Low Ratio Pick & Pray. (And you can always try to win an NHC seat at the BCBC, of course.) The entry fee is $500, and one per 23 will win a $10,000 entry to the most prestigious live-bankroll tournament in the land. One prize is guaranteed.

We send out special good wishes to the many HorseTourneys qualifiers who will be competing in Saturday’s Pick Your Prize tournament at Monmouth. (Be aware that Monmouth is also hosting a $300 buy-in game on Sunday with a couple more NHC seats on the line.) I will be onsite covering the event for HorseTourneys…though frankly it’s always a bit annoying when work gets in the way of my gambling. Hope to see you there!