Robert Childress Wins Three Tourneys After 0-for-8 Start; Six Modestly Priced Winners Earn $9,000 for Darren Rudnick; Seven a Lucky Number in BCBC qualifier (Weekend Recap June 21-23)

It appeared to be a “Lost Sunday” for Robert Childress. He entered a bunch of featured tourney, and to say that things weren’t going well would be putting it mildly. Here was his scoresheet (on all three of his Sunday entries) after eight of the day’s first 12 races:

Things turned around for him, though, in our Spa & Surf Showdown qualifier.

Childress hit winners in three of the last four races to leapfrog the field and earn a $2,000 entry to the August 3-4 online event.

Childress’s turnaround was even more pronounced in Sunday’s BCBC Low Ratio qualifier at HorsePlayers.

Here, Robert recorded three firsts and a second over the final four races to pick up a $10,000 BCBC entry…on a day when it looked more likely that all he’d pick up were discarded tickets off the floor.

Childress, however, saved the best for our Stars of Texas qualifier.

In this event, he swept the final four heats, allowing him to take with him to Texas a paid-up $1,000 entry…and quite a story as to how he got there. Here’s Childress’s Lone Star scoresheet:

Intellectually, we all know that we’re never out of a tournament until we are mathematically eliminated…but it’s so damned hard to feel that way when we pick loser after loser. Thanks for reminding us, Robert, of a lesson that always bears repeating.

The weekend action got started on Friday, and there were plenty of impressive late charges then as well.

Ken Jordan had winners paying $23.00 (Belmont Race 9) and $40.40 (Santa Anita Race 5) in the last two contest races to take top money of $5,212 in Friday’s $7,500 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which closed with a final pot of $10,425. Kevin Engelhard had those same two late winners as Jordan—plus a $4.40 place collection in the third-form-last race to finish second…just $1.10 behind the top spot. For Engelhard, the rally was worth $2,085.

At HorsePlayers on Friday, Bob Gilbert had three winners paying $9.50, $24.00 and $40.40.

He also added a pair of runners up to his total, and that got him an NHC berth in the day’s two-seat, $75 qualifier. Joining Gilbert at Bally’s will be second-place finisher Mark Fienberg. Ken Jordan, meanwhile, played the same picks in this tourney as in the $10,425 cash game. He came in third, but that really was a pretty terrific result for him since he is already double qualified and was playing for NHC Tour points.

Two more players added their names to the list of the Bally’s bound in Saturday’s regular NHC qualifier.

Amy Brantley’s four winners and a place were topped by United Nations Stakes hero Hunter O’Riley ($30.20, $12.60). Twenty dollars or so behind but also earning a Bally’s seat was Rick “Et Tu” Bruton. (That nickname would be even more appropriate were the NHC being held next year at Caesar’s Palace.)

Darren Rudnick did nothing too flashy on Saturday…but he sure got the job done.

Rudnick had nine collections, including six winners, to take the top prize of $9,215 in the weekend’s richest event, our $17,500 Guaranteed cash game, which closed with a total purse of $20,478. All of his victors paid between $5.80 and $12.20. Here’s a look at his scoresheet:

We offered our first Saturday qualifier to the Spa & Surf Showdown last weekend.

Eliot Honaker (4 wins, 2 places) and Raymond Riley (5 wins, 2 places) were two of the weekend’s four Spa/Surf berth winners (joining the aforementioned Robert Childress and Alan Denkenson). They will compete for a purse of at least $107,000, picking only Saratoga and Del Mar races, on August 3-4. Two more qualifiers next weekend!

In Saturday’s Saratoga Challenge qualifier, Brett Wiener’s key horse was Simply Breathless in the final contest race, the 8th at Santa Anita.

Not only did Simply Breathless win and pay $12.20 to place and $5.40 to show, the picked effectively blocked seven of Wiener’s nearest pursuers. The only “nearest pursuer” not blocked was eventual runner up Joe Pettit (one of last year’s big Saratoga Challenge winners), who fought his way into a $3,500 package thanks to two winners and seven (!) runners up.

Michael Marlaire was yet another weekend winner who finished very strong.

Marlaire had the last three winner’s circle visitors…plus three earlier winners and a place horse to lead the way in our Orleans Fall Classic qualifier. He was just slightly ahead of Muggsy Kreiser, who also won a $1,000 package ($500 entry fee plus $500 travel) to the October 17-19 mythical money contest.


Yep, James Connors won Saturday’s BCBC Pick & Pray at HorsePlayers by picking the seven horse in every race…except for the last race in which the 7 horse was scratched. Ironically, he caught a $4.60 place collection in that last race, and that was the difference between Connors winning or losing.

Hopefully not too lost in the shuffle of Robert Childress’s Sunday heroics was the performance Greg Gass turned in in our $10,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks tourney.

Gass posted the day’s highest score, which more than doubled that of his closest competitor—and he did all that despite not getting a pick in for the 10th at Woodbine (which turned out to be the next-to-last race in the tourney since the 5th at Santa Anita went off later). Gass thus received the winner’s share of $8,549 from a final pot that ended up at $12,213. Here was Gass’s gaudy scoresheet:

The latest to win all-inclusive packages to the Sept. 21-22 The BIG One were Don Markwardt and Thomas Nola.

Markwardt had three wins and three places. Nola had 2 wins and 3 places, but one of those winners was the 28-1 first time starter Cat Lady Steph who took the 9th at Belmont for trainer Gregg Matties of the handicappin’ Matties clan. With his berth to The BIG One now taken care of, Nola has assured himself of a better 2019 than Philadelphia Phillies righthander Aaron Nola.

Sean O’Malley had just two winners…

…but one of them was a bomb and that earned him a victory in our $8 Pick Six Jackpot tourney. Since no one picked all six races correctly, next week’s carryover pool will be over $1,900.

Joe Yuracka had an impressive strike rate in our $1,000 Guaranteed Exacta tourney.

Yuracka collected on six exactas out of 12 races—including a $95.50-for-$1 hit in the 9th at Belmont—to win the grand prize of $851 in an event that closed with a purse of $1,261.

One of the weekend’s more thrilling victories from the winner’s perspective was that realized by Brady Wolfgram in Sunday’s regular $10,000 Guaranteed tourney.

Wolfgram had 4 firsts and a second, and he swept the last three races. That last race, the 5th at Santa Anita, was particularly exciting with Majestic Eagle ($20.00, $7.40) up late to prevail on the outside in a four-horse blanket finish in the American Stakes. The triumph meant $60,000 for the owners of Majestic Eagle and $6,040 (from a pot of $12,080) for Wolfgram. It’s hard to imagine the Majestic Eagle owners being any happier than Wolfgram, though.

Majestic Eagle’s pulsating stretch run also meant victory for Cara Yarusso in Sunday’s NHC Pick & Pray at HorsePlayers.

The last-race collection moved Yarusso (4 wins, 1 place) from third to first. Joining her at Bally’s will be runner up Tim Averill.

Last but not least we offered our first qualifier on Sunday to the July 7 Stars & Stripes Challenge at Belmont Park.

There was a big enough turnout to have five winners of $500 entries. Congratulations to Pete Acocella, Michael Kavana, Richard Smith, Karl Barth and Marc Racenstein.

Keep in mind that free qualifiers take place all this week for the free July 4th charity tourney. Total purse on the Fourth is $5,000 cash. The winner gets $2,000 plus an extra $1,000 to donate in his name to either the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund, The Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance or the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Fund.

You can’t signup directly for the free game on the 4th…you have to win your way via a qualifier. So take a shot at a fun and risk-free tournament for a good cause.