Paul Shurman Collects $109,000 in Inaugural Spa & Surf Showdown; Peter Behr Finishes Second but Wins Two Other Sunday Events (Weekend Recap August 2-4)

He’s considered one of the greatest $2 win/place tournament players ever, so perhaps it’s appropriate that NHC Hall of Famer Paul Shurman was the first-ever winner of the Spa & Surf Showdown. The 64-year-old Dix Hills, N.Y., attorney earned $109,032 out of a total purse of $272,000.

Shurman had a fairly quiet Day 1 of the two-day, Saratoga/Del Mar event until connecting with 16-1 shot Madame Vestal in the next to last race of the day, the 9th at Del Mar. Madame Vestal was the longest priced winner of Saturday, and she propelled Shurman all the way to 7th place with $122.70…$29.30 behind Day 1 leader Ryan Flanders.

Paul Shurman

Flanders held the lead for much of Day 2 before ceding the lead to 2013 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge champ Peter Behr. The Canadian preserved the lead right up until the last race when Shurman selected 3-1 proposition Passing who won the 8th at Del Mar in virtual wire-to-wire fashion. Behr’s selection finished off the board and victory was Shurman’s with a final total of $243.60. Here was Shurman’s Day 1 and Day 2 scoresheets:

Behr held on for second with $236.70 and earned $43,612. Flanders lasted for third and received $27,258.

Of special note behind the top three was the performance of Christopher Fischer. He ended up 11th with a total of $196.80 that was good for a payout of $4,088. It was certainly a profitable day for Fischer, but he can be excused for wondering what might have been given what happened in the 4th race on Sunday at Saratoga.

Christopher Fischer

Fischer, at that point in 15th place, had 41-1 first time starter Crystalle, who came roaring down the center of the course to win going away under Chris Landeros. A cap-horse win like that would have put Fischer in the lead, but shortly after crossing the wire, his number started blinking and, a good while after that, Crystalle was moved down to third for interference with the eventual third-place finisher. So Fischer didn’t even get a place payoff for his pick. Television commentators noted that it was a controversial disqualification since Crystalle was clearly much the best and was taken down essentially because he cost the third-place horse a chance at beating the second-place horse. We assume that Fischer may have an adjective other than “controversial” to describe the DQ. Adding $64 to his final total would have ultimately given him the victory. In a live-format tourney like this, of course, one can’t assume that Fischer would have made the exact same picks he did had he been in the lead. But still! No matter what…it’s hard to deny that this was a disqualification more painful than what almost any other horseplayer will ever have to deal with in his or her lifetime.

We’ll have more with Paul Shurman in tomorrow’s blog. And we will check in with Chris Fischer as well.

The Spa & Surf Showdown was one of 20 featured tourneys during the weekend, and this week, we’re going to tackle them in reverse chronological order for reasons that will soon be apparent. We’ll start with Sunday’s Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge Low Ratio qualifier at HorsePlayers.

Peter Behr was second best in the Spa & Surf Showdown, but he was first best in our Low Ratio qualifier to the BCBC, thanks to 2 wins and 4 places. Leading Behr’s hit parade was 13-1 Saratoga Derby winner A Thread of Blue.

Peter Behr

Behr went back to being second best in our qualifier to The BIG One. But that paid as well as finishing first.

That’s because two all-inclusive berths were guaranteed in this 40-entry affair. Joining Behr at Monmouth—and likely occupying a table at the far end of the room with friends and family—will be Cheryl McIntyre, the 2016 NHC Tour winner. Like Behr, McIntyre also had 2 wins and 4 places, including A Thread of Blue.

A Thread of Blue was also central to Michael Koblenz’s victory in Sunday’s NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers.

Koblenz picked seven winners, including five in a row during mid-tourney. One of those, not surprisingly was A Thread of Blue, who put the coup de grace on a $143.30 day. Also picking up a Bally’s Berth was runner up Pete Acocella, who had four firsts and two seconds on the day.

Acocella’s score of $109.00 played even better in our qualifier to the August 24 Monmouth Super NHC/BCBC Qualifier.

Here, he got first place—and the $1,000 package that went with it. Douglas Schenk got the other package thanks to his three firsts and three seconds.

Sunday’s highest 12-race score was put up by Andrew Walker.

Walker had six winners, one runner up and a score of $145.90 en route to victory—and a payday worth $5,004 in Sunday’s $10,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray.

We had another $10,000 Guaranteed tourney on Sunday—our Big Bucks game. It drew just eight entries and, thus, went off at an 8.6% overlay to the players. You would think the winning score might have been embarrassingly low…but that wasn’t at all the case.

Howard Welsh had just two winners but five nice places to crack triple digits and put away his seven rivals. Welsh received top money of $7,000 in this “EV+” tourney.

Scores WERE on the low side in Sunday’s Orleans Fall Classic entry-only qualifier.

Jay Parker (3 wins, 2 places) and Dan McCormick were the recipients of $500 Fall Classic entries here. McCormick picked his up despite having just one winner…though he did have four runners up.

Our first qualifier to the August 17 Del Mar Pacific Classic Betting Challenge went to Edward Enborg.

Enborg blanked on the final four races, but he had five wins (including A Thread of Blue) and a second prior to that to prevail in the battle for the $750 Del Mar entry.

Ronald Whittington (I typed “Whittingham” on my first attempt) had four winners—out of just six races—to take the top spot in Sunday’s $8 Pick 6 Jackpot game.

Since no one got all six correct, next week’s Jackpot will be $2,434.

In Sunday’s $1,000 Gtd. Exacta tourney, Grier Bibby connected on four gimmicks to take the top prize of $700.

Not surprisingly, his biggest collection ($92.75 for a buck) came in the A Thread of Blue race (the Saratoga Derby).

It was a busier-than-usual Saturday last weekend with the 2-day Spa & Surf Showdown getting started and the free, 2-day NHC qualifier winding up.

Congratulations to winners Robert Cole, Dennis Desposito, Martyn Cooper, Richard Freedman and Russell Sapienza.

Freedman and Sapienza took completely different paths to success. Freedman had the first five winners and seven of the first eight. Sapienza nailed the last four. Cole, meanwhile, used the nearly-unbeatable strategy of picking eight winners (plus a place). Here’s a look at his scoresheet:

Karen Richards and Eliot Honaker earned their NHC seats the old fashioned way. They risked money for them.

Richards had 6 wins and a place in Saturday’s Pick & Pray. Honacker (5 wins, 2 places) needed a fast finish and got the last two races right to grab second by $1.70.

Scores were on the low side across the board on Saturday, and it took Lindsay Hurst III just $73.20 to realize a nice payday.

Hurst used small prices but frequent collections (6 wins, 3 places) to take the top spot in Saturday’s $10,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which was worth $6,672. Overall, the game closed with a final pot of $13,345.

It was a tight finish in our Last Chance qualifier to the upcoming Saratoga Challenge. The three winners barely cracked the $60.00 mark.

Congratulations to Peter Strauss, Peter Osella and Patrick Larson who got the $3,500 Spa packages. Strauss had the final race runner up and Osella picked the last-race winner to get up and into “the money”.

One of the day’s better scores was posted by Mark Ansley.

His seven firsts and one second added up to $74.50 and victory in our Orleans Fall Classic package qualifier.

The highest score of the day belonged to Jason Hammer.


Jason hit the nail on the head seven times and added a pair of placings to prevail with in Saturday’s regular BCBC qualifier at HorsePlayers. Three of Hammer’s wins came in the first three races. Then he hit a lull. But he was too legit to quit and swept four in a row in contest races 8-11. His final score was $90.50, and his opponents couldn’t touch that.

Evan Trommer swung and missed on the first four races, but picked things up from there.

He finished with 4 wins and 2 places, including 2 wins and 2 places in the final four races, to taste victory in Saturday’s BCBC Super Low Ratio Pick & Pray.

Daniel Mah has been on a very strong cash-game run of late. He won our $19,558 game on July 27. He finished 12th in the Spa & Surf Showdown. And he took down the top prize in Friday’s $7,500 Guaranteed Pick & Pray.

Mah recorded 5 wins and 2 places (including 5-2 and 7-1 winners in the last two tourney races) to collect $4,624 in a game ultimately worth $9,248. It has certainly been a profitable couple of weekends for Mah. His total winnings over those three events: $16,150.

Thanks to all of your for your great support of last weekend’s events including, of course, the Spa & Surf Showdown. We were very excited about it here, and we weren’t allowed to play! Again, we’ll have another blog tomorrow featuring Paul Shurman…and also a visit with tough-luck “”disqualify-ee” Christopher Fischer.