Howard Welsh Registers Friday and Sunday Triumphs; “Lex” Zepp Buys a Stairway to the BCBC (Weekend Recap October 18-20)

Howard Welsh isn’t averse to playing various NHC and BCBC qualifiers, but cash games are what he truly considers his sweet spot. And with results like he gets, who could blame him?

The New Jersey resident picked up a fast $4,876 in Friday’s 10-race $7,500 Guaranteed Pick & Pray. The tourney closed with a pot of $9,752, and Welsh made the game his own by recording four winners and two places. Chief among his triumphs was that of Minit Maus, who broke away from Courageous Cat long enough to score a victory in the 8th at Belmont that returned $57.00 to win and $17.80 to place.

Welsh didn’t have much luck on Saturday—but he did on Sunday.

Dennis Montoro ruled the roost in the day’s $10,000 Guaranteed cash game (final purse: $12,425) thanks to five firsts and four seconds, led by Better Charge It ($25.60, $9.00) in the 7th at Keeneland. With Sunday winnings of $6,212, Montoro shouldn’t need to charge things anytime soon. Welsh, meanwhile, had just a pair of wins and places, but one of those runners up was Cabertoss in the final tourney race, the 10th from Woodbine. Cabertoss paid $21.60 in the place slot and that got him up to second—good for a nice consolation prize of $2,485, that brought his weekend cash total up to $7,361.

Welsh is like the Chip Reese of handicapping contests. Reese was a famed cash-game specialist in the poker world.

You didn’t see Reese much in the televised tournaments. Single-table cash competitions were more his thing. Though he would occasionally dip his toe into other events—and so will Welsh.

Sunday’s $10,000 Guaranteed tourney and the same day’s Flo-Cal Faceoff qualifier were both live-format games, but Welsh played them like Pick & Prays, using the same picks in each. Here, Cabertoss’s strong showing got him all the way up to the top spot and rewarded him with a $1,500 Flo-Cal entry for next winter’s online event.

Howard Welsh

And, of course, the Flo-Cal Faceoff is a $100,000 Guaranteed all-cash tourney…so Welsh should feel right in his element there.

Getting back to Friday’s action, $75 NHC qualifiers have become a fixture at the end of the workweek. They tend to be popular with those who are double-qualified for the NHC because the entry fee is small, and fields are big—meaning that it’s fertile ground for NHC Tour points. That opportunity for Tour heavy heads, in turn, creates an opportunity for those still hunting for NHC spots.

The first- and third-place finishers in Friday’s $75 qualifier—Gregg Kingma and Jeff Bussan—already possessed two seats to the big bash at Bally’s next February, so that meant the NHC spots went to Thomas Blosser and Enrique Vazquez who checked in second and fourth, respectively. All four of the above counted 10th-race Keeneland victor Come on Venezuela ($14.80, $6.20) among their day’s successes.

It was a different, more lucrative Keeneland winner that was the common thread for the two winners in Friday’s Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge Low Ratio qualifier at HorsePlayers.

Both Kevin Cox (3 wins, 1 place) and Anthony Kite (2 wins, 0 places) were flying high and ready for their close-ups after having Lightscameraaction ($41.60, $13.00) in the 8th at Keeneland. Neither player cashed anything in the last race, but they held on to earn the $10,000 entries.

There were two more Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge qualifiers on Saturday at HorsePlayers—and let’s just say that to win them, you needed the luck of the Irish.

Thomas Murphy had four wins and a place to capture Saturday’s Super Low Ratio qualifier. I don’t believe that James Metzger (winner of the 2018 Woodbine Mile Horseplayers Tournament) is Irish, but what I meant in the last paragraph is that you needed to be Irish to finish first…not second. Anyway, Metzger is also headed to the BCBC thanks to three wins and two runners up.

There was also a “regular” BCBC qualifier on Saturday and, here, it was a different Murphy who dropkicked his opponents.

Just two weeks ago, the HorseTourneys world marveled at Justin Dew’s final score of $200.40 in the October 6 NHC Low Ratio qualifier. Murphy exceeded that sum with a gaudy total of $205.30, built on five wins and a place. Shamefully, Joseph missed out on the day’s highest-priced winner in the 10th at Keeneland. Nevertheless, we’ll offer up a look at his still-quite-spectacular scoresheet:

You’ll note that Tom Arndt was the token non-Irishman to also win a BCBC entry by finishing second to Murphy. You may have also noted that he used the four horse in each of the final ten races after picking “non-fours” in the first two.

We’re not sure if this was by design…or if Arndt entered the contest not realizing that it was a Pick & Pray and he only had time to handicap the first two. (Most of the weekend’s featured tourneys were, indeed, live-format games, but not this one.) In any event, we will point out that one of his “non-fours” was Mr. D’Angelo—the 17-1 winner of the 8th at Laurel.

There were plenty of longshots on Saturday (especially at Keeneland), so scores were similarly high in the three featured events at HorseTourneys. You basically needed to reach or come close to the $150.00 mark.

Michael Lynch Jr. came just 50 cents short of that total, though that was still sufficient to earn himself $8,387 in Saturday’s $17,500 Guaranteed tourney, which finished up with a purse of $18,638. Lynch had four winners, including the Keeneland bombs Tough Ima in race 8 ($38.40, $16.60) and Star of Kodiak in race 10 ($49.20, $15.60).

Exceeding the $150.00 plateau was Matthew Rentze.

Rentze put together six wins and a place to win the day’s NHC qualifier that was restricted to those without a seat. He capped things off by hitting…a capper…23-1 Star of Kodiak at Keeneland. Here’s how Rentze’s scorecard looked:

Timothy Jacobs, meanwhile, had just three winners on Saturday…

…but they were nice ones—going off at 17-1, 13-1 and 23-1—and that earned Jacobs the full-ride scholarship to the Horse Player World Series next March.

Sunday’s winning scores were all over the map. The day’s top performance was turned in by Ken “Special K” Kingsbury.

Kingsbury posted a Sunday-best $138.20 in winning the day’s regular NHC qualifier. He had five winners, including Latest Vision ($32.60, $15.60) in the 6th at Keeneland. He also had a pair of runners up including Magical Romance, who went off at a whopping 89-1 in the 10th at Belmont. Also picking up a Bally’s Berth was second-place finisher Blaise Guadagno who registered four cashes on top and one underneath.

On the other side of the spectrum, Jorge “Smooth” Cruz-Aedo needed just $59.20 to win our first qualifier to the December 7 Lone Star Park NHC qualifier.

It will be a “home game” on December 7 for Texas native Cruz-Aedo. He had just one first and two seconds…but one of those seconds was Magical Romance.

The other winning scores were somewhere in between those of Kingsbury and Cruz-Aedo. Evan Trommer needed six winners and a place to squeak out a $1.90 victory in Sunday’s NHC Low Ratio Pick & Pray.

Trommer’s biggest price was with Cooler Mike ($16.50, 6.40) in the Bunty Lawless Stakes at Woodbine. He was almost caught in the finale by Steve Simonovic when Lord Wimborne won the nightcap at Woodbine. But the win/place return of $7.20 and $4.10 left Simonovic just those couple of bucks short of what he needed to catch Trommer.

The two players to score in the 80s—David “Bleu Blanc Et” Ruge and James Politano were the two to emerge with $1,500 entries in Sunday’s Horse Player World Series entry-only play-in.

Bonus points, redeemable at any Montgomery Ward store, go to Politano for finishing fourth with his other entry.

Sunday’s $1,000 Guaranteed Exacta Tourney had the same winner for the second consecutive week.

Frank Fosbre did it completely differently this week, however. Last week, he was leading heading into the last race, hit a monster exacta in the finale, and wound up with a score five times greater than that of his nearest competitor. This week, he had two winners to eke out a victory by just $5.55. His big tally came in the 7th at Keeneland when he hit for $95.20. A winning exacta in Keeneland’s 9th then sent Fosbre over the top, putting to rest any concerns of a “Fosbre Flop”. The Exacta specialist this week earned $1,006 from a final purse of $1,438.

Gerald Hilton enjoyed his stay in our $8 Pick Six Jackpot tourney.

He had two winners to take top honors (Hilton Honors?). Since no one picked six, the Jackpot next week will be up to $3,241 for anyone able to go six-for-six.

There were two more BCBC qualifiers at HorsePlayers on Sunday as the big weekend draws closer and closer.

Steve Arrison (4 wins & 2 places) caught a $21.60 place collection in the last at Woodbine to get up and win one of the two available $10,000 entries in Sunday’s Low Ratio qualifier. “Battlin’” William Smith got the other thanks to three winners in a row in races 5 through 7 plus two runners up.

The other BCBC qualifier at HorsePlayers on Sunday was a Super Low Ratio Pick & Pray.

Sammy Richman had three winners (led by Latest Version—$32.00, $15.40—in the 6th at Keeneland) to finish first. All his scoring was done over the first five tourney races.

Alexa Zepp won a feeder on Saturday, then completed the two-step process by finishing second on Sunday to grab the other available prize. So you could say that last weekend, Zepp was buying a “Stairway to…the BCBC”.

After winning the feeder “Lex Zep” allowed herself a moment to daydream about getting to the BCBC…and about what headgear she might wear to it.

All of her lids appear to be lightweight…which is a good thing in case she needs to rush to the windows to get a play in right before post time. Perhaps her theme song at the BCBC will be the melodious “Hats Off to (Roy) Harper” from the Led Zeppelin III album. Or perhaps not. In any event, she’s “Going to California”.

In closing, we want to recognize a couple of excellent handicappers—and two of the many very nice people on the contest scene: Cara Yarusso, who captured last weekend’s Orleans Fall Classic as one of 87 (up from 60 last year) HorseTourneys qualifiers at the event…and Kenny Peck, who bested 116 others on Sunday in the NHC qualifier at Monmouth Park. Congratulations on your great victories!