Stephen Thompson Takes the Friday and Saturday Featured Cash Tourneys; Evan Trommer Triples Up; Chris Podratz Captures First Spa & Surf Qualifier Plus an NHC Seat (Weekend Recap March 6-8)

You don’t want to be around Stephen Thompson when he’s working and—these days—you don’t want to be around him when he’s playing either.

The 56-year-old funeral home director from Lebanon, Pa., won Flo-Cal Faceoff and Horse Player World Series entries on February 21. The next day he pocketed $9,088 in a cash game plus an NHC seat. On March 1, he picked up a Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge entry—and this past weekend he got really serious.

I guess that, with so many seats already won, Thompson has opted to focus solely on money for the time being. In Friday’s $7,500 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, he notched four wins and a place to take the top prize of $6,068 in a tourney that closed with a purse of $12,136.

For Thompson, the Friday triumph proved to be small potatoes.

On Saturday, he added the weekend’s richest event, our $17,500 cash tourney, to his lengthy 2021 curriculum vitae by registering 17-1 and 3-1 winners early and then finishing strong with 9-1 and 6-1 victors in the final two races. When the dust had settled, Thompson had added another $10,975 to his bank account from an overall final pot of $24,390. We hope that all this winning doesn’t put too big a spring in his step when he is at work…at least not when his customers are around.

Thompson wasn’t the only Friday winner to double up. Chris Podratz did so as well…and took the more conventional path of doing it all on one day.

The recent NHC “final table-ist” got things started by taking our first qualifier to the $150,000 Guaranteed Spa & Surf Showdown by $23.00 thanks to a a 4-win, 2-place effort that saw him nail 10-1 and 5-1 winners in the last two races. So Podratz will be in the field for the second annual showdown without the need to spring for a $2,000 entry.

He’ll also have another shot next year at an NHC Final Table appearance.

Podratz’s score dipped just a tad here, but it was still good enough to grab second behind Dan Shugar in Friday’s $75 NHC Pick & Pray over at HorsePlayers.

For his part, Shugar was the only player all day to score triple figures in a featured tourney.

David Basler came out on top in the other Friday feature at HorsePlayers.

Basler’s four winners on the day came consecutively in tourney races 6-9 and those four tallies—plus a place collection—added up to a $3.00 victory worth a $10,000 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge entry in Friday’s Low Ratio qualifier.

Wrapping up the Friday action back at HorseTourneys, there was an entry-only qualifier for the Horse Player World Series.

We had enough entries to bestow three $1,500 tickets to the second-floor ballroom at The Orleans. Congratulations to John Krause, Steve Arrison and Nathaniel Gines.

Moving ahead to Saturday’s action, Robert Shoemaker II used a couple of key victories in stakes races to earn a Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge entry at HorsePlayers.

“The Shoe Two” had Water White ($37.20, $15.40) in Aqueduct’s Busher Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and Combatant ($21.20, $10.20) in the Big ‘Cap among his four firsts and two seconds to secure the coveted $10,000 entry.

Here at HorsePlayers, the high score on a stakes-laden day was delivered by Kevin Cox.

Cox had 49-1 Tampa Bay Derby winner King Guillermo (owned by feared, switch-hitting Major League backstop/DH Victor Martinez) as one of his five winners to take down his second 2021 NHC seat in Saturday’s Pick & Pray. Bob Gilbert held second to also win an NHC berth.

Here’s a look at Cox’s impressive Saturday scoresheet:

King Guillermo was also central to the victories of Angelo Romeo and Frank Foss.

Thanks in large part to the speedy Tampa turf-to-dirter, Romeo (3 wins, 1 place) and Foss (2 wins, 1 place) will both be heading to Laurel this Saturday for the Laurel Champions tournament where two NHC spots, one BCBC entry and one entry to The BIG One will be part of the prize pool.

Not everyone could have King Guillermo…but not everyone needed to.

Busher bigshot Water White was the big horse for Andy Asaro (3 wins, 3 places) and Ed Peters (2W, 1P). They will both now be attending the Horse Players World Series on a full scholarship (hotel and $500 travel stipend included).

Water White (that name always reminds me of the main character in Breaking Bad) was also the common link in the winning Saturday entries of Phil Hoedebeck (3 wins, 2 places) and Timothy Clark (4 firsts, no runners up).

Their faith in Water White (Heisenberg?) will be rewarded with $1,000 entries to the Lone Star Park Spring Betting Challenge on April 18.

The Santa Anita Handicap (the next to last race in Saturday’s featured tourneys) was the key heat in our qualifier to the April 19 Keeneland Grade One Gamble.

The 9-1 winner, Combatant, was a “Grade One” pick for Evan Trommer who got up for second. Contest winner Derek Dickson, meanwhile, used a max-payout ($22.00) place collection on 33-1 runner up Multiplier to get himself all the way up into first. Both receive $4,000 Keeneland packages.

On Sunday, Evan Trommer picked up right where he left off on Saturday.

And then some. Trommer had the final four winners (at odds of 7-2, 9-5, 1-5 and 11-1) en route to a 6-win, 2-place day and victory by just 50 cents in Sunday’s $10,000 Guaranteed tourney, which finished up with a purse of $13,978. Trommer’s share of that was a nice $6,290. (Incidentally, an unprecedented three-day, featured-cash-game sweep was not in the cards for Stephen Thompson here. Thompson finished 58th. Can’t win ‘em all!)

Trommer’s share of Sunday’s BCBC qualifier at HorsePlayers was even more lucrative.

He stepped up his score slightly in this one, hitting on 7 winners and a place to pull down the grand prize of a $10,000 entry to the year’s most prestigious live-bankroll contest. Nice day…nice weekend!

Michael “Copa” Kavana had a pretty nice Sunday, himself.

Kavana was one of three players—along with first-place finisher John “The Clocker” Nichols and bronze medalist James Morgan—to earn $2,000 entries to August’s $150,000 Guaranteed Spa & Surf Showdown.

Kavana then showed off his versatility in Sunday’s $1,000 Guaranteed Exacta tourney.

Michael hit exacta in four of the first seven races, including a $1 cash for $60.90 in the 9th at Gulfstream to take the top prize of $700 in an 8-entry tourney that went off at no takeout to players (and at a loss to HorseTourneys).

Odysseus ($24.00, $10.80 in the 8th at Santa Anita) was an important horse for many of Sunday’s tourney victors to have.

Travis Pearson was one of them. Odysseus was one of his 5 winners and 2 place runners, and he won the Sunday $10,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks game and the $12,111 that went with it. Total purse was a…big…$17,301. (Pearson, it should be noted, also won $4,390 on Saturday for finishing second behind Stephen Thompson in the day’s $24,290 tourney.)

Speaking of “big”, David Nelson is making a return trip to The BIG One.

Nelson had 4 wins and 2 places to amass a score of $63.40 and earn an all-inclusive package to the “high expectation” competition in which 15 of 57 entrants will win seats to important tournaments, including the NHC, BCBC and HPWS.

Sunday’s high score was recorded by Jason Hill in our Horse Player World Series entry-only qualifier.

In fact, Hill’s “other” entry was good enough to get third…which meant that he took two of the three available $1,500 Vegas entries. Runner up Tom Wood was the only player skillful enough to avoid Hill’s clutches and salvage a prize.

Here’s a look at Hill’s “good” entry (i.e. the one with a remarkable eight wins and a place):

Neither Chris Cennamo (6 wins, 1 place) nor John Macklin (4 wins and a place) had the 11-1 Odysseus like Hill did. And they didn’t suffer one bit from that omission.

Both Cennamo and Hill picked up a $2,500 Monmouth Pick Your Prize package despite not having a single winner above 4-1 between them.

Michael Taran DID have Odysseus to cap off a 3-win, 2-place day…

…that earned him a seat to the 2021 NHC. “Captain” Stephen Albano had four wins and three places—and needed every inch of those—to take second (and the other NHC spot) by 70 cents. Albano didn’t have Odysseus in that last race, but he did have the race runner up Coast of Roan, who paid a critical $9.60 to place.

It was a gallant effort in our $8 Pick 6 Jackpot tourney on Sunday that was put forward by Nicholas Nagy.

Short fields—and short prices—ruled this one (which is kind of fun in a Jackpot tourney). Nagy swept the first four races en route to victory. His bid for the $6,194 Jackpot fell short, however, when his 3-1 selection could not keep up with the victorious 2-1 runner…and also when his 3-1 pick in the final race lost the finale by a nose. In any event, that $6,194 that wasn’t won will be waiting for players next Sunday in the upcoming $8 Pick 6 Jackpot tourney.

Thanks to all who took part in — or followed along with — our 22 featured events last weekend. We’ll have more where that came from—right here next week.