Goodall Now Has The BIG Two; Petoskey Prevails by 40 Cents in Overflow Big Bucks Field; Flanders and Trezza Hit Last-Race Winner that They Didn’t Need (Weekend Recap March 21-22)

In recent weeks, some players have been hogging tourney victories as if they were rolls of toilet paper. (I’m looking at you, Stephen Thompson.) That was not the case last weekend as 24 grand prizes (across 15 featured events) went to 24 different people. Unfortunately, none of that winning took place on Friday.

The featured shelves were bare at HorseTourneys and HorsePlayers on Friday with Aqueduct and then Laurel suspending racing. We were able to work around the Aqueduct stoppage since it was announced a day ahead of time. Unfortunately, the Laurel suspension was announced on Friday morning (after the track and the Maryland THA had announced on Thursday that Friday racing was a “go”). A further head fake was provided by the California governor on Thursday night when he announced a statewide “Stay at Home” order that he said would immediately shut down all non-essential businesses. Being the smart guys that we are, we quickly removed Santa Anita and Golden Gate from the Friday schedules—only to see both tracks operate Friday as scheduled.

We have a policy here that wound up costing us business on Friday (and costing you action), but it’s one we firmly believe in. We will modify multi-track featured schedules to dodge cancellations as long as it can be done by the day prior to the tourneys. (If at all possible, we accompany such changes with an email blastout to notify you.) If nothing can be done until the day of the events (and our 70% rule is not satisfied), then we scrap the tourneys. We’d rather be a killjoy than be unfair—and we don’t think it’s right to throw new tracks/races at players at the last minute.

While we weren’t prescient enough to leave Santa Anita and Golden Gate in our Friday featured tourneys, we WERE still able to at least offer them (along with Tampa) in single-track tourneys. So at least there was that!

On Saturday we had a “Return to Normalcy” (Warren Harding’s slogan during the 1920 Presidential campaign)…if such a thing can be said during such abnormal times.

Whether it was the lack of Friday featured action, or just the fact that so many of us are eager for something fun and safe to do, there seemed to be some pent-up demand on Saturday—and that allowed for three NHC seats to be awarded in Saturday’s two-seats-guaranteed qualifier.

Laura Arth assured herself of a Bally’s Berth by turning in the day’s high score—built on five firsts and no seconds. Her scoresheet was reflective of how the day went in general—with the better prices reporting home early in the day and shorter shots winning late.

The magic mark in this one was $120 and the only other two to reach those heights—Mark Stovall and recent NHC Final Table competitor Michael Odorisio—also left with NHC spots. Stovall had 4 wins and 2 seconds, while Odorisio picked the winner seven times (plus a place), including successful 8-5 shots in each of the final two races, to punch his return-trip ticket to Vegas next year.

Like Laura Arth, Mack McClyment struck early—while the iron was hot.

He had three winners—at odds of 5-1, 16-1 and 10-1—from just the first five races. From there, he only needed to add one more winner to capture the top prize of $13,990 in Saturday’s $10,000 Guaranteed cash tourney, which closed with a robust final purse of $34,975.

In case you missed it, the Lone Star Park Spring Betting Challenge has been rescheduled from April 18 to June 27. (So the Spring Betting Challenge will now be held during the summer!). Matthew Baca had 4 wins and 4 places to cruise to victory by $37.80 and pick up the $1,000 entry.

Truth be told, Baca shouldn’t have won this qualifier. No one should have! That’s because it shouldn’t have taken place.

The event carried an $80 entry fee and offered a $1,000 entry as the prize. The winning ratio for it was supposed to be 1-per-15, but we would have accepted a small loss and let it “go” with as few as 12 entries.

Unfortunately, it only drew 10 entries. Even more unfortunate—as far as the visor-wearing HorseTourneys Accounting Department was concerned—was that when we scheduled this one, we erroneously inputted “9” as the minimum number of entries required for the game to go on. By the time we noticed this error on Saturday, we felt it was unfair/unsporting/unfriendly (take your pick) to move the goalposts. So congratulations to Matthew Baca…and condolences to the HorseTourneys employee whose pay will be garnished for the next couple of weeks.

While the Lone Star Park Spring Challenge has been rescheduled, the Santa Anita April Challenge has not. It is still on for April 5—though it will take place at Xpressbet in the event that spectators are still not allowed at Santa Anita by then. (In fact, Xpressbet was always going to be an option for players in this one, even before all the social distancing began.) Our first qualifier for the Santa Anita April Challenge took place on Saturday.

The two players who will be heading to heading to Santa Anita (or perhaps, more likely, cyberspace) on April 5th are Justin Mustari who had 2 wins and a place and Michael “Copa” Kavana (4 wins, 1 place). Both receive $500 entries for the Challenge. Your last chance to qualify for this one comes next weekend.

The Saturday feature at HorsePlayers was a “regular” Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge qualifier.

It was won by BCBC “frequent ‘fier” Brian Chenvert, who had 4 firsts and another 4 seconds on the day. Earning a $5,000 “partial” BCBC entry was runner up Christopher Dewey.

Sunday brought a completely different group of 16 grand prize winners to the featured-tourney winner’s circle.

A quarter of those came in Sunday’s play-in to the $150,000 Guaranteed Spa & Surf Showdown on August 15-16. Congratulations to Jeff Bussan, Gary Blair, Marikate Carter and Frank Foss.

The richest prize of the weekend went to Jon Petoskey in Sunday’s $10,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks tourney.

Petoskey had the winners of the final three races (including 8-1 shot Kidmon in the Santa Anita finale) to finish with 4 wins and 3 places and edge Paul Cush by just 40 cents. Petoskey earned $15,673; Cush, $4,478. The 22-player game finished with a total pot of $22,390.

At this point, some of you may be saying, “Hey, wait a minute! Isn’t the Big Bucks game supposed to be capped at 20 entries? How did the game wind up with 22?”

What happens in rare cases (and it was the case here) is that direct entries for a qualifier and entries for that qualifier’s feeder come flying in simultaneously and by the time the feeder closes, the total number of eventual feeder winners pushes the number of entries in the “final” past the pre-set maximum once the feeder winners and earlier direct buy-ins are added together. Of course, the purse gets its proper boost from the extra entries. And, of course, we shut down direct entries once the yield from the feeders is determined. But we can’t rightly change a 1-per-10 feeder to 1-per-15 after the fact. That’s why we wound up with 22 in the Big Bucks game rather than 20 this week. (I hope that description makes sense to people, and didn’t just confuse matters!)

The other five-figure cash game on Sunday was our $195-buy-in, $7,500 Guaranteed tourney.

It closed with a large pot of $25,195—$11,338 of which was won by Mark “Santana” Tabakman, who had 6 winners, followed by his lone place collection of the day…with Polity ($7.20) in the final race. That place cash enabled Tabakman to hold off runner up Steven Krantz who had Kidmon ($18.40, $8.40) in that last race.

A familiar name won our Sunday qualifier to The BIG One.

It was Sally Goodall with her two victories and three placings. The now-19-time qualifier to the NHC has not only already secured two entries to the 2021 NHC thus far this year, she has also now one two entries to The BIG One (an arguably more amazing feat given the paucity of qualifiers to the Laurel event thus far).

At this point, a lot of you may be saying, “Hey, wait a minute! Isn’t The BIG One limited to one entry per person? How did Goodall wind up with two?”

You guys are asking a lot of questions today. The answer is, yes, players are limited to one entry per person at The BIG One. However, entries won are fully transferable. So Sally has between now and August to decide who will accompany her to Laurel this summer? Can she coax husband Richard out of retirement? If not, will she bestow the entry upon son Chris? Or will she temporarily hold that second entry back as a means of courting bribes or other favors from the two family members? We’ll be sending out our HorseTourneys I-Team to try and uncover the answer as the year progresses.

No such questions or controversies surrounded our Santa Anita Derby Challenge qualifier, since last Sunday’s play-in was the first to that April 4 event.

Turner West whiffed on the last three races, but his earlier four firsts and two seconds were enough—barely—to hold off Ed Peters by 20 cents and get out of town with the $3,000 Santa Anita/Xpressbet entry.

Kirk Tesar (3 wins, 2 places) was the winner of Sunday’s Monmouth Pick Your Prize tournament qualifier.

Four of Tesar’s five cashes came in the last four races—including nightcap winner Kidmon ($18.40, $8.40). So that means Tesar will once again be journeying from Indiana to New Jersey for the Pick Your Prize competition—a trip that, for Tesar, will undoubtedly include a stop at Monmouth’s William Hill sportsbook.

Rex Robinson won $1,225 in Sunday’s $1,000 Guaranteed Exacta tourney.

Mr. Robinson terrorized his neighborhood with four winning exactas, including a $53.50-for-a-buck cash in the 8th at Tampa Bay Downs. Total purse for the game was $1,750.

The $8 Pick 6 Jackpot remains un-hit.

Ronald Bauer took first place on the strength of three winners. Anthony “Thor” Sondergaard finished second. Since no one went six-for-six, next Sunday’s Jackpot will be up to $7,060.

The high score on Sunday was recorded by Ryan “The Lion” Flanders in the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge Low Ratio tourney at HorsePlayers.

Flanders had 5 wins and 3 places to finish ten bucks ahead of fellow $10,000-entry winner Anthony “Doczilla” Trezza (5 wins, 2 places).

Both Flanders and Trezza connected on 8-1 winner Kidmon in the last race of the tourney. Those ready to accuse Flanders and Trezza of fortuitous final-race stabbing, however, should note that they were running first and second even prior to that last heat at Santa Anita.

Finally, Justin Dew was clearly channeling Norman Vincent Peale by displaying the power of positive thinking on Sunday.

A few hours later:

Runner up Jason Albano also won an NHC seat, and we’re guessing that Gregory Lewis also thought it was a pretty great day—in that there were enough entries on Sunday to award a third NHC spot, and it wound up belonging to him.

If the NHC hasn’t “chosen you” yet, be aware that you have an early-week opportunity to win a berth in a special, $75 qualifier this Wednesday (one spot guaranteed, no Tour points).

I’ll conclude here so that I can get back to doing what the rest of the world is doing right now—playing Will Rogers Downs and Fonner Park!