A Thundering Hurd Rumbles for $14,000 and a Keeneland Seat; Double Victories for Michael Goodrich and Craig Hom; Paul Yaffee Earns Second NHC Spot in Nine Days (Weekly Recap June 24-28)

With a few new qualifiers added to the mix, we were up to a bulky 25 featured tourneys last week—the first three of which took place on Wednesday.

Brent Johnson’s biggest horse racing triumph came in 2004 when his Bushwood Stable colors were worn by Ramon Dominguez who guided Better Talk Now to victory in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. His first love, though, has always been handicapping. Both he and his wife Carol have won several tournaments, and last Wednesday was Johnson’s latest successful attempt to “shake the bank.” The Virginian cashed in nine out of 10 races on Wednesday (5 wins, 4 places) to draw away by $26.60 and win $2,706 in the day’s $2,000 Guaranteed cash game, which ended up with a prize pool of $6,013.

Also on Wednesday, Robert Schneider used 3 wins and 2 places to snatch victory from the “Jaws” of defeat.

Actually it was Seany P who really did the snatching. That Delaware winner in the final tourney race returned $10.80 to win and $6.00 to place…which meant victory, and a $2,000 Spa & Surf Showdown entry, for Schneider. The second available Showdown entry went to 2018 Horse Player World Series champ Bob Montgomery, who closed hard for second—hitting a 16-1 winner in the next-to-last contest race and catching a $13.20 place mutuel on runner up Smithwick’s Spice in that 8th race at Delaware.

Wednesday’s high score was put up by James Giamundo who, like Schneider and Montgomery, saved most of his best work for the end.

Giamundo had just $19.80 through six races of the 10-race, $75 NHC qualifier. But he connected on two firsts and a second over the final four. Here’s how his slow-early, fast-late day went:

High scores of the day typically do come from NHC qualifiers since they tend to be the most crowded. So it was no surprise that Friday’s top mark came in the $75 Vegas qualifier at HorsePlayers.

Michael Foster (4 wins, 4 places) did the honors here failing to cash in just two races. Joe Johnson failed to cash in the first four races. He had no such miscues thereafter, however, hitting on four firsts and two seconds over the final six to get up for the place spot.

Here’s a look at Foster’s successful Friday:

There wasn’t an overabundance of prices on Friday. Foster had the day’s biggest in that last race with 12-1 Godlovesasinner. Rob Novicki missed that one at the end, but he made up for it with five winners and a runner up before that.

The result for Novicki was a $10,000 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge qualifier in the Friday Low Ratio play-in. Novicki’s two longest shots among his five winners paid $14.80 and $10.00.

Back here at HorseTourneys, Kevin Engelhard leapfrogged from 7th to 1st thanks to his Pick & Pray selection of Godlovesasinner ($27.80, $10.80) in the 10th at Laurel.

The Laurel longshot looked like a loser in deep stretch, but he came back on again to win by a nose and wrap up a 4-win, 2-place day for Engelhard—good for $8,154 in Friday’s $10,000 Guaranteed cash game, which wound up with a purse of $18,121.

Ryne Valerio (3 wins, 2 places) and Steven Meier (3W, 1P) were the Friday winners of Spa & Surf Showdown entries.

Runner-up Meier hit Godlovesasinner at the end. Valerio achieved his margin of victory with a $6.20 place payoff in the same race with the horse on the wrong end of head bob. Always nice when you can lose a tough photo and still have cause to smile.

The star of the day on Saturday was Michael Goodrich.

“Coach” Goodrich recorded three victories and three near-misses to capture the day’s Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge qualifier at HorsePlayers. Those same six collections also worked well for him in Saturday’s NHC play-in at HP.

Dan Brockman got the other available “Bally’s Berth” for finishing third with 6 wins and a place. Leading the way was the already-double-qualified Thomas Blosser. The winner of the inaugural Flo-Cal Faceoff earlier this year, Blosser had Chief Randel ($49.80, $9.40) in the Cleveland Gold Cup at Thistledown. Goodrich and Brockman had Chief Randel as well. They had to sweat out a stewards’ inquiry and an objection, but it was worth it. When the results went official, the payoffs created something of a contest rarity—a capped payoff in the win hole and a payoff of less than $10.00 to place. (The runner up was the 2-5 favorite.)

Anyway here is a look at Blosser’s scoresheet:

And here is a look at Blosser—the current NHC Tour leader:

The other Saturday feature at HorsePlayers on Saturday was a special Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge Super Low Ratio qualifier.

The winning ratio was 1-per-11 and 11 was exactly how many entries turned out. Best of those 11 was David Wolff, who did all his scoring with just two winners (which came during the first four contest races). The winners were Ohio Derby winner Dean Martini ($31.20, $11.40) and Lillie’s Heat ($11.80, $6.80) in the 10th at Gulfstream.

Back here at HorseTourneys, there were a couple of lucrative cash games on the Saturday menu.

Mark Aylward (4 wins, 2 places) found himself raising a glass to Dean Martini…and also to Vagrancy winner Victim of Love (another high-win, low-place horse that returned $56.00 and $12.20 in the 7th at Belmont). When the scores had all been calculated at the conclusion of the $25,000 Guaranteed cash tourney, Aylward was the winner of $12,943 from a final pot of $28,762. As Dean Martin used to sing, everybody loves somebody sometime…and on Saturday, Aylward had to find himself loving Tom Amoss and jockey Ricardo Mejias.

Victim of Love was the first of four consecutive victors selected by Daryn Goodwin.

That quartet, plus a runner up, led to a grand prize of $16,385 for Goodwin in Saturday’s sold-out, $10,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks tourney, which finished with a total purse of $23,408.

As was the case on Friday (and also Sunday) there were two winners in Saturday’s Spa & Surf Showdown qualifier.

Cleveland Gold Cup winner Chief Randel was the big horse for James Politano who set the pace with 4 wins and a place. The other $2,000 entry to the Showdown on August 15-16 was Richie Bennett, who picked 3 winners and 2 placers.

Incidentally, the Showdown now has 87 qualifiers—which means it has already gone past its $150,000 purse guarantee. The purse now sits at $153,990…and that figure will continue to grow with each additional entrant.

Speaking of “continue to grow”, The field for The BIG One is now up to 25. We still need to add another 25 online qualifiers between now and September 19. But just with the 25 that we DO have, the guaranteed cash component of the prize pool has zoomed past the initial guaranteed amount of $75,000 and gone all the way up to $99,205. Of course, when we arrived at that opening $75,000 guarantee, we didn’t see Covid coming and didn’t know that we would be moving the event away from Laurel and back here to HorseTourneys. But what we don’t spend on hotels and amenities, we can contribute to the prize pool, so that’s why the cash portion has bumped up so much of late. We would have greatly preferred to have the event at Laurel, but at least we can try and make the best of an unfortunate situation.

On Saturday, Craig Hom helped bump up the cash pool by playing and adding his name to the roster of 2020 The BIG One qualifiers.

Hom started out with two winners, including the Todd Beattie-trained Victim of Love in the Vagrancy. Then Hom added 4 runners up to win under a hand ride by $37.10.

Perhaps it was that hand ride that ensured Hom would still have plenty left in the tank for Sunday.

Hom struck decisively in the first contest race with the aptly-named Cappy Hour ($60.60, $25.60) in the 7th at Gulfstream. His only other collection was on another Gulfstream price, Snap Hook ($21.00, $9.60 in the 11th). That’s all he needed, though, to coast home by an even wider margin—$40.60—in Sunday’s NHC Low Ratio qualifier.

One of Sunday’s nine featured events at HorseTourneys was a brand new qualifier—a play-in to the July 11 Keeneland Summer Online Challenge, which serves to replace what would have been this year’s Keeneland Grade One Gamble. In the Keeneland Online Challenge, the top 6 get NHC and BCBC seats (based on 200 entries) and the 7th- through 10th-place finishers get NHC spots.

There were four winners of $3,000 Keeneland entries on Sunday. Congratulations to Jon “Hurricane” Hurd (3 wins, 1 place), Thomas Labordo, Ryan Mueller and Manning Carroll.

Jon Hurd (photo credit: Wells Fargo Advisors)

Double congratulations, actually, to Jon Hurd…because he wasn’t done winning.

Compared to the Keeneland qualifier, Hurd lost a winner somewhere along the way in this Big Bucks game. So you could say the Hurricane dropped from a Category 3 to a Category 2. However, this Category 2 hurricane did even more damage than the other one because it landed Hurd a fat winner’s share of $14,248 in a sold-out game worth $20,355. Here, Hurd did all of his scoring in the first 4 races—leaving his foes little choice but to seek shelter until the storm had passed.

Originally from Louisiana, Hurd likes to hang out at live contests with a few other players who he likes to refer to, collectively, as Team Whodat. One of the charter members of Team Whodat is Anthony “Doczilla” Trezza.

Anthony Trezza

No one would mistake Trezza for a Cajun…but what he does have in common with Hurd is that both of them liked the 29-1 Cappy Hour in the 7th at Gulfstream. With not a lot of giant prices coming in thereafter, this left Trezza in good shape in Sunday’s $15,000 Guaranteed game.

Two firsts and two seconds later, Trezza (who won the $75 NHC qualifier on June 17) had the winner’s share of $11,735 to himself. (Final total purse was $29,337.) Perhaps this meant free eye exams today for the area of New Jersey where Trezza works as an optometrist. If not, then perhaps some free contact lens solution…or at the very least, free moistened wipes with which to clean one’s specs. (Actually those little alcohol wipes are a personal favorite…way, way better than cleaning with water or windex…too many streaks doing it that way.)

I digress…but Craig’s Rowe vision was certainly 20/20 on Sunday.

Rowe posted the high score of the day, winning the Spa & Surf Showdown qualifier by almost $30 over runner up and fellow-$2,000-entry winner Wendy Long (3 wins, 2 places). Here’s how Rowe saw things on Sunday:

Some of those gaudy winners like Cappy Hour and Snap Hook were not in the sightlines of Charles Myers. That won’t keep Myers out of The BIG One, though.

Myers reeled off five winners—none going off higher than 5-1—plus a place to land himself a spot in the field of no more than 57 for the “high expectation” contest offering 10 top tournament seats (NHC/BCBC/Pegasus) plus an ever-growing cash pot here on September 19-20. Two more direct qualifiers take place next Saturday and Sunday.

Another new addition to the Sunday lineup was the first qualifier to the July 18 Xpressbet NHC Super Qualifier.

English teachers might disapprove of using the word “qualifier” twice in one sentence, but no one would quarrel with two people winning in one qualifier, and that was the case here with Amber Butler (whose name always makes me think of harness racing trainer Amber Buter) and Sean Masterton. Sean got up for his $1,500 entry thanks to a $3.70 place collection in the 9th at Belmont.

Jeffrey Froio doubled up the competition in Sunday’s $1,000 Guaranteed Exacta tourney—but for all intents and purposes, the game was over after the first contest race.

Froio combined tepid 3-1 post time favorite Mystical Moon with 29-1 winner Cappy Hour in the 7th at Gulfstream, and the result was a $165.90-for-$1 exacta that would provide Froio all the scoring he needed to claim the $700 top prize…though he did add another three successful three-horse exacta boxes later in the day.

Mike Forzano had four winners to take top honors in Sunday’s $8 Pick 6 Jackpot tourney.

No one went 6-for-6, though, so next Sunday’s Jackpot will start out at $14,698. Kudos to Matthew Parker, who put a scare into Jackpot seekers by hitting the first four races…but he faltered in the last two heats and came home in 21st place.

Paul Yaffee hasn’t been faltering much lately.

Yaffee had 5 winners to earn an NHC seat in Sunday’s “regular,” $165 qualifier at HorsePlayers. Steve Nemetz had 4 winners to grab second place…and the second seat. For Yaffee, it was the second NHC entry he has won in just a nine-day span. He also led the way in the June 19 $75 qualifier. Not a bad return on a $240 investment.

Steven Simonovic had to invest $500 on Sunday, but he’s not complaining about his ROI.

Simonovic had a pair of firsts and a pair of seconds to take home a $10,000 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge entry in Sunday’s Low Ratio Pick & Pray at HorsePlayers.

Thanks to all who contributed to the spirited competition last week. Monmouth Park and Ellis Park join the party next week. Hope to see you there.