Two More Big Cash Game Triumphs for Dylan Donnelly; Mike Martin and Paul Cush Score Hat Tricks; Super Sundays for Marikate Carter and Robert Traynor (Weekly Recap July 8-12)

Dylan Donnelly didn’t win anything of note over Fourth of July weekend—and you know that wasn’t going to sit well with him.

Needing to make up for lost time—not to mention the shame of going winless the previous weekend—Donnelly took a swing at Friday’s $10,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray.

Line drive, base hit. Donnelly recorded four winners that paid between $13.80 and $28.00. His real launching pad on Friday was Belmont Park, where he went two-for-two with winners paying $27.60 and $28.00 in the slop. It all led to a $29.00 margin of victory and a winner’s share of $8,453 from a purse that closed at $18,786.

Confident that he was seeing the ball well (what else is new?), Donnelly dug into the batter’s box of Sunday’s $30,000 Guaranteed Keeneland-only full-card tourney. Here, Donnelly launched the equivalent of a tape-measure home run, winning off by $46.60.

Donnelly took the suspense out of this one early, nabbing all four of his winners in the first four races in Lexington. He only had a place horse thereafter, but he could have tossed that one back and still won the top prize of $13,843. The final total pot in this one was $30,762, and the final total for Donnelly on Friday/Sunday was $22,296. We’d like to say that this was a year-maker for Donnelly, though the way he has been going this year, we wouldn’t be confident in saying that this weekend would even crack his “Top 5” of 2020. He’s been THAT good.

Mike Martin was pretty darned good last week too.

Martin had a Dylan Donnelly-like $32.60 margin of victory in Wednesday’s Opening Day, Keeneland-only $5,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray (final purse: $7,665). Martin had 6 wins and a place out of nine races to capture the $3,832 top prize.

The bad news for Martin is that his score dropped by more than $20 in Wednesday’s $75 NHC qualifier. The good news is that it didn’t matter.

After a couple of days undoubtedly spend handicapping the Saturday races, Martin turned a nice profit in finishing 15th of 208 in the Keeneland Summer Online Challenge (won by Stephen Thompson)…and he turned an even nicer profit in Saturday’s $10,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks Pick & Pray.

Just as in the Wednesday NHC qualifier, Martin had 4 wins and a place here to earn $14,248 in a sold-out game that wound up with a pot of $20,355. Things looked pretty grim for Martin early on, though. After the first 6 races of the 12-race competition, he managed only $2.40 in returns. However, he nailed Speedy Solution ($26.40, $13.00) in the 10th at Keeneland and Sapori Girl ($8.00, $4.80) in the final tourney race at Del Mar to get up for the lucrative victory.

Another Wednesday winner who has been on a roll of late is Rob Novicki.

His victory in Wednesday’s Keeneland-only Spa & Surf Showdown qualifier marked the third consecutive week in which Rob has taken home a featured-tourney title. This one got him a $2,000 entry to the Saratoga/Del Mar online cash tournament here on August 15-16.

By the way, the Guaranteed purse for the Spa & Surf Showdown is now all the way up to $191,600. And that figure will only increase with each successive qualifier between now and August 15.

There was a second Spa & Surf Showdown qualifier on Wednesday—a multitrack version—and it was captured by Vineet “Please Don’t Squeeze the” Sharma.

Sharma had just two winners (and a place) on Wednesday, but one of his victors was the day’s best from a scoring standpoint—Money House ($22.00, $6.40) in the 10th at Gulfstream.

Another who made the name Money House seem prophetic on Wednesday was Brent Johnson.

The avid handicapper/owner (whose outstanding “nom de course” is Bushwood Stable) had Money House among his 5 wins and 1 place to take the $2,000 Guaranteed tourney (final total purse: $4,384) and add another $2,177 to his personal “money house” in Virginia…which he shares with wife and fellow contest player Carol.

On Wednesday and Friday, we ran our final qualifiers for the July 11 Keeneland Summer Online Challenge.

There were seven winners of $3,000 entries across the two days: Philip Conway, Paul Cush and Zachary Agamenoni (Wednesday) and Daniel Fischer, John Nichols, Michael Foster and Rich Nilson (Friday).

This last wave of Keeneland qualifiers proved especially fortuitous for Zachary Agamenoni. He wound up finishing third in the 208-entry Keeneland contest (held online at Xpressbet and TVG) by running his starting bankroll of $2,000 up to $17,205. For that effort, Agamenoni kept his final bankroll and earned seats to both the NHC and the BCBC. He also received a $10,000 cash bonus from the prize pool.

All together, HorseTourneys sent 24 players to the Keeneland Online Challenge—and four of them finished in the top 10! Joining Agamenoni in this elite group were Michael Kavana, Eric Kurzhal and Manning Carroll. All received cash bonuses and NHC seats in addition to their final bankroll amounts. Kavana and Kurzhal also picked up BCBC entries. Well done!

To celebrate Del Mar’s opening on Friday, we ran a $5,000 Guaranteed cash game just on the Del Mar card.

This one ran with just a 5.3% takeout, and the primary beneficiary of the extra value was Mark “Santana” Tabackman who was a righteous winner given his $24.20 margin of victory…and his selection of Righteously ($43.60, $15.60) in Del Mar’s 6th.

William Holmes (3 wins, 2 places) and Phil Hoedebeck (4 wins, 2 places) were the two Friday winners of $2,000 Spa & Surf Showdown entries.

The two “Hos” were the only players to crack triple figures, and they each had Polar Wind ($22.40, $8.80) in the final contest race, the 5th at Del Mar.

Things got even better for Holmes over at HorsePlayers on Friday.

Holmes used the same picks as in his Spa & Surf triumph to finish second and grab a cut-rate NHC seat in Friday’s $75 qualifier. Second was an excellent result for Holmes here…because there was just no catching the winner Paul Cush, who had a whopping 6 wins and 3 places out of 9 races to win with a $57 Cushion.

The other Friday feature at HorsePlayers—a Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge Low Ratio qualifer—was captured by Tom “Hit ’em where they” Arndt, who wore down a formidable opponent to get the victory.

Himself! His big collection among 4 wins and 2 places (on his “good” entry) was the slop-loving Winston’s Chance ($27.60, $7.60), who prevailed in a roughly-run 8th at Belmont.

Remember that monster day Paul Cush had on Friday? (Hopefully you do because it was only three paragraphs ago that I mentioned it.) Well there was apparently a nice spillover effect for Cush on Saturday.

Cush (5 wins, 1 place) opened up distance on the field by rattling off four straight winners early. Then he put an exclamation mark on things towards the end with Speedy Solution ($26.40, $13.00) in the 10th at Keeneland to pocket top money of $13,771 in Saturday’s $25,000 Guaranteed tourney, which finished up with a final purse of $30,603.

The NHC qualifying action was at HorseTourneys on Saturday, and the winners of the $165 Pick & Pray were Karen Richards and 2018 Horse Player World Series champ Bob Montgomery.

Richards was no complaining Karen on Saturday. Her scorecard (containing 6 wins and 4 places) was not the highest among Saturday winners, but it may have been the most interesting, so we’re going to share it with you.

None of her winners paid more than $10.00. And her highest collection came with one of her runners up—the 50-1 Vlazar in the final contest race from Del Mar. Longshot winners are always nice. In fact, we highly recommend them! But they are not the only way to get the job done.

Tony Calabrese (4 wins, 1 place) got hot late and drew off to win Saturday’s qualifier to The BIG One by $37.00.

Calabrese had both Speedy Solution and Sapori Girl ($8.00, $4.80) in the last two contest races to finish up super strong and take home the paid-up berth to the “High Expectation Tournament” here on September 19-20.

Incidentally, the cash-prize portion of the prize pool for The BIG One is now up to $108,672. (Similar to the situation with the Spa & Surf Showdown, this amount will also grow with each additional qualifier.) That cash portion will be at stake in September in addition to 15 major tournament seats—all to be shared amongst a field that will number no more than 57. That’s why it’s the high-expectation tournament!

Speaking (parenthetically) of the Spa & Surf Showdown, three more added their names to the roster of participants for the $191,600 cash competition in August.

Congratulations to Ted Apple (3 wins, 2 places), Tim Darnell (2W, 2P) and Chris Bertolucci (2W, 1P). All three of them had Leinster ($22.40, $8.60) in the 6th at Keeneland and the 12-1 Speedy Solution in Keeneland’s 10th.

For the second consecutive Saturday, a contest oddity occurred in the featured events at HorsePlayers.

Paul Kloeker made collections in the final three races to finish with 4 wins and a place and take Saturday’s “regular,” 1-per-65 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge qualifier by a slim $1.30. This was not the odd part. That comes next.

Alfred d’Agostini earned his $10,000 BCBC entry by $28.30 thanks to 2 firsts and 3 seconds. And for the second Saturday in a row, the winner of the $1,000 Super Low Ratio BCBC qualifier had a higher score than the winner of the day’s $165 qualifier. If this happens again next Saturday, we may have to call in the TRPB for an investigation.

Sunday was our busiest day of the weekend—and a very profitable one for Marikate Carter.

Carter (4 wins, 1 place) hit Foothill ($14.80, $7.00) in the final tourney race, the 4th at Del Mar, to raise her total to $74.90—good for first place and a check for $9,973 in our $7,500 Guaranteed Big Bucks tourney, which closed with a pot of $14,248.

Carter spotted herself exceedingly well on Sunday.

That same score of $74.90 also got her the top spot in Sunday’s qualifier to The BIG One.

Carter should have played in the Xpressbet NHC Super Qualifier play-in. A score of $65.80 accounted for first place there.

It belonged to Dennis Decauwer, thanks to 4 winners and 2 runners up. Dennis will now move on to this Saturday’s $1,500 competition at Xpressbet where one NHC seat will be awarded per every 15 entries. There will be a cash component to the prize pool as well. Players start with a $1,000 live bankroll in the “Super Q” and have to make 10 $50 win and place plays across the full cards of Saratoga and Del Mar. Highest total from those 10 $100 plays wins.

We had a Closing Day, $15,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray on just the Keeneland card on Sunday…and it was a close one.

Evan Trommer emerged victorious by $1.20 with 4 wins (including tallies in the first three races) plus two places. His last win was small in price—but large in stature. It was Zulu Alpha ($4.00, $2.80), whose win in finale, the Elkhorn, edged Trommer into first. He won $8,283 from a total final purse of $16,567.

A field of just 14 faced the starter in Sunday’s NHC Low Ratio qualifier.

Nick Noce benefited from the low turnout…and prospered from 2 wins and 3 places to win by 30 bucks. His big hit came with Royal Wedding ($18.10, $8.90) in the 10th at Woodbine—not all that far from Noce’s home in Rochester, N.Y. Good thing for the rest of you that we don’t use Finger Lakes in featured tourneys!

On Sunday, three more people won $2,00 Spa & Surf Showdown entries—one of them is the event’s defending champ.

NHC Hall of Famer Paul Shurman will try for a repeat win in the 2nd annual Showdown. He earned that right based on his third-place finish behind James Politano and Patrick “Gino” Gianforte. As racing commentators are fond of saying, Shurman appears to be coming up to the Showdown “in good form.” He captured this past Saturday’s Belmont Summer Challenge at Nyrabets.

Michael “Copa” Kavana is also in good form these days. On Saturday, he finished 5th of 208 in the Keeneland Summer Online Challenge, and then he put the cherry on top of his weekend sundae (on Sunday).

Kavana hit five gimmicks to pocket $700 in the day’s $1,000 Guaranteed Exacta tourney.

George Brown successfully doped out the first three winners. Mitchell Smith (4 wins, 2 places) did best overall. But no one went 6-for-6 in Sunday’s $8 Pick 6 Jackpot tourney.

As a result, next week’s Jackpot will feature a carryover of $15,706 for anyone (or ones) who can get all six right.

Over at HorsePlayers, Scott Rubinchik and Thomas Bryan punched their respective tickets to Vegas in Sunday’s $165 qualifier.

Rubinchik took top honors with four firsts and a second. Bryan had three wins and a place…and got particularly hot at the end, scoring with Royal Wedding (8-1) at Woodbine and Foothill (6-1) at Del Mar in the day’s final two contest races.

As far as Sunday’s Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge Low Ratio qualifier is concerned, I pretty much could have just copied and pasted the previous Sunday’s recap.

For the second straight Sunday, Robert “Tractor” Traynor ran over his opposition in this event. He had Foothill in the last race to cap off a 5-win, 2-place day that earned him his second $10,000 BCBC entry in as many weeks. Players can play no more than two entries in the BCBC, but entries earned are freely transferable. So it will be interesting to see if Traynor shoots for a three-peat in this game next Sunday.

That was last week. If anything, this week promises to be even more exciting as Saratoga joins the mix starting on Thursday. We’ll have an extra big Thursday schedule that includes a $10,000 Guaranteed game on the Saratoga opening-day card and qualifiers to the Spa & Surf Showdown and the Monmouth Pick Your Prize tournament (another newcomer to next week’s festivities).

Hope to see you on Thursday…and for that matter, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday too. Of course, if you miss anything, you can read about it here next Monday!