Dennis Montoro Collects $24,000 in $60,000 Travers Day Tourney; Patrick Gianforte Scores a Friday Hat Trick; Evan Trommer Takes Two on Sunday (Weekly Recap August 5-9)

We’re going to have to start calling him “Del Mar” Dennis Montoro.

Saturday’s $60,000 Guaranteed tourney was billed as a special Travers Day event though, to be fair, only half of the 12 contest races were from Saratoga. The other half were from Del Mar. That split worked out just fine for Dennis Montoro.

Having Tartini ($11.40, $5.60) in the final contest race, race 7 at Del Mar, shot Montoro up from 7th to 1st at the end—good for the $24,000 grand prize…but that alone is not why he was “Del Mar Dennis” on Saturday.

Spa? Bah!

All but two measly places of Montoro’s scoring came at Del Mar—and his single biggest collection among 4 firsts and 3 seconds came with the $21.80 place payoff that runner up Girther gave him in Del Mar’s 6th.

Dennis Montoro–pictured here, ironically enough, at Del Mar. (Photo courtesy of Del Mar Turf Club)

Montoro was the biggest—but not the only—beneficiary of a game that went off at just an 8.5% takeout to the players. (Not a bad deal if you can get it!)

Montoro was also the biggest—but not the only—featured-tourney winner during the week. We had a record 40 such events last week—the first of which took place on Wednesday.

Peter Rogers, Wendy Long and James Giamundo added their names to the roster of participants for this coming weekend’s Spa & Surf Showdown due to their Wednesday multi-track success.

And David Barnier, who cashed in the last four races to get up by $1.90, was also rewarded with a $2,000 Showdown entry due to his sharp, Saratoga, single-track soothsaying.

Remember how Jerry Lewis would periodically point up to the toteboard during his Labor Day telethons and then there would be a long, dramatic pause just before the tally of pledges was updated?

I will now undo my bowtie and tell you that the guaranteed purse for the August 15-16 Spa & Surf Showdown is currently up to (drum roll, please)…


That figure, of course, does not count what will be added from qualifiers and buy-ins that take place Monday through Friday. (Operators are standing by.) So, needless to say, it promises to be quite a lucrative weekend coming up. The first-prize will be well north of six figures.

Frank Aylward enjoyed a nice little payday for himself on Wednesday.

He had 3 wins and 2 places to pocket $1,244 in the day’s $2,000 Guaranteed cash tourneys, which finished up with a purse of $2,488.

Meanwhile Timothy Conroy (6 wins, 2 places) and Stephen McNatton (4W, 4P) punched their tickets to the NHC by finishing above 133 others in Wednesday’s $75 qualifier.

The big returner for both Conroy and McNatton was the 7-1 victor Decorated Ace in the 4th at Lone Star. For McNatton, it was his second seat to the 2021 NHC. His first had been earned just three days earlier!

There were two more Spa & Surf qualifiers on Thursday.

Matt Vagvolgyi lives in the Capital Region of New York State, so it was appropriate that he took the Saratoga-only qualifier. Vagvolgyi had 6 winners on the Spa card with prices ranging from $2.40-$23.00.

George Brown and Brian Johnson accounted for the available Showdown entries in Thursday’s multi-track play-in.

Both Brown and Johnson had 22-1 winner Sandy’s Blaze in the 7th at Gulfstream and 10-1 King’s Honor who was the hero of Saratoga’s 9th.

You’ll recall that Stephen McNatton picked up an NHC seat in Wednesday’s $75 qualifier. On Friday, the good times kept rolling.

McNatton (4 wins, 2 places) defeated all but Patrick “Gino” Gianforte (4 wins, 4 places). Both had Sparkle Sam ($12.30, $6.50) in the 10th at Woodbine to help secure those $2,000 Spa & Surf Showdown entries.

As for Gianforte…he was just getting started.

Those same eight collections worked nicely for Gino in the Low Ratio Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge qualifier at HorsePlayers.

It was a tighter squeeze for Gianforte in Friday’s $75 NHC qualifier.

Gianforte and third-place finisher Evan Littman nailed down the two available spots by having Nero ($7.60, $5.00) in the final contest race, the 5th at Del Mar. Runner up Stephan Gravina would have won an NHC seat…if not for the happy problem that he is already double-qualified. So he had to settle for NHC Tour points…which was the only reason he was playing in the first place!

There were two more Spa & Surf Showdown entries won on Friday—one each in two single-track qualifiers.

Vaughn Bair cashed tickets in the first six races of the Spa-only game, then finished up with Yellen (by Fed Biz) in the 10th. Yellen raised Bair’s interest rate in the tourney by returning $16.00 to win and $7.90 to place.

Donna Detro had 3 wins and a place to capture the Surf-only Spa & Surf qualifier.

Detro’s big horse was Solitaire ($36.40, $13.00) in the 7th.

Speaking of Surf, on Friday we offered the first qualifier to the August 22 Del Mar Pacific Classic Betting Challenge (to be contested at TVG).

Not a gaudy score, but frequent winner Dylan Donnelly was best here with his 4 wins and a place. He got a fast start with three winners out of the first four races.

There weren’t many prices out there on Friday. Gary “Macho Man” Machiz required six winners to amass a winning score of $74.30 in the day’s $10,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray.

Machiz needed all six—including the 5-2 Nero in the contest nightcap. That last victory nailed down a payday of $5,901 in a game ultimately worth $11,803.

On Saturday, Dennis Montoro wasn’t the only winner of a significant Travers Day cash game. We also had a $20,000 Pick & Pray.

Neal Thomas registered four firsts and two seconds to scoop up the top prize of $10,665. The final pot was $23,700.

Another five-figure winner on Saturday was James Lisowsky.

James nabbed a $7.60 place payoff in the last race to get up and win Saturday’s $10,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks Pick & Pray. Lisowsky’s winner’s share was $10,686 out of a total final prize pool of $15,266.

Seven more players got themselves into the Spa & Surf qualifier on Saturday.

August 2 Big Bucks victor John “The Clocker” Nichols (7 winners, 0 places) and his airness, Michael Jordan (6W, 0P) did so in our Saratoga-only play-in…

…while Sean Nolan, Scott Silvestri, Linda Rodriguez, Jim Wissig and Gary Murrel did so the old-fashioned way—in multi-track fashion.

A distinctly new-fashioned way to qualify for the Spa & Surf Showdown is through one of our new Low Ratio play-ins.

Jorge Cruz-Aedo really made the low ratio work in his favor. He didn’t show a flat-bet profit, but he still won the $2,000 entry thanks to 2 firsts and 3 seconds. He earned $26.60 of his final total (of $42.60) in the final two races to get up.

Similar to Friday, there weren’t a lot of prices out there on Travers Day. What prices were available were largely snagged by Steve “The Admiral” Nemetz.

Nemetz finished with 6 wins and a place to earn his pass into The BIG One here on September 19-20. His score of $94.60 was tops on the day.

Rounding out the Saturday features at HorseTourneys was our $8 Pick 6 Jackpot tourney.

William Clark did best… but no one went 6-for-6, leaving the $18,302 Jackpot still unhit.

Over at HorsePlayers, there were two Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge qualifiers.

The $179 “regular” version was captured by Justin Kudla, whose six winners ranged in price from $3.00 (Tiz the Law) to $16.80 (American Sailor, who got moved up from 2nd via DQ in the Troy due to shenanigans that occurred well away from him).

The winner of Saturday’s Super Low Ratio BCBC qualifier had just one winner.

Michael Somich had four places, however, and two of them were his two biggest collections—Bella Domenica ($13.60) in the last race at the Spa and Girther ($21.80) in the 6th at Del Mar.

On Sunday, Evan Trommer captured our Del Mar Pacific Classic Betting Challenge Pick & Pray (PCBCPP).

Trommer won the $4,000 entry thanks to 5 wins and 4 places. As well as he did here, though, his judgment was even keener when forced to make his plays on a race-by-race basis.

Trommer stepped up his score by $22.10 in the live-format, low-ratio BCBC qualifier at HorsePlayers. Here, he had 6 wins and 4 places out of 12 races.

The next best thing to winning two tourneys in one day like Evan Trommer is to win two in two days. That’s what Jorge Cruz-Aedo did.

Twenty-four (or so) hours after winning a Spa & Surf Showdown seat, “Smooth Cruz” opted for the bird in the hand by taking Sunday’s $15,000 Guaranteed game, which finished up with a pot of $21,399. Cruz-Aedo’s cut of that was $9,629 as a result of his 5 wins and a place that included Saratoga 10th-race winner Bank Gala ($18.80, $7.30).

Seven players on Sunday joined Cruz-Aedo in the field for this weekend’s Spa & Surf Showdown.

Congratulations to William Holobowski, Lisa Cipriano, Barbara Bowley and Robert Pennell who did so in the multi-track qualifier…

…to Gary Leff (7 wins, 1 place) and G.T. “Bank Gala” Nixon who had good days in the Saratoga full-card qualifier…

…and to Eliot Honaker who had Distant Vista ($30.00, $21.40 in the 8th) among his three winners in the Del Mar-only game. (That was SOME nice place payoff on Distant Vista!)

Nick “48 hrs.” Noce wasted no time in Sunday’s Low Ratio NHC qualifier.

Noce will reconvene at the NHC thanks in part to having picked Reconvene ($20.80, $10.00) in the first contest race of the day, race 7 at Monmouth. He added two firsts and a second thereafter to nail down the victory.

Derek Isenberg picked 5 winners on Sunday.

It was all-or-nothing for Isenberg as none of his horses ran second, but that was just fine as his score of $66.20 was good for the top prize of $9,261 in Sunday’s $7,500 Guaranteed Big Bucks game (final pot: $16,230).

Hudson Davis had the James Ferraro-trained Bank Gala among his 4 winners (and also no places).

Davis will, thus, be in the starting gate for The BIG One next month as one of no more than 57 in the field that will award 15 tournament seats plus a six-figure cash-prize pool.

Slow and steady won the race for Michael “Copa” Kavana in our $1,000 Guaranteed Exacta tourney.

Kavana clicked on five three-horse exacta boxes—none paying more than $26.40 for a dollar—to take home the up-top money of $765.

Jeffrey Froio had five winners—all but the 2-1 Leg 3 winner—to claim the top spot in Sunday’s $8 Pick 6 Jackpot tourney.

Because no one went 6-for-6, the Jackpot continues to grow. It will start out at $18,302 come next Saturday.

Last but not least, a brief reminder that feeders and qualifiers continue through Friday for the $343,380 (and counting) Spa & Surf Showdown.

It should be fun—and intense—but if you choose not to take part, we’ll be back here next Monday to recap it…along with all the other featured-tourney action. Thanks for your part in making Travers weekend a pretty fun and intense time in its own right.