Sheldon Usprech the First to Qualify for January’s Flo-Cal Faceoff; Sean Nolan, Josh Thorpe and Paul Cush Each Score Two Victories; Evan Trommer & Craig Hom Win Yet Again (Weekly Recap September 2-7)

Tracking all of the featured tourneys during Labor Day week was pretty…labor intensive…with 29 such events taking place from Wednesday through Monday. For many of our players, however, handicapping was a labor of love last week—and a rewarding one at that.

Igor Mirambeau was rewarded with $1,589 after coming up with 4 wins and 2 places in Wednesday’s $2,000 Guaranteed game, which closed with a purse of $3,179. Mirambeau particularly loved his handicapping in the final three tourney races. He won them all, including with Mirror Mirror ($15.40, $9.20) in the 12th at Parx.

James Connors missed out on Mirror Mirror, but that doesn’t mean that he blew that last race.

Au contraire, Connors (3 wins, 3 places) caught an $11.80 place payoff in that Bensalem, Pennsylvania finale with Gray Little Meadow, and that made the difference in him winning a $3,000 entry to the October 10 Keeneland BCBC/NHC Online Challenge.

Mirror Mirror helped make Gary Wright and Thomas Soban the fairest of them all in Wednesday’s Kentucky Downs Turf Handicapping Challenge qualifier.

Robert Pennell couldn’t see himself picking Mirror Mirror but he also won $1,600 in entry fees for finishing third. Edward Enborg did see the merits of Mirror Mirror and grabbed the fourth position—which was also good for a Kentucky Downs berth in this four-seater.

All together last week, 16 people here earned their entry fees to the two Kentucky Downs competitions—including three on Friday.

Lawrence Kahlden, Nick “48 hrs.” Noce and Sean O’Malley will be rooting for good luck—and fair starts—on September 13th and 16th thanks to their performance in last Friday’s Kentucky Downs qualifier. All three had Saratoga 9th race longshot Big Package ($48.80, $24.20) in their scoring portfolio.

Craig “Home Sweet” Hom also had Big Package…and that meant another big cash-game win for him.

Six days earlier—on August 29th—Hom used a 16-1 winner at Del Mar as the knockout punch during a 5-win, 2-place day that earned him $13,253 in a $29,000 game. On this day, it was the Saratoga “Hom Bomb” that paired nicely with two other winners and four runners up. Hom’s haul here was $7,256—the winner’s share in our $10,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which had a final pot of $16,126.

Josh Thorpe and Carolyn Stovall were the big winners in Friday’s $75 NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers.

Stovall bagged her “Bally’s Berth” with 2 wins and 2 places. Thorpe had the day’s high score with 4 wins and 2 places. His day unfolded this way:

It was Big Package that helped Frederick Reynolds wrap up a nice triumph.

The Spa 23-1 shot topped 3 wins and 2 places that helped Reynolds preserve a heavy-duty $10,000 entry to the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge.

Saturday was the day that Evan Trommer picked this week to record his obligatory featured-tourney victory.

Saturday’s $10,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks game was Trommer’s sixth marquee-game triumph over the last five weeks. (I guess he grew tired of winning BCBC entries!) This one was worth $8,549 from a final purse of $12,213.

Saturday’s other big-money cash tourney was captured by Lynn Ray.

Jon “Hurricane” Hurd led much of the way in our $25,000 Guaranteed All Optional Live event, but Ray connected with Tizamagician ($24.00, $9.60) in the last race to claim the top prize of $11,250 for herself. Hurd settled for a not-too-shabby $4,500.

The other “Pick 10-out-of-25” All Optional Live tourney on Saturday was the 2-seats-guaranteed NHC qualifier.

Those two seats are now reserved in the names of Michael Pirrung (4 firsts, 1 second) and Jeff Bussan (3 firsts, 1 second). The big horse for each was Marie’s Melody ($66.20, $23.80) in the 10th at Gulfstream.

Fivestar Lynch ($29.80, $9.80 in Del Mar race 9) was the top contributor on Saturday for Paul Groffie.

Fivestar Lynch was Groffie’s only winner on the day, but that hit was preceded by five important placings, and that allowed Groffie to reach his goal of securing a spot (one of no more than 57) to the September 19-20 The BIG One right here at HorseTourneys.

Tony Calabrese (4 winners) came out best in the end of Saturday’s $8 Pick 6 Jackpot tourney.

Fourth-place finisher Adam Lewis was the only one to get through three races without a blemish on his record, but since no one went 6-for-6, it left a Jackpot of $21,687 heading into Sunday.

And no one went 6-for-6 on Sunday either.

Nevertheless, Indiana’s Kirk Tesar put forth an interesting and effective effort. He ran both first and second, and his “bad” entry (2 winners) outdid his “good” entry” (3 winners) after place payoffs were factored in. Both entries contained 20-1 Saratoga winner Battle Station in the last leg. Since no one swept the Sunday six, next Saturday’s Jackpot will start out at $22,003.

Getting back to Saturday, Steven Doodnauth captured the day’s “regular” Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge qualifier at HorsePlayers.

Doodnauth’s score of $99.20 was the highest posted in any of the day’s featured 12-race games.

Paul Cush, meanwhile, made the low ratios work in his favor in Saturday’s $1,000 Super Low Ratio BCBC qualifier.

Cush had 3 places followed by 3 winners, including Tobacco Road ($7.60, $4.00 in the 9th at Del Mar), which sent Cush on the Miracle Mile to the BCBC.

On Monday, Paul Cush again used an unspectacular but steady (and effective) method to nail down a victory in the day’s Keeneland BCBC/NHC Online Challenge qualifier.

Cush didn’t hit anything that went off greater than 7-1, but his total of 4 wins and 2 places led to a $22.40 triumph—good for a $3,000 entry on October 10.

So between Saturday and Monday, Cush won two events. Sean Nolan won two as well—both on Sunday. They were really good ones too.

Nolan booked three winners at odds of 10-1, 20-1 and 12-1 to pocket $9,081 in Sunday’s $15,000 Guaranteed All Optional Live tourney, which closed with a pot of $20,191.

Then (or…actually…at the same time) Nolan annexed the Sunday qualifier to The BIG One.

Here Nolan added a $10.60 place payoff to his three double-digit-odds winners to land a spot in the September 19-20 “high expectation” tourney.

Another Sunday “AOL” game was our $7,500 Guaranteed Big Bucks tourney. It proved to be no contest.

No, there were no problems with any of the starting gates in the tourney races. It’s just that Robert Rosenzweig (3 wins, 1 place) rolled home by $45.30. He had 10-1 and 5-1 winners before his coup de grace hit with Blue Sky Baby ($28.80, $10.80) in the 6th at Del Mar. The daylight victory meant $8,549 to Rosenzweig…out of a final overall pot of $12,213.

Steven Meier really did some damage in Sunday’s Keeneland BCBC/NHC Online Challenge qualifier.

His 5 wins and 1 place added up to $168.70—the day’s best score.

Another four players on Sunday punched their respective tickets (a $1,600 value) for the Kentucky Downs Turf Handicapping Challenge on September 13 and 16.

Congratulations to Mark Feld, Robert Peltz, Robert Swickard and Mike Elsass. They’ll be doping out the Franklin, Ky., races those two days, plus the grass races from Monmouth on Sunday the 13th (those Jersey grass races are also part of the all-turf competition).

Our $1,000 Guaranteed Exacta tourney (with a $125 buy-in) attracted only 8 entries on Sunday…which meant that the event went off at no takeout to players (and at a loss to HorseTourneys after track fees and credit card deposit fees are factored in).

The biggest beneficiary of the lack of vigorish was Chip Sarna, who had two winning $1 exacta boxes—one worth $5.90 and the other paying $70.30 (in the 9th at Monmouth).

Moving on to Monday, the high scorer of the day has the dual distinction of also being our first qualifier to next January’s Flo-Cal Faceoff.

That’s Toronto’s Sheldon Usprech, shown above hoisting the winner’s hardware (glassware?) after taking an event at Woodbine. Usprech won a $1,500 Flo-Cal entry along with the next four finishers Sam “Hear Me” Raur, Charley Witt, Josh Thorpe (winner of an NHC seat on Friday) and NHC Hall of Famer (and first-ever Spa-Surf Showdown winner) Paul Shurman.

The above quintet are now assured of a spot in the field of the full-card Gulfstream/Santa Anita contest on January 9-10 that will serve as the first leg of the newly announced 2021 Tourney Triple series offering a bonus of $2 million for a series sweep—and $1 million for taking two of the three legs.

Here is Usprech’s best-of-Labor-Day scorecard:

There were also five winners in Monday’s qualifier to the Kentucky Downs Turf Handicapping Challenge that gets started this Sunday.

Congratulations—and good luck—to Seth Morris, Dave “Ice Cold” Weaver, Michael “Copa” Kavana, Angelo Romeo and David McCarty. Their $1,600 in entry fees will keep them in action throughout both of the two Kentucky Downs single-day competitions.

Monday’s richest tourney, our $25,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, was captured by Mark Stillmock.

Stillmock pulled in $11,493 thanks to 3 wins and 1 place. By far, his biggest producer was Barrister Tom who apparently objected to his 44-1 odds and returned $90.00 to win and $28.20 to place in the $500,000 2-year-old stakes (race 10) at Kentucky Downs.

Rocky Hardy also had Barrister Tom…plus a winning 13-1 shot…plus 2 places.

Add ‘em all up and they gave Hardy an easy win in Monday’s qualifier to The BIG One.

Over at HorsePlayers, Cheryl Knepper scored almost as high as Sheldon Usprech did at HorseTourneys.

Knepper led the way with a score of $143.00—built on 5 wins and 1 place—to earn a Reduced Ratio (1-per-52) NHC seat along with runner up Howard Blumberg (3 wins, 1 place).

There were only 15 in the NHC Low Ratio game but Jeff Van Drie put up a score worthy of a much larger gathering.

Van Drie had 2 firsts and 3 seconds to punch his ticket to Vegas.

Last but not least, Monday’s Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge Low Ratio qualifier at HorsePlayers was won by the two players able to break $100.

Those were Las Vegas resident Ron Ferrise (shown below in 2017 at Del Mar where he came in 2nd at the BCBC)…

…and Steve “The Admiral” Nemetz.

The Admiral had smoother sailing than might have been expected given that this 1-per-23 event drew 43 entries…but we tossed in a second $10,000 rather than pay out a partial ($5,000) entry plus breakage. Whenever we can, we try to decide the close calls in favor of the player.

We hope the close calls go your way in the week ahead. The featured-tourney slate begins anew tomorrow. Good luck…and thank you for your part in helping us have a fun Labor Day weekend.