Michael Somich Takes $45,000 Breeders’ Cup Pick & Pray and Hits the Board in Two Other Big-Money Tourneys; Steve Abelman and Matthew Bickey Each Capture $85,000 BC Competitions (Weekly Recap November 4-8)

If you were a horse trainer, it was a good weekend to be Brad Cox. If you were a HorseTourneys player, it was a good weekend to be Michael Somich…or Steve Abelman…or Matthew Bickey.

We entered Breeders’ Cup week advertising/promoting/bragging that we’d be awarding $200,000 in Guaranteed prize money across our featured tourneys. Thanks to the enthusiasm of our players, the total wound up being much more—$305,575.

A real journalist would figure out a way to lead this recap with the richest tourney, move on to the next richest contest and so on. With so many lucrative events this weekend, however, that strategy sort of made my head spin. Plus I’m not a real journalist…I’m a blogger. So I decided to take things chronologically.

The first $2,972 of that $305,575 was at stake in Wednesday’s $2,000 Guaranteed cash tourney.

Sean O’Malley had 3 firsts and 1 second, and two of those winners were prophetically-named Mahoning Valley bombs—Plus Size Value ($45.60, $20.20) in race 6 and Ucan’tkeepup ($55.80, $20.00) in race 8—that led to him taking home the top prize of $1,486.

We didn’t count the value of qualifiers in that $305,575 total, but we had plenty of play-ins during the week as well.

Eric Boyd (2 wins, 3 places) didn’t have Ucan’tkeepup, but he DID have Plus Size Value, and that meant that his opponents couldn’t keep up with him in Wednesday’s Flo-Cal Faceoff qualifier. Boyd receives a $1,500 entry to the $150,000 Guaranteed cash tourney here on January 9-10. The Flo-Cal Faceoff serves as the first leg of the 2021 Tourney Triple (along with April’s Players Championship and August’s Spa & Surf Showdown). The top three overall performers in the Tourney Triple series will earn contest seats as a bonus…and if anyone wins two legs, he or she gets $1 million. A clean sweep is worth a bonus of $2 million.

The one Friday qualifier was a $75 NHC play-in over at HorsePlayers.

The Friday features were all based on the full, 10-race Breeders’ Cup Day card at Keeneland. Jim Clark punched his ticket to Vegas thanks to 3 winners—Rocketry, Fire at Will and Vequist. Runner up Thomas Kuzdal landed his Bally’s Berth thanks to 4 wins and a place that included Race 3 “Also Eligible bomb” Ever Dangerous at 74-1.

The three Friday features at HorseTourneys were all cash games…and good ones! There was a 2-day, $40,000 Guaranteed live-format contest that we’ll get to as part of the Saturday recaps. That one was made up of the 14 Breeders’ Cup races (five on Friday and nine on Saturday). The other two Friday events were, again, contested on the full 10-race card from Keeneland.

Adam Lewis logged 4 Friday winners to take home the top money of $12,759 in our $25,000 Guaranteed game that wound up paying out a total of $25,518. Lewis had the 30-1 Mike Maker money maker Fire at Will plus the Brad Cox late double of Aunt Pearl and Essential Quality at the end. Gary Machiz ($5,103) finished second and Steve Abelman, the only one to have Ever Dangerous in this tourney, picked up $3,062 for third.

Curtis Meyer (2 wins, 2 places) also had Fire at Will.

And he also had 94-1 runner up Hot Rod Charlie at the end to nail down first place in Friday’s $10,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray. Meyer earned $12,321 from a total final pot of $27,381.

The lone featured qualifier on Saturday was again a 2-seats-guaranteed NHC qualifier.

The two winners were Mike Coutu and Charles Welch, and they went about their days in similar ways. Coutu blanked on the first 4 races before connecting on 4 wins and a place. Welch whiffed on the first 6 prior to coming up with 2 firsts and 1 second. Both of they had Audarya ($37.60, $16.00) in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf.

On to the cash games!

These—plus the NHC qualifier—were all contested over the full 12-race Saturday card at Keeneland. We normally try not to schedule games in such a way that our West Coast players have to set their alarm clocks, but that was pretty much the case here with the Nashville-dominated Perryville Stakes going off at 7:15 am PT (one big reason why Breeders’ Cup officials like Del Mar and Santa Anita so much!).

Going into the weekend, we expected that Saturday’s live-format $75,000 Guaranteed tourney would be our most lucrative game of the week. It was…but only barely.

The $75,000 Guaranteed game wound up with a plenty-solid $86,738 in the kitty, and the winner’s share of $34,695 went to Matthew Bickey, who had 4 winners…and not a chalk horse in the bunch.

It is relevant to note that Michael Somich ($13,878) finished second and that Steve Abelman ($8,673) checked in third.

Part of why this is relevant is that the winner of Saturday’s $40,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray was Michael Somich.

Somich made $20,450 out of a total purse of $45,444 thanks to 3 wins and 2 places. Those five collections came consecutively after Somich blanked on the first six races!

That’s not all that Somich blanked on. You can see above that he failed to enter a selection for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

A check of Somich’s entry in the “Matthew Bickey” $86,738 tourney suggests that Somich may have intended to use Improbable ($4.80 to place) in the Classic…although based on a different tourney play, it’s possible he meant to use Maximum Security. We’re not sure if time of day really was an issue for West Coaster Somich in getting all his Pick & Pray selections in on time. In any event, it didn’t matter. Here’s a shot of Somich taken moments after he realized that his omission wouldn’t cost him anything.

Just kidding…that’s an existing photo of Somich that we had on file.

And that takes us to the $40,000 Guaranteed, two-day tourney.

Remember when we said that the $75,000 Guaranteed game was the weekend’s richest, but only barely? That’s because this $40,000 event—based on just the 14 Breeders’ Cup races on Friday and Saturday—closed with a purse of $85,862, which was just $876 less than that in the $75,000 tourney.

Enough accounting talk. The winner (of $34,345) was Steve Abelman.

Abelman only had two innocuous place collections on Friday before charging to the front with three 10-1-or-better wins over a four-race span on Saturday.

So Abelman had a pretty lousy BC Friday, right?

Allow us to remind you that Abelman earned $3,062 for finishing third behind Adam Lewis in Friday’s $25,518 tourney…and that Abelman was the only one in there to have the George Weaver-trained 74-1 also-eligible Ever Dangerous. So, indeed, it was quite an outstanding TWO days of handicapping by Abelman—even if it didn’t all get reflected in one tourney. When you add up all of Abelman’s winnings across three games, it comes to $46,080.

Michael Somich made even more money.

Somich earned $13,738 for finishing second to Abelman in the two-day tourney. Add that to his $13,878 winnings for coming in second to Matthew Bickey and his victory worth $20,450 in Saturday’s $45,444 Pick & Pray, and Somich’s weekend haul came to $48,066.

And let’s not forget Bickey…who won the richest event here on Breeders’ Cup weekend (worth $34,695 to him) and yet he turned out to be only the third-biggest winner over the course of the two days.

Great performances all around!

Raymond Riley certainly didn’t have a bad Breeders’ Cup. He earned a runner-up check of $4,928 for finishing behind only Curtis Meyer in Friday’s $27,381 Pick & Pray. His best day of the weekend, however, came on Sunday after all the purple signage had been tucked away for another year.

Riley recorded 5 wins and 1 place to capture Sunday’s NHC “Maiden Special” restricted to those yet to earn a 2021 seat. Here were the picks that earned him his Bally’s Berth at HorsePlayers:

Back here at HorseTourneys, the life of Riley involved him playing those same picks in Sunday’s Flo-Cal Faceoff qualifier.

The day nearly turned into a hat trick for Riley. Only James Michelson (sire of the 2005 NHC Champ, Jamie) could top his score in Sunday’s $15,000 Guaranteed tourney.

The Michigan native earned a winner’s share of $8,076 from a final closing purse of $17,947. To get that, Michelson recorded five winners, and they were very nicely spread—both chronologically and parimutuelly.

(I don’t think that parimutuelly is a word, but I thought it sounded good paired with “chronologically.” Yet more evidence that I’m a blogger and not a journalist.)

Riley actually almost pulled out a victory here over Michelson. By the clock, the final tourney race wound up being the 11th at Woodbine. Riley’s pick was the 17-1 Zoological, who took the lead with a furlong left in the mile-and-a-sixteenth synthetic race, but couldn’t quite hold on and wound up getting beaten for second by a half-length according to the chart. (I thought, to the naked eye, it looked closer than that.)

We hope Riley wasn’t too disappointed. His runner-up finish here was worth $3,230, to make his Friday/Sunday cash total $8,208. All that plus an NHC seat and a Flo-Cal entry. Quite a weekend.

In another high-end cash competition, John Farrar was the winner.

Farrar (4 wins, 2 places) collected in final four race to pull in $8,549 in Sunday’s $7,500 Guaranteed Big Bucks tourney, which had a final pot of $12,213.

In Sunday’s $1,000 Guaranteed Exacta tourney, Michael “Copa” Kavana accomplished all the scoring he would need in the very first race.

A one-dollar hit for $95.75 in the 8th at Aqueduct quickly bottomed out the competition and sent the $700 first prize Kavana’s way.

Sunday also was a day in which we hosted our first 2020 qualifiers for a pair of high-end contests.

On January 23rd, Blake Courtney will either be front and center at Gulfstream Park or logged on to an appropriate ADW. Either way, his $6,000 Pegasus World Cup Betting Championship entry will be paid for. (He also gets $500 for travel in case he DOES decide to head to South Florida.). Courtney’s 3-win and 2-place hit parade was led by Mucho Woman ($39.00, $14.20) in the 3rd at Del Mar.

Meanwhile Kevin Smith grabbed the first seat (worth $4,000) to the November 28th Del Mar Fall Challenge.

Like Courtney, Smith also checked in with 3 firsts and 2 seconds. Smith’s big horse was Preacher Power ($36.60, $10.00) in the 10th at Woodbine. Smith now advances to, where the Del Mar Fall Challenge will be exclusively held on the 28th.

A week after the Del Mar contest is the Lone Star Park NHC qualifier on December 5th.

For the second straight Lone Star qualifier here, the winner’s last name was Inman. Last Sunday it was Chris, yesterday it was Eddie (4 wins, 1 place). Your next chance to beat the Inmans and win a $500 Lone Star entry comes Friday.

That wraps up what was a pretty exciting week here. We would be remiss if we did not thank our friends at Breeders’ Cup and at Keeneland—not just for all their work in hosting such an excellent weekend of racing, but for their ongoing support of contest play. Without them, very little of this weekend’s tournament fun would have been possible.

Without the players, though, none of this weekend’s fun would have been possible. So most of all…we thank you.