A Bomb-Free Week Still Manages to Yield Many High Scores, Including Those of James Morgan, Jon Hurd and Double Winners Michael Caposio, Adam Lewis and Stephen Thompson (Weekly Recap, December 9-13)

We offer featured tourneys 52 weeks a year. Last week alone, there were 29 of them. The sheer volume of action dictates that you seldom see anything you haven’t seen before, but there were two different occurrences this past week that were, if not unprecedented, at least highly unusual.

One of those was specific to Saturday, and we’ll get to that a bit later on when we cover that day’s tourneys. The other oddity was a week-long, featured-tourney phenomenon—namely that not a single cap horse winner (20-1 or above) figured into any of the scoring.

You’d think that would lead to a lot of humdrum, low-scoring competitions, but that wasn’t really the case either. Plenty of prices were out there…they just weren’t of the bombshell variety…and that made for a rather fun week.

The player who had the most fun on Wednesday was Michael Caposio.

The key moment for the Temecula, Calif., auto dealership executive was when he put Pantaloni onto his ticket. The 10th-race Parx winner ($24.00, $9.80) helped Caposio walk off with a $6,500 package to the January 23rd Pegasus World Cup Betting Championship.

Those same picks (containing 2 wins and 2 places) also did the trick for Caposio in Wednesday’s qualifier to the Santa Anita Opening Day Challenge.

For whatever reason, Caposio often seems to heat up at this time of year. In 2019, on Super Bowl Sunday, he won two different NHC qualifiers plus $6,212 in a cash game. Now he has a $1,500 entry for December 28th at Xpressbet and a $6,000 Pegasus berth on January 23rd. Opponents beware!

Caposio captured two seats, but Paul Sabatino made off with the Wednesday cash.

Sabatino (3 wins, 1 place) had the 7-2 winner of the finale, La Incondicional, to hold off last-race leap-frogger Turner West (who had the pricey runner-up). The victory meant $1,970 for Sabatino in Wednesday’s $2,000 Guaranteed tourney, which closed with a purse of $3,940.

The lowest winning score of the week came in Wednesday’s Tampa qualifier.

Coleen Curley needed just $49.80 to lay claim to the $1,000 berth on January 9th. She had the winners of the first two contest races—at odds of 7-1 and 7-5, then tacked on three place collections later.

Wednesday’s high score was posted by Adam Lewis.

He put up 4 wins and a place to earn a $1,500 Flo-Cal Faceoff entry along with his two nearest pursuers, Joel Baltazar (2W, 4P) and Kevin Willett (3W, 1P). Here’s a look at Lewis’s best-of-day scoresheet.

We’ll jump ahead just briefly to Friday, because Lewis was at it again.

Here he had 3 winners, including Free Flayme ($28.40, $13.00) in the 8th at Tampa to pick up $5,250 in Friday’s $7,500 Guaranteed Big Bucks Pick & Pray. Attendance was a little better in this Big Bucks game compared to the first such Friday offering the previous week. Still, it wound up being a pretty player-friendly proposition with takeout to players settling at just 6.8%.

Remember the $150,000 Guaranteed Flo-Cal Faceoff? Well it’s now the $161,955 Flo-Cal Faceoff…and counting…because we shot past the guarantee over the weekend. On Thursday, there were two direct Flo-Cal qualifiers—one on the full-card from Aqueduct and one on the bill of fare at Gulfstream.

Nick “529” Fazzolari (or “Nicky Fazz”, if you prefer) caught a sweet $11.00 place payoff with Confectioner in the 9th and final at the Big A to finish with 2 wins and 1 place and edge another Big A, Anthony Trezza, by 20 cents.

Meanwhile, Ryan Flanders tossed his hat into the Flo-Cal ring thanks to the Thursday goings on at Gulfstream.

Flanders didn’t have any luck in the last three races…but he didn’t need to, having selected Star Swept ($17.80, $7.40) in race 5 plus two other winners and three runners up across the first seven heats.

Last week we toasted the successes of a couple of past NHC champs, Just Wagner and Jim Benes. On Friday, another member of the highly select club made his presence felt.

That’s 2011 NHC hero John Doyle who blew the field away by $60.80 in Friday’s Pegasus qualifier.

Doyle didn’t bother with runners up. He stuck to winners…five of them, to be precise. They ranged in price from a low of $9.00 to a high of $28.40. (Pretty good prices when you’re striking at a rate of 50%!)

Doyle’s largest collection came with Free Flayme ($28.40, $13.00) in the 8th at Tampa. Free Flayme was also the big producer among the 5 winners that Mike Gillum came up with.

The quintet combined to pay Gillum a winner’s share of $7,630 in Friday’s $10,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which had a pot of $16,957 when all was said and done.

We mentioned earlier that Paul Sabatino won the featured cash tourney on Wednesday by hitting a 7-2 winner at Gulfstream in the last race. The same “strategy” worked for Rudolph Hardin in Friday’s Santa Anita Opening Day Challenge qualifier.

Hardin had Quarky ($9.80, $3.80) in the 10th at Gulfstream to finish with 3 firsts and 1 second and snatch the $1,500 entry for the December 28th contest to be held at Xpressbet.

James Morgan (4 wins, 3 places) had an even more unassailable strategy in Friday’s $75 NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers.

Morgan had the day’s high score and Carolyn Stovall (3 winners that paid $32.00, $27.00 and $28.40) wasn’t far behind him. Both punched their tickets to Vegas in the process.

So what was Morgan’s strategy? Simple. He decided to do well at the beginning, to do well in the middle and then do well at the end.

Like Morgan, John Merola had 15-1 Jack the Cat in the first contest race.

That—plus two other winners that were followed by 4 runners up—served Merola very well in Friday’s Pick & Pray qualifier to the onsite Tampa High Rollers contest on January 9th (which coincides with Day 1 of the Flo-Cal Faceoff).

Speaking of the now $161,000 two-day cash extravaganza, four more players added their names to the roster of Faceoffers on Friday.

Congratulations to Bryan Ingram (3 wins, 1 place), Eric Brothers, Pete Algero and Joseph Muzio.

The big winner—and high scorer—of the day on Saturday was Jon “Hurricane” Hurd.

Hurd blew through Saturday’s $25,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray and did $14,910 worth of damage in a game that closed with a purse of $32,902. Thomas Blosser (winner of the inaugural Flo-Cal Faceoff earlier this year) finished second to earn $5,964.

We’ll call this one a Category 3 hurricane…since that’s how many winners Hurd had.

Doug Drewry also picked 3 winners, plus a runner up.

It was Drewry’s selection of Mira Mission ($13.20, $6.60) in the last tourney race that got him to the top of the heap in Saturday’s $10,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks event.

Two other Gulfstream grass winners were instrumental in Steve Abelman’s Saturday victory at HorsePlayers.

Abelman (4 winners, 0 places) had Niko’s Dream ($29.20, $12.80) in the My Charmer Stakes and Largent ($35.80, $14.80) in the Fort Lauderdale Stakes to help achieve his triumph in the NHC qualifier that was restricted to those who had yet to secure a 2021 seat.

Braden Selvig had a flying finish, cashing in the last 4 races to wind up with 4 wins, 2 places and 1 victory in Saturday’s multitrack Flo-Cal Faceoff qualifier.

Also garnering $1,500 entries for Leg 1 of the new 2021 Tourney Triple series (that offers guaranteed bonus prizes to top performers) were Dan Richards, David Barnier, NHC Hall of Famer Paul Shurman and Sean Nolan.

There was also a full-card, Gulfstream-only qualifier to the Flo-Cal on Saturday.

Kevin Walsh (3 wins, 2 places) came out on top, thanks in part to Largent.

And now it’s time for the other thing that I found unusual during the week.

When I commented at the beginning that there were no cap horses that affected the scoring, it was technically a true statement. There was, however, a winning bomb in Kevin Walsh’s Gulfstream-only Flo-Cal Faceoff qualifier.

There aren’t many worse feelings in contest play than entering a tourney and finding yourself behind by $64.00 after just one race. The thing is…Kevin Walsh didn’t have the winner or even the runner up in the race…and neither did anyone else.

It happens from time to time, of course, and it’s partly a function of field size, but it’s pretty uncommon for not a single person to do any scoring in a featured-tourney race. So each of the 18 contestants experienced a reprieve of sorts. Kudos to Walsh for taking care of business from there.

There was scoring in the weekend’s two $15 Jackpot Pick 4 tourneys, but none that resulted in the paying out of the Jackpot.

It took only two races to knock everyone out of Jackpot contention on Saturday. In fact, Harris “Wind Chill” Factor came out on top with just one winner (Largent in the last race of the sequence at 16-1).

On Sunday, Lynn Ray came a lot closer to hitting paydirt.

She swept the first three races at odds of 6-1, 9-2 and 7-2 and was the only one alive for the big money. Unfortunately, in the final race she had 15-1 shot Sir Seamus—whose rider elected to press a 21.88, 44.77 pace…going two turns on the grass! That set things up for 5-2 winner Morocco—and for a $4,562 carryover into next Saturday’s Jackpot Pick 4 pool. At least Ray got first place and $516 as consolation for the near miss.

Sunday was another day that was in character with the whole week. There were no winning bombs, but plenty of horses that made a big difference in the standings. Five of the 12 featured-tourney contest races had victors that paid between $15.60 and $26.80 to win.

That meant that there were many paths to success. The only player to manage more than one victory was Stephen Thompson.

Thompson’s 3 wins and 2 places in Sunday’s Flo-Cal Faceoff qualifier left his opponents six feet under—except for Michael Kiatipis, Tyler Hoffman and G.T. Nixon, who also earned $1,500 entries.

Thompson used the same picks in Sunday’s Santa Anita Opening Day Challenge play-in.

Again, Thompson closed the lid on a $1,500 entry…this one for December 28th. Joining him in that Xpressbet cybercontest will be Alan Hoffman and David Basler.

It was a tight squeeze, but Vineet Sharma prevailed in Sunday’s $1,150 buy-in, $7,500-Guaranteed Big Bucks tourney.

Among Sharma’s 2 wins and 2 places was the day’s biggest price, Next Flight ($26.80, $10.20) in the 7th at Los Alamitos.

The day’s $195 buy-in, $15,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray went to Daniel Zaretsky.

He had 3 firsts and a second to pick up $11,027 in a game that closed with a final overall purse of a healthy $24,505.

Sunday’s other featured cash game—the $1,000 Guaranteed Exacta tourney—drew just 7 entrants and went off at a 14.2% overlay to the contestants.

Ted Hanna successfully executed two three-horse boxes—most notably one worth $74.10 for a dollar in the 6th at Los Al—to take home the $700 first prize.

Getting back to Sunday qualifiers (the ones not won by Stephen Thompson), Neal Thomas earned a $1,000 entry to the onsite Tampa High Rollers contest on January 9th.

Thomas had 2 wins and 2 places. We’re not sure if he is a Hogan’s Heroes fan, but his biggest collection—$22.60 to win and $9.40 to place—came in the 6th at Hawthorne with Colonel Klink.

Steve Arrison (4 wins, 1 place) also had Colonel Klink…

…but he needed Loud Loud Music ($19.80, $7.60 in the 8th at Los Alamitos) to raise his day to an 11 and win a $6,500 Pegasus package in a Pick & Pray play-in.

Who was Sunday’s high scorer? Well, it was a tie.

Happily for Jeff “Boom Boom” Joffrion and Paul Scott, there was no need for any messy tiebreakers since their deadlock came in the $210, 2-seats-guaranteed NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers. Joffrion (4 wins, no places) actually did go boom-boom in the last two races, slapping home 11-1 and 8-1 winners to grab a share of the top spot. Scott also closed stoutly, registering 3 places followed by 3 winners. Both had Synthesis ($24.40, $11.00) in the 7th at Los Al.

That’s a wrap on the week’s 29 featured events. We hope you can be part of the featured-tourney fun this week when things will likely be just as busy. Who knows? Maybe we’ll even see a cap horse win.