Hard to Have Better Picks than Charlie Ricks; Zachary Agamenoni Makes the Most Out of a Little; Tiebreakers Suit Dylan Donnelly…but Thwart Evan Trommer (Weekly Recap, February 17-21)

There’s a 1960 episode of The Twilight Zone called “A Most Unusual Camera” in which three thieves come into possession of a camera that takes and immediately prints out pictures that are five minutes into the future. So where do they go with it? Where else? To the track!

The thieves at the track, looking eagerly at a freshly-taken photo.

The devious trio take pictures of the toteboard a minute before the race, see who is about to win, then quickly place their bets and make a killing.

Apparently this machine has fallen into the hands of Charlie Ricks.

We say that not simply because he was the runaway winner of $3,794 in Wednesday’s $4,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray (final purse: $8,431), but because of how he did it.

Eight wins and a place…out of 10 races. 

We’re not sure if it took a race for Ricks to get the camera working properly, or if he purposely mixed a loser and a runner up in there just to try and throw us off the scent. We’re onto him, though.

So if all this is true, some of you may be wondering, “Why didn’t Ricks just go on and win all of the week’s featured tourneys?” Well, in the episode of “The Twilight Zone”, the gravy train unravels when the crooks find out the camera allows no more than 10 pictures to be taken with it. Coincidence? We think not.

Best we can tell, John Macklin and Wendy Long resorted to no chicanery in order to win Wednesday’s Players Championship qualifier.

Macklin had 4 winners and 2 places. Long selected 4 winners and 1 runner-up. She needed to nail the last two contest races—at odds of 6-1 and 7-1, respectively, to get up for second.

Other than Charlie “Polaroid” Ricks, scores were on the low side on Wednesday (a circumstance we’d again see on Friday). It took Ernest “Say” Hey Jr. just $53.00 to earn a $3,500 Keeneland Grade One Gamble package.

Hey caught 2 firsts and 3 seconds. His biggest return came with Sweet Pearl ($15.40, $5.00) in the 9th at Gulfstream.

Hey’s winning total was gaudy compared to David Bloom’s.

Bloom can cry about his mere 2 wins and 2 places all the way to Monmouth (or Xpressbet) where a paid-up $2,000 entry will be waiting for him on June 12th. Nearly half of Bloom’s final total came in the last contest race, the 10th at Gulfstream, with One Night Stand ($16.20, $5.40). For Bloom, the featured-tourney triumph was his second in four days. He grabbed a $3,000 1/ST Ultimate Betting Challenge entry on February 14.

With five weeks of qualifying still to come, there are already 98 qualifiers to the $200,000 Gtd. Players Championship here on April 2-3.

Brett Wiener (5 wins, 0 places) and Eric Barela (3W, 2P) added their names to that roster of 98 on Thursday. 

Thursday’s high score was posted by John Krause.

Krause had 7 winners out of 10 races to pick up $3,203 in Thursday’s $2,500 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which closed with a pot of $7,119. All of Krause’s scoring came during the first 8 contest races.

On Friday, there was a double winner—Zachary Agamenoni.

Agamenoni reigned supreme in the Keeneland Grade One Gamble qualifier thanks to 6 winners.

Those same picks also did well for Agamenoni in Friday’s 1/ST Ultimate Betting Challenge qualifier. 

Evan Littman recorded Friday’s highest score ($70.00) with 6 wins and 2 places.

That put Littman on top of a bunched up field at the end of Friday’s $75 NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers. 

There was a tie for second but, happily, there were enough entries to award three seats in this event, so that meant that both James Henry (6 wins, 1 place) and Dennis Decauwer (5W, 4P) punched their tickets to Vegas for 2022. Wendy Long, winner of a Players Championship seat on Wednesday, was the hard-luck, 4th-place finisher…just 40 cents behind Henry and Decauwer.

Forty cents was also key in Friday’s $15,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray.

That was Thomas Clark’s margin of victory over Mark Stillmock in a game that finished up with a purse of $19,451. Clark, who finished very strongly with three wins at the end, received $8,753 for his 5-win, 2-place day. Stillmock, who led going into the last race, had to settle for a 2nd-place payoff of $3,501.

Shortish prices made for another tight finish in Friday’s Players Championship qualifier.

Jim Lisowsky (3 wins, 1 place) had the day’s two biggest “bombs”—Let’s Go Now ($10.20 in Santa Anita’s 5th) and Do You Hear That ($13.80 in Golden Gate’s 7th) to capture the top spot. Michael Kiatipis booked 3 firsts and 3 seconds to get the other available $2,000 entry to the middle leg of the Tourney Triple on April 2-3.

Those who felt starved for satisfying prices on Friday had little to complain about on Saturday. One of the day’s most satisfied customers was Howard Welsh.

Welsh earned $12,111 in Saturday’s $10,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks Pick & Pray, which closed with a pot of $17,301.

He had 5 wins and a place to finish with a score of $142.80 (pretty high for a Big Bucks tourney). That score also played well for Welsh in Saturday’s Players Championship qualifier.

Rock Tocheri (4 wins, 0 places) led the way here, followed by Welsh, Michael Guadagno (3W, 1P) and Rick “I-65” Broth (3W, 1P). For Broth, it was the latest happy result in a hot streak that saw him garner seats to The BIG One and the Keeneland Grade One Gamble on February 14th. 

David Ruge eclipsed the $200 mark in posting Saturday’s high score.

It came in the richest tourney of the week, Saturday’s $25,000 Pick & Pray. Ruge pocketed $14,358 from a final prize pool of $35,895. Among his 5 winners and 2 runners up were a pair of Gulfstream longshots—Quantum Leap ($47.20) in the 8th and Queen Nekia ($60.60) in the 11th.

A familiar face won Saturday’s Monmouth Pick Your Prize tournament qualifier.

That’s Alan Levitt holding the trophy he won for capturing this year’s Flo-Cal Faceoff. (Not pictured: his $206,000 first-place check.) Not only does the Baltimore doctor have the April 2-3 Players Championship and August’s Spa & Surf Showdown to look forward to as he seeks a seven-figure Tourney Triple bonus, he also has an engagement set for June 12th at Monmouth Park (or Xpressbet, if he prefers).

Also earning a $2,000 entry to the Pick Your Prize competition (offering cash, NHC seats and BCBC entries) was runner up Paul Weizer (4 wins, 1 place). Breaking the Code ($19.20, $9.20 in the 6th at Golden Gate) was a winner common to both Levitt and Weizer. 

Over at HorsePlayers, Rick Vasquez’s scoresheet lacked the gaudy longshots like Quantum Leap and Queen Nekiz, but other than that, it was a performance that even Charlie Ricks would be proud of.

The 8-win, 2-place tally got Vasquez a $10,000 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge entry.

Ernest “Say” Hey Jr. completed the exacta to earn a $5,000 partial BCBC entry.

Neither Joe Steinberg (3 winners) on Saturday…

…nor Brett Wiener (3 winners on Sunday…

…managed to pull off a clean sweep in winning their respective $15 Pick 4 Jackpot tourneys. So next Saturday’s Jackpot will start off with $3,182 already in the kitty.

Sunday’s high score was turned in by Mark “Santana” Tabakman and—like David Ruge on Saturday—he got paid well for his performance.

Tabakman’s 4 wins and 1 place got him top money of $10,630 in Sunday’s $20,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which closed with a purse of $26,576. Tabakman’s three best winners all came at Santa Anita in races 3, 4 and 7. They paid $54.00, $24.40 and $33.20, respectively, to win. Here’s a look at his scorecard:

It was a Pick & Pray weekend and, befitting the occasion, there were three sets of double winners on Sunday. One of them was George Bosch.

Bosch (4 wins, 1 place) led a trio of winners in Sunday’s Players Championship qualifier that also included Kevin Engelhard (5W, 3P) and Bruce Dagostini (4W, 1P). 

Using the same picks (even though this one was a live-format game), Bosch was more than happy to be the third wheel in Sunday’s NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers.

The two to get qualified for 2022 ahead of Bosch here were Cheryl Tayala (3 wins, 1 place) and Jay Johns (4W, 2P). All six of the combined winners in the Players Championship and NHC qualifiers (five, actually, since Bosch won in each) had Cover Version ($54.00, $17.60 in Santa Anita’s 6-horse 3rd race) as their largest contributor.

Another double winner on Sunday was Michael Somich.

Somich didn’t look quite so happy after the first 6 races of Sunday’s qualifier to The BIG One. His score was a nice round number—as in zero. He had 3 firsts and 1 place over the final six races, though.

Somich, thus, joined Rick Broth as the first two of no more than 57 to qualify for September’s “High Expectation Tournament” to be contested online again in 2021.

Somich also utilized the “slow early, fast late” running style to near perfection in Sunday’s Keeneland Grade One Gamble qualifier.

The winner was Truls Engelbretsen whose performance was the converse of Somich’s—“fast early, slow late”. Engelbretsen got his 3 wins and 2 places all within the first 7 races, earning himself a $3,500 Keeneland package (and a very nice pace figure). There were enough entries to award a third Keeneland package in this event and it went, via tiebreaker, to Dylan Donnelly who had 4 winners compared to Evan Trommer’s 3. 

That tiebreaker loss in the Keeneland qualifier had to make Trommer pretty depressed, right? You don’t know the half of it.

On the positive side of things, Steven Meier (3 wins, 1 place) was a daylight winner of one of the $3,000 1/ST Ultimate Betting Challenge entries here—and Dylan Donnelly (4W, 4P) became the other double winner of the day by running second…again landing the final available grand prize via the tiebreaker process. And unfortunately (though perhaps not shockingly), his victim once again was Evan Trommer. Oh, the humanity.

Well we here in HorseTourneys blogworld like nothing more than happy endings, and we’re happy to report that we had just that in the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge Low Ratio qualifier—at least where Evan Trommer is concerned.

Here, Dylan Donnelly stayed out of Trommer’s way, and Trommer (3 wins, 2 places) kept himself 60 cents ahead of a potential tie with Patrick McGoey. Who says bad things come in threes? In any event, we trust that one $10,000 BCBC entry more than makes up for twice having to kiss one’s sister.

In Sunday’s $7,500 Guaranteed Big Bucks tourney, Joe Johnson hit from well behind the arc with Cover Version ($54.00, $17.60)…

…and Johnson knocked down three other winners and two runners up from closer range to collect the top prize of $7,836 in a game that was ultimately worth a total of $11,195.

Last but not least, Robert Dawson won the feud in our first qualifier to the Lone Star Million Betting Challenge on May 31st.

Dawson had 3 winners and 2 places to walk away with the $3,000 Memorial Day package.

That’s a wrap on last week’s 27 featured events. We have more fun ahead this week, starting on Wednesday…and more cogent analysis sure to be found in this space next Monday. See you then.