Dylan Donnelly Takes Two More This Week, Including Yet Another Via Tiebreaker; Ronald Tang Earns Seats to both The BIG One and BCBC; Raymond Riley Collects in Every Race En Route to $8,000 (Weekly Recap, February 24-28)

With the bulk of the Saturday and Sunday featured events run in Live format, multiple winners were in shorter supply this week. We still had a couple of them, however, and as we all know by now, surprisingly good performances can pop up just about anywhere. 

A great example is what Raymond Riley accomplished on Friday.

Sure it’s always nice to win $8,304 as Riley did on Friday in capturing the day’s $15,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray (final purse: $18,453). And cracking triple figures—especially in just a 10-race tourney—certainly puts a nice exclamation point on any victory. In Riley’s case, though, a couple of extra exclamation points are in order.

Riley collected in every single race, including 7 winners—five of which came right out of the chute. The funny thing is…Riley needed almost every one of those cashes because his margin of victory over Dan Camoro ($3,321) was just $4.80. Part of what kept things close was that Riley missed the day’s biggest price, a victorious 10-1 shot in that 10th and final at Gulfstream. Riley hit a $5.80 place payoff in the finale—and without it, Camoro would have won. It was a tremendous battle between the two, and Riley’s consistency was truly a thing to behold. 

The featured-tourney week began on Wednesday, and the day’s richest, most highly attended game was won by Robert Ricci.

Ricci had Mr. Tip ($23.80, $12.00 in the 9th at Gulfstream) as his most lucrative return among 4 firsts and 1 second. The five collections added up to a payday worth $3,701 in Wednesday’s $4,000 Guaranteed cash tourney, which closed with 119 entries and a pot of $8,225.

Okay, so here’s another one of the week’s oddities. The high score on Wednesday came not from the day’s most-attended featured tourney…but from the one with the fewest entries.

If you were one of the 19 behind Sammy “If I Were a” Richman in Wednesday’s 1/ST Ultimate Betting Challenge qualifier, you probably wished you had entered a different game. Here’s a look at the scoresheet that netted Richman his $3,000 entry.

Thomas Michael Abinanti chose the right game.

Abinanti’s score of $60.00 got him a $3,500 package to the April 10th Keeneland Grade One Gamble. Abinanti recorded 2 wins and 5 places…and those 5 places were particularly important given that his two winners both went off at just 5-2. 

The leaderboard was also very bunched up in Wednesday’s Players Championship qualifier.

Russell Priola and Albert Tiernan both had 3 wins and 2 places, and both had Mr. Tip ($23.80, $12.00) in the next-to-last race, and an $8.20 place return in the nightcap to come away with the two available $2,000 seats in Wednesday’s Players Championship qualifier.

With a full month of qualifying left, the $200,000 Guaranteed Players Championship is already up to 112 participants. This is significant because it means that, very shortly, each additional qualifier will add to the event’s purse (as will any buy-ins that are purchased). 

On Thursday, Jon Van Niel and Tyler Okasaki added their names to the roster of 111.

Van Niel registered 4 wins and 4 places. Okasaki booked 3 runners up followed by 2 winners. And for the second consecutive day, the two winning scores in the Players Championship qualifier landed in the 60s.

The only player on Thursday to exceed $70 was Joseph Calvo, and that got him the top prize in the day’s $2,500 Guaranteed Pick & Pray.

Calvo picked 3 winners and 3 runners up to make off with the first-place split of $3,048 in a game ultimately worth $6,774. Calvo needed Italian Twin ($6.40, $3.80) to get himself up and over Geoffrey Schutt, who had to settle for second ($1,354).

Friday was a wide-open day—not overly chalky, but not too “bomby” either. We already mentioned how Raymond Riley collected in 10 out of 10 races and still almost got beat. As a result, there were many potential paths to victory. Nowhere was this better displayed then in the day’s Keeneland Grade One Gamble qualifier.

Adam Lewis had 4 winners and no places to finish first. Ilan Cuellar put up 3 wins and 3 places to snatch the other $3,500 package up for grabs. What was unusual about this result? Lewis and Cuellar did not have a single horse in common among their 10 combined collections. In fact, the 3rd- and 4th-place finishers didn’t have any of Cuellar’s horses either. He must have some highly-proprietary software!

Michael “Copa” Kavana and Peter Behr had 3 of their 10 picks in common in Friday’s Players Championship qualifier.

Something else they have in common is that both are now IN the $200,000 Guaranteed Players Championship. Kavana (4 wins, 3 places) hit Running Memories ($23.60, $10.00) in the last race to jump from 7th to 1st. Behr, the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge victor, finished up with 5 firsts and 1 second.

Anthony “Doczilla” Trezza was the winner of a $3,000 entry in Friday’s 1/ST Ultimate Betting Challenge qualifier.

Trezza connected on all four of his winners during a 5-race stretch in mid-tourney. The New Jersey/Pennsylvania optometrist now moves on to this Saturday’s Ultimate Betting Challenge, where he will again try to finish 1/ST.

Participating in a featured tourney can often have the intensity of a whole body workout. Saturday’s competitions were a lot less stressful for those who had Wholebodemeister in race 12 at Gulfstream, the Davona Dale Stakes.

Someone forgot to tell Wholebodemeister that she was 52-1 (and Vequist that she was 1-2). No one had to tell Minnesota’s Brian Arrigoni anything. He had the Gulfstream speedball among his 3 winners (which paired nicely with 3 runners up), and he proceeded to take home a $10,000 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge entry in Saturday’s qualifier at HorsePlayers.

James “Loose Fitting” Tunick (4 wins, 1 place) also enjoyed a Wholebodemeister experience. 

The Gulfstream bomber was one of Tunick’s three consecutive winners late in the game that enabled him to pocket the top money of $14,726 in Saturday’s $25,000 Guaranteed cash game, which closed with a robust prize pool of $36,816.

Wholebodemeister even upset the apple cart in Saturday’s $15 Pick 4 Jackpot tourney.

Wolfgang Lucki was the only one of 79 to have her, and that meant that Lucki, despite having just that one winner plus one place, took top honors. 

You’d think by now that Wholebodemeister might have been a horse you had to use to enjoy any primo Saturday success—but that didn’t turn out to be the case.

Sean Nolan missed Wholebodemeister,, but had 4 wins and 2 places elsewhere on the card, and that enabled him to top Kevin Willett (who did have Wholebodemeister) in Saturday’s $10,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks tourney, finished up with a pot $16,284. Nolan’s share of that was 70%…or $11,398.

Jim Sebes went down in flames with Vequist in the Davona Dale. She finished about a $12.00 cab ride behind Wholebodemeister. But that didn’t stop Sebes from posting the high score of the day on Saturday.

Those 7 wins and 2 places (!) translated into an NHC seat for Sebes in Saturday’s $100 qualifier at HorsePlayers.

There were enough entries to award three seats in this one, and the other two went to David Harrison (Wholebodemeister) and Jason Albano (Wholebodemisser). Albano had 4 wins and 2 places, and got his Vegas seat thanks to displaying Hubris ($14.00, $7.60) in the final tourney race, and then prevailing in a tiebreaker over an unlucky Edward Reidy.

Gary Wright (4 wins, 3 places), Kevin Willett (also 4W, 3P) and Luke Peltz (2W, 1P) were the three recipients of $2,000 entries in Saturday’s Monmouth Pick Your Prize qualifier.

Peltz was the only one of the three to have Wholebodemeister. Ironically, Willett did have Wholebodemeister in the Big Bucks Pick & Pray but failed to win the grand prize. Here, in a live-format tourney with three times as many entries, he didn’t have her, but he DID take home a grand prize. 

Shawn Pilar (5 wins, 2 places), Joe Johnson (4W, 1P), Eldon Stivers (4W, 2P) and Shane Irish (3W, 3P) each garnered $2,000 entries in Saturday’s Players Championship play-in.

None of the four played the Gulfstream cap horse.

That takes us to Sunday, and finally we have a couple of double grand prize winners to report. Both hail from California, One is a new name and the other is one you’re used to seeing.

Another week, another important seat pickup for Alta Loma’s Dylan Donnelly. Actually, that would be shortchanging Donnelly, because he grabbed two top prizes this past week and another two the week prior.

Last time, Donnelly’s two grand prizes—one to the 1/ST Ultimate Betting Challenge and the other to Keeneland—both came via tiebreaker at the expense of Evan Trommer. In yesterday’s Grade One Gamble qualifier, Donnelly was back to his old tricks.

This time it was Brett Wiener’s turn to experience the Donnelly gut punch (4 winners to 3). Clearly, Donnelly will be playing a strong hand at Keeneland (or at Xpressbet) come April 10th. Leading the way in the Gamble qualifier was Donnelly’s fellow Golden Stater Dennis Decauwer (3 wins, 3 places) of Rancho Cucamonga. Decauwer finished with a rush, hitting winners that paid $42.80, $28.60 and $17.00 over the final four contest races.

We mentioned that Donnelly will be loaded for Keeneland. So, too, for this Saturday’s Ultimate Betting Challenge.

Same picks, but this time Donnelly won in a manner he is more accustomed to—by daylight. Picking up the other $3,000 entry was Temecula, Calif., car dealer Michael Caposio.

Sunday’s other double winner was yet another Californian—and a new name to these pages—Dr. Ronald Tang.

Ronald Tang

An oncologist from Pasadena, Tang whiffed on the first four races of Sunday’s qualifier to The BIG One. Tang’s powder was dry, though, for Sonar ($30.80, $10.40) in the 9th at Gulfstream. A few races later came Psychic Ability ($42.80, $10.80) in the 11th at the Hallandale, Florida, track. 

That was it for Tang, but it was plenty for him to join previous qualifiers Rick Broth and Michael Somich in the field that will be no more than 57 for The BIG One this September. He also picked up a $500 bonus that goes to all online qualifiers to The BIG One.

Tang played most—but not all—the same horses in Sunday’s Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge qualifier at HorsePlayers. Happily, Sonar and Psychic Ability stayed on Tang’s ticket, sending him into orbit once again.

In Sunday’s $7,500 Big Bucks game, it was a case of…another featured tourney, another California winner.

This time it was San Francisco’s Craig Hom, whose 3 winners and 1 place got him the $7,124 top prize by a margin of $3.00. Hom’s most important moment of handicapping clairvoyance came with Psychic Ability. 

It was G.T. Nixon who put a stop to the Californians’ utter domination. Nixon’s namesake President may have called Whittier, Calif., home, but our Nixon posts his handicapping shingle in Port Jervis, N.Y. (a spot extremely close to both the New Jersey and Pennsylvania borders).

Nixon recorded 3 wins and no places to finish first in Sunday’s NHC qualifier. His running mate in Vegas will be runner up Bruce Dagostini (3 wins, 3 places). Both had Psychic Ability (the horse).

Gregory Caliwag may have lacked Psychic Ability…but he still managed to win Sunday’s $20,000 Guaranteed cash game.

His four wins and a place earned Caliwag $10,561 in a game with a closing purse of $23,470. Not only that, his score of $146.20 was the day’s best.

Like Caliwag, Mark Simonovic’s big horse was Ride Into the Sky at Tampa.

The 20-1 shot paid $42.60 in the win hole and was instrumental in getting Simonovic (4 wins, 0 places) a $2,500 package to the Lone Star Million Betting Challenge on Memorial Day.

Andrew Walker, Steven Meier and Patrick “Gino” Gianforte were the three to earn $2,000 entries in Sunday’s Players Championship qualifier.

All three selected a trio of winners that included both Sonar (14-1) and Psychic Ability (20-1).

If you guessed that Sunday’s plethora of prices boded poorly for $15 Pick 4 Jackpot aspirants…you were right.

Paul Stath took the top spot with 2 winners. A Jackpot carryover of $3,488 awaits Pick 4 pickers this Saturday.

So ends what was a pretty wild and wooly week of contest action. We expect to be back with another blog tomorrow in which we’ll get to know Sunday double winner Ronald Tang a little bit better. In the meantime, thanks to all for playing.