Tom Cooper and Brian Chenvert Survive Strange Thursday Features; Another Friday High Five for Raymond Riley; Eric Kurzhal Scores a Saturday Hat Trick (Weekly Recap, March 3-7)

History repeated itself on Friday—and not just because Raymond Riley won the day’s featured cash tourney for a second consecutive week.

The box score really doesn’t tell the story, because not only did Riley add $7,481 to the $8,304 he won on February 26th, he did so by once again picking seven winners. And for the second consecutive Friday, Riley opened things up by nailing five straight winners.

In case you don’t believe us, here’s Riley’s scorecard from the previous Friday. 

At least Riley showed us this week that he is human by missing three races. (How embarassing!). The previous week he collected in 10 out of 10. 

Riley’s Friday feats of handicapping strength rewarded him twice this week.

Riley and Scott Roberts (2 wins, 2 places) joined the roster of 126 who have qualified thus far to the Players Championship here on April 2-3. The purse for the middle leg of the Tourney Triple has now exceeded its guarantee and has reached $223,020 with more than three weeks of qualifying still to come.

While Riley’s Friday accomplishments could be described as ironic, Thursday’s featured-tourney doings were downright unique.

When animal rights protesters staged a “lay-in” (?) at Golden Gate Fields, it took the concept of post drag to a new extreme. Selections for our 10-race Pick & Prays—which included races 4, 5, 6 and 7 at Golden Gate—were already locked in. With the delay at Golden Gate having reached the four-hour mark, the leaderboard for our Players Championship qualifier looked like a candy stripe-colored picket fence.

The problem for Brian Chenvert and Daniel Zaretsky at this point was that only six of the 10 races had been completed, and our rules mandate that 70% of a tourney’s races must be run for an event to be “official.” Surely Golden Gate would eventually be forced to cancel as night fell on the Albany, Calif, oval.

Guess again! After a 6 1/2 hour delay, the protesters left the track. Meanwhile, Golden Gate officials cranked up the track’s lights (which hadn’t been used for racing in quite some time) and said, “The show must go on!” Race 1 had to be canceled but the remaining six races were a go.

This was a welcome development for Chenvert and Zaretsky.

An even bigger beneficiary of Golden Gate’s persistence was Tom Cooper, who won $2,557 in Thursday’s $2,500 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which closed (about nine hours earlier!) with a final purse of $5,115.

Cooper finished with 6 wins and 2 places, which was notable in its own right. More notable, though, was the timing of those six winners.

Races 6 and 7 at Golden Gate wound up being run after midnight on the East Coast. That means that four of Cooper’s winners took place on Thursday, and two came on Friday. Not easy to do in a one-day contest!

It was a strange day—one that almost had the feel a baseball game with a lengthy rain delay. Of course, there was the Haskell Stakes heat delay at Monmouth in 2019…but that was “only” a 4 1/2-hour delay. This one last Thursday wasn’t just longer, however, it was weirder, what with the “day-turns-into-night” aspect thrown in. In the end, though, many racing fans felt a sense of exhilaration that Golden Gate got their card in. We’re a hardy bunch, we horseplayers! Certainly, we never would have stood for the situation in Chicago on August 23, 1990…when the Chicago White Sox-Texas Rangers game was called off after a 7 hour, 23 minute rain delay—without a single pitch ever being thrown!

One other odd twist to last Thursday: Even though the protesters were able to disrupt the races as they had hoped, they were subsequently vilified in the Bay Area media… because their actions caused a Covid vaccination site in the track parking lot to cancel some 200 appointments that afternoon. 

Perhaps it wasn’t NTRA Moment of the Year material, but I have a feeling some of us will remember Thursday, March 4th for quite some time.

Michael Odorisio will remember Wednesday, March 3rd for quite some time.

Odorisio pocketed $3,266 in Wednesday’s $4,000 Guaranteed cash tourney which had a closing pot of $7,258. Odorisio picked 7 winners out of 10 races, and he actually did Raymond Riley one better here in that he swept the first six races on the contest card.

Shawn Pilar also pieced together several smallish collections—4 wins and 3 places—to achieve victory in his Wednesday competition.

Pilar came up with What’s Inside ($9.80, $5.60) in the final contest race, the 10th at Gulfstream, to garner a $3,500 package to the April 10th Keeneland Grade One Gamble.

Somewhat surprisingly, Pilar and Odorisio accomplished their triumphs despite both having missed what was by far the day’s biggest price—Eclipsed Moon ($24.40, $8.60) in the 11th at Parx. Neither Zachary Agamenoni nor Jerald Segall made that mistake.

Agamenoni (3 wins, 1 place) and Segall (2W, 2P) both used Eclipsed Moon as springboards to success in Wednesday’s Monmouth Pick Your Prize qualifier. Both received $2,000 entries to the June 12th event.

Bryan Ingram (2 wins, 3 places) and Brendan Fay (3W, 2P) also had Eclipsed Moon.

As a result, both will be competing for big money in next month’s Players Championship here at HorseTourneys. 

Getting back to Friday’s featured tourneys (those not won by Raymond Riley), Michael Kiatipis recorded a pair of firsts and a pair of seconds to pick up a $3,500 Keeneland Grade One Gamble package.

The big horse for Kiatipis was Serenade a Kitten ($24.60, $12.40) in the 7th at Gulfstream.

Serenade a Kitten also played a key role in Friday’s $75 NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers.

There were enough entries to award three packages (rather than the guaranteed two) and Thomas Kuzdal (4 wins, 1 place), Christopher Dewey (3W, 0P) and Charley “Noble Three” Witt (3W, 1P) all had Serenade a Kitten on their serendipitous scorecards. 

Peter Rogers registered 4 wins and a place to grab a $3,000 Lone Star Million Betting Challenge package.

The last winner for Rogers was small—just 2-1—but it was large because it came in the final contest race and blocked Scott McGovern from the top spot.

Meanwhile, Brett Wiener was the winner of Friday’s Monmouth Pick Your Prize qualifier.

Wiener receives a $2,000 entry for the June 12th, all-Monmouth contest that can be played onsite or at Xpressbet or, for Garden Staters, via 4NJBets.

It seems that not many bombs have been winning in our featured tourneys of late. A couple of Kentucky Derby preps sure took care of that on Saturday.

Robert Frabbricatore had both Helium ($32.80 in the Tampa Bay Derby) and Weyburn ($95.50 in the Gotham) among his 7 wins and 2 places to finish best of 2,240 in Saturday’s free NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers. He also had Life is Good…just to prove that he can pick chalky Derby prep winners too. 

Congratulations as well to Jim Murphy, Martin Quinn, Shaun Broderick and “Battlin’” William Smith who finished 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th, respectively, behind Frabbricatore and also punched their tickets on the cheap to the 2022 NHC.

That NHC qualifier was a special 15-race competition. The rest of the day’s features were of the more customary 12-race variety, and the player who posted the highest 12-race score was Eric Kurzhal.

Kurzhal’s six winners rewarded him thrice. They earned him $15,531 in the richest tourney of the week, Saturday’s $25,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray (final pot: $34,515).

They got him a $10,000 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge seat.

And they also landed him in the $223,000 (and counting) Players Championship.

William Roth (3 wins, 1 place), Thomas Clark (5W, 1P) and Marc Wlodkowski (3W, 0P) also earned $2,000 entries to the middle leg of the 2021 Tourney Triple. Clark did so despite missing on Weyburn. He got up into the top four by having 5-1 stretch  runner Idol get up in the final contest race, the Santa Anita Handicap.

The runner up in the Players Championship qualifier, William Roth, also had a happy 2nd-place finish in Saturday’s Monmouth Pick Your Prize qualifier.

A score of $100 proved to be the magic mark here. Roth was topped only by Charles Welch in this one. Welch had 3 wins and 3 places with five of his collections coming in the first six races.

With two winners (at 5-1 and 15-1), William “The Explorer” Clark discovered himself in first place in Saturday’s $15 Pick 4 Jackpot tourney.

On Sunday, there was a tie for top honors in the Pick 4 Jackpot game with David Hooven and David Herberholz selecting two winners each.

Since no one managed to go 4-for-4 last weekend, next Saturday’s $15 Pick 4 Jackpot tourney will begin with $4,758 already in the kitty.

Dylan Donnelly (6 wins, 1 place) continued his winning ways on Sunday.

He took the lead of the $20,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray by 60 cents with one race left and held on from there to take home the winner’s share of $10,716 in a game ultimately worth a total of $23,815. For Donnelly, it was his fifth featured-tourney victory in the last three weeks.

The two highest scores on Sunday came in the day’s NHC qualifier.

Crystal Andaur had 6 winners and Alex DeVito put up 5 wins and 3 places to get themselves into the 2022 renewal of the big dance. Here’s a look at Andaur’s best-of-day scorecard:

Howard Welch didn’t get himself into the big dance, but he will again be a part of The BIG One.

A seeming fixture at The BIG One, the New Jersey native won his way into “The High Expectation Tournament” by virtue of four winners and two places. Since there were no Triple Crown preps on Sunday, there were no huge prices. One of Welch’s winners was the biggest available all day—Dancing Doll ($15.60, $7.80) in the 8th at Gulfstream.

The fact that a 6-1 shot was the highest-priced winner meant that there were many, many paths to victory, and it resulted in 14 first prizes being won by 14 different people. One of the 14 was Marc Racenstein.

Racenstein recorded 4 firsts and 2 seconds en route to a $10,000 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge entry in Sunday’s Low Ratio qualifier at HorsePlayers.

Peter Osella added $7,124 to his bank account in Sunday’s $7,500 Guaranteed Big Bucks tourney.

Osella (5 wins, 1 place) hit North County Guy ($8.40, $4.40) in the final contest race to leapfrog Drew Keaton in the $10,177 Pick & Pray. Keaton lost by 40 cents here and by 60 cents to Dylan Donnelly in the $23,815 cash tourney. He wound up with a very nice $6,322 on the day…but he was oh so close to $17,841. Sometimes the game can be tough even when you win.

Three players earned $3,500 packages in Sunday’s Keeneland Grade One Gamble qualifier. 

Congratulations to Matthew Kroska (5 wins, 0 places), Evan Trommer (4W, 2P) and Sammy Toups (4W, 2P). Kroska and Trommer had the day’s “longshot,” Dancing Doll.

There actually WAS more of a bonafide longshot in Sunday’s Players Championship qualifier…because it was an All Optional Live game in which players made 10 picks from among 25 eligible races. 

One of those 25 available races was the 2nd at Golden Gate (all races run on time Sunday!) and Carl R. Logan used Freeport Joe in it. One of four winners for Logan, Freeport Joe returned $28.40 to win and $7.80 to place and gave Logan a lead he would never relinquish. Also leaving with $2,000 Players Championship entries were Scott Cavalieri (4 wins, 2 places) and Dan Shugar (3W, 2P). Shugar also came up with Freeport Joe.

We’ll be back with another All Optional Live Players Championship qualifier next Sunday (designed in part to help get players more familiar with the format of the April 2-3 Players Championship), and we’ll be back with more of the other featured-tourney games and formats on Wednesday. Thanks to all for being part of an enjoyable—and, yes, rather memorable—week.