Dan Wilde has Big Day 2 to Win $213,762 in the Inaugural Players Championship, Now Eligible for Million-Dollar Bonus in Spa & Surf Showdown; Howard Welsh Sweeps Sunday Cash Tourneys; Evan Trommer Records Victories on Four Different Days (Weekly Recap, March 31-April 4)

Things weren’t looking too good for Dan Wilde when Day 1 of the $555,346 Players Championship concluded. After 15 plays in Friday, the 58-year-old electrical engineer from Cedar Park, Tex., was mired in 137th place with a score of $37.60—$99.20 less than the leader Chris Bertolucci.

Determined to take some shots in hopes of salvaging some Day-2-only money, Wilde connected on three longshots that not only got him the $13,762 Saturday high-score bonus, they wound up landing him the $200,000 top prize in the 311-entry event.

Dan Wilde celebrating Easter with his wife Beth the day after his big Players Championship victory.

Wilde, like Flo-Cal Faceoff winner Alan Levitt, is now eligible for a $1 million bonus should he go on to win the third leg of the 2021 Tourney Triple, the Spa & Surf Showdown here at HorseTourneys on August 14-15.

There was a lot of chalky results on Friday’s Day 1 of the $2,000 buy-in, All Optional Live-format event. However, when there was a price to be had, Chris Bertolucci seemed to be able to find it.

The hot start and the big place collection late earned Bertolucci a $5.60 lead at the halfway mark, and a $13,762 bonus for best score of the day on Friday.

Ryan Leeper, who played a fantastic tournament after having won his seat just 48 hours prior to the Players Championship in a Tampa qualifier, took over the lead early on Day 2 after hitting a 5-2 shot (Shadow Matter) in the 3rd on the Keeneland Blue Grass Stakes Day card.

Then it was Ilan Cuellar’s turn to make a move—and a pretty big one at that.

Cuellar—53rd after Day 1—moved into 10th place with I’ll Do it For You ($41.60 to win in the opener on the Santa Anita Derby Day card), and then all the way into the top spot when Joe Frazier fought off his Brad Cox-stablemate to win the 5th at Keeneland at odds of 10-1. 

Leeper counterpunched, however. He struck with two winning jabs at Keeneland and a place collection at Santa Anita to reclaim the lead by $17.20 over Salvatore Simeone who had suddenly hit his best stride.

Still not on anyone’s radar screen, though, was Dan Wilde.

The Texan had come up with Saratoga Beauty ($23.20, $9.60) in race 5 at Aqueduct and Rager ($37.60, 10.40) in the 3rd at Santa Anita to vault himself all the way up to 12th in the standings. 

Then came the Wood Memorial. These were the standings and the Wood selections as the horses broke from the Aqueduct starting gate.

On Saturday morning, Wilde had come to the conclusion that the New York Kentucky Derby prep lacked a standout and that the Todd Pletcher-trained Bourbonic could potentially surprise at a big price. He entered the pick right then and there and never changed it. Good (non) move.

Wilde now led by $30.90 over Ryan Leeper. Brian “BC” Chenvert had moved into third thanks to his own shot of Bourbonic.

Leeper STILL wasn’t done yet, though. He came back with 5-1 Santa Anita Derby winner Rock Your World to get within $11.90 of Wilde with four contest races remaining. 

Nothing dramatic happened over the next two races. Then Wilde surprised some by spending his final pick on the off-the-board Lavender in the 11th at Santa Anita. Fortunately for Wilde, no one too close to him in the standings used 11th race winner Quiet Secretary ($24.00, $12.80). 

Wilde took an $8.10 advantage over Leeper into the final race, the Echo Eddie Stakes at Santa Anita. Essentially, he was hoping for a victory by 3-5 favorite The Chosen Vron and for nothing too outlandish to run second. 

Hope granted.

Here’s how the final standings looked among those who cashed:

A couple of people used The Chosen Vron ($3.20, $2.60) to get themselves into the money. Adam Lewis used him to move from 14th-place to 9th (a $5,000 difference!). 

Here is a look at Dan Wilde’s two days’ worth of plays…humble beginnings and all.

Of course, not all the interesting stories in a contest involve the winner. Nicholas McMurdy came in 5th to earn $24,771. Take a look at HIS two days of play.

Thirty selections, 16 winners (including a 9-1 shot) and five places. Despite flattening out a bit at the end when he seemingly expanded his scope of playable horses, McMurdy was like a deadly accurate sniper throughout much of the two days. They say a short price beats a long face. In this case, $24,771 beats…all but Wilde, Leeper, Simeone and Chenvert.

For those scoring at home, the final prize pool of the Players Championship came to $555,346, which worked out to a takeout rate of 10.7%. We wound up adding some money to round up the first prize to an even $200,000 and to the final pay tier so that it would be equal to the buy-in ($2,000). So that;’s why the takeout might have been a bit lower than you might have anticipated.

Also, in case you were wondering, Flo-Cal Faceoff winner Alan Levitt finished 105th, ending dreams of a $2 million bonus for sweeping the Tourney Triple. He’s still eligible for a $1 million bonus, though.

As for Dan Wilde, he’ll be getting one of these in the mail sometime soon.

(Well…fairly soon…given the postal service these days). And we’ll get to know Dan a bit better tomorrow in a special Tuesday edition of the blog. In the meantime, there’s lots of other action from the past week on which to catch up.

Justin Kelly had nine collections out of 10 races on Wednesday.

Five of those were winners, including a pair in the final two races. That got him the top spot and $3,048 in Wednesday’s newly-enhanced $6,000 Guaranteed cash tourney which, in its first run, finished with a purse of $6,774.

Steve Arrison had My Danzig Partner ($15.40, $6.00) in the 11th at Parx. (Good luck typing Parx, by the way, without autocorrect changing in to Part.)

That, plus two other firsts and five seconds, got Arrison a $3,500 package to this Saturday’s Keeneland Grade One Gamble.

Five was a lucky number for Peter Osella on Wednesday.

Of the six #5 horses he picked on Wednesday, he collected on…five (4 wins, 1 place). Add a non-#5 winner on top of that and Osella had himself a $2,000 entry to the Monmouth Pick Your Prize Challenge on June 12th.

On Thursday, Blake Courtney booked 6 winners—including Something Magical ($12.20, $4.40) in the 6th at Gulfstream—out of 9 races.

At Thursday’s end, Courtney was $2,799 richer, having taken first place in the day’s (also) newly enhanced $4,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray. The final pot here was a robust $6,221.

Best we can tell, Evan Trommer didn’t win a thing on Thursday. Embarassing!

If Trommer was a featured-tourney fool on April 1st, that was the only such day of the week, however. On Wednesday, March 31st, Trommer finished on top in both Players Championship and Santa Anita Derby Challenge qualifiers.

On Friday, he led the way in the Keeneland Grade One Gamble qualifier…

…and also in the $10,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray.

Trommer used the same picks—resulting in 4 winners and 4 runners up—in each. His highest win payoff and highest place payoff were both the same—just $9.00.

On Saturday, the Players Championship here and the Santa Anita Derby Challenge at Xpressbet clearly wasn’t going to provide Trommer with enough action…so tossed his hat into the ring of the Monmouth Pick Your Prize qualifier.

Here Trommer was a distant second—but a profitable second—to Robert Pennell (5 wins, 1 place), who was the only entrant who had Bourbonic in the Wood Memorial.

Trommer enjoyed another successful non-victory on Easter Sunday.

Kevin Englehard (6 wins, 1 place) and Michael Somich (2W, 1P…all in the final 6 contest races) both got the better of Trommer in Sunday’s Keeneland Grade One Gamble qualifier, but all three emerged with $3,500 packages to next Saturday’s competition. For Trommer, we believe this is the 27th Grade One Gamble package he has won this year. (Just kidding…I think.)

Last but not least for Trommer, he eked out a 40-cent victory over Joel Wincowski in Sunday play-in to The BIG One.

Trommer had 5 wins and a place. Key to his narrow victory were three innocuous looking winners that paid $2.60, $4.40 and $4.60—but obviously those small collections made the difference. Without any one of them, Trommer loses.

All told, Trommer accumulated five outright victories and seven grand prizes over five days of competition. Not a bad week’s work…April Fool’s Day notwithstanding. 

Rewinding a bit back to Friday, Dan Piazza “caught” 6 winners (including 5 in a row at one point) and 2 runners up.

That earned the Chicago resident an NHC seat along with runner up Stu Kantor, who hit the first five winners (none paying more than $10.20 in the win hole) en route to a 6-win, 1-place day.

Jeff Bussan registered 5 firsts and 1 second to take Friday’s Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge Low Ratio Pick & Pray.

Among Bussan’s six collections was the day’s biggest “price”—Chasing Artie ($10.20, $4.80) in the 7th at Keeneland.

As already noted, Joel Wincowski came up just short in Sunday’s The BIG One qualifier. On Saturday, he had just enough.

Wincowski prevailed by one thin dime over Mark Fienberg in Saturday’s $20,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which closed with a purse of $28,302. Fienberg had two winners out of the last three races, so you’d think that this 10-cent loss was unbelievably excruciating for him…except that things really weren’t that intense…because Wincowski and Fienberg had the exact same picks in the final three races of this Pick & Pray.

Robert Rosette collected on three runners up prior to connecting on his only winner of the day—Quiet Secretary ($24.00, $12.80) in the 11th at Santa Anita.

That was enough, though, for Rosette to pocket $9,973 in Saturday’s $10,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks Pick & Pray, which closed its doors with $14,248 in the kitty.

Tyler Whisman (3 places followed by 2 wins), Ellis “Ubercapper” Starr (7W, 2P) and Agustin Quirch (3W, 2P) were the three grand-prize recipients in Saturday’s Keeneland Grade One Gamble qualifier.

They’ll each be armed with paid-up $3,500 packages for this Saturday’s event which can be played onsite at Keeneland or online at Xpressbet.

Giuseppe Petrella had Santa Anita Derby winner Rock Your World ($12.40, $4.60) among his 3 firsts and 4 seconds.

As a result, Petrella picked up a $10,000 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge entry in Saturday’s Pick & Pray at HorsePlayers.

The co-feature on Saturday at HorsePlayers was a live-format NHC qualifier. 

Albion Benton led the field (and recorded the day’s high 12-race score) on the strength of just two collections—Bourbonic in the Wood Memorial and Quiet Secretary at Santa Anita. Marc Infante (3 wins, 1 place) also had 72-1 Bourbonic to help secure the other available “Bally’s Berth” for himself.

Neither Amanda Williams on Saturday…

…nor Glenn Fromel on Sunday…

…managed to go 4-for-4 in winning their respective $15 Pick 4 Jackpot events over the weekend. So next Saturday’s pot will start out at $835.

We mentioned earlier that Michael Somich picked up a Sunday Keeneland Grade One Gamble package for finishing second, in between Kevin Engelhard and Evan Trommer. Somich can play the “Gamble” from his California home if he likes, but on Memorial Day, he’ll definitely be in Texas.

Dallas, to be precise. Grand Prairie, to be preciser. Somich whiffed on the first half of the Sunday contest races, but had two and a place over the last 6 to get the $3,000 package for the Lone Star Million Betting Challenge.

Stephen McNatton put up the day’s highest Sunday score.

It translated to a victory worth $10,000 (in entry fees) in Sunday’s Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge Low Ratio qualifier.

Howard Welsh also had a productive set of picks on Sunday.

They yielded him $10,872 in Sunday’s $20,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray (final purse: $24,160)…

….and just $186 shy of the same amount in Sunday’s $7,500 Guaranteed Big Bucks, which closed with a pot of $15,266. 

For Welsh, it was two nice Easter baskets of cash—that added up to a total of $21,558. 

Thanks to all for a thrilling weekend around here. As mentioned previously, we’ll be back tomorrow to relive the Players Championship with winner Dan Wilde.