Chris Podratz Grabs Pair of NHC Seats; Brett Wiener Earns Two Grand Prizes…on Each of Two Straight Days; Howard Welsh Sweeps Top Sunday Cash Tourneys (Weekly Recap, September 1-6)

Despite a potential “NHC hangover,” players came out in full force during Labor Day weekend (and week). Some big prices along the way enabled several aggressive—and sharp—multi-tablers to visit the winner’s circle more than once on a given day. Meanwhile, a couple of players managed to have a couple of highly successful days.

As usual, the week’s featured-tourney action began on Wednesday.

In Wednesday’s 10th race at Saratoga, Crystal Andaur landed on Raining Candy ($46.60, $18.20), and soon after that, it was raining money for Andaur (3 wins, 2 places). She earned $2,799 in the day’s $6,000 Guaranteed cash game (final purse: $6,221).

On Thursday, Sean O’Malley picked three winners, and they were all juicy.

Mo Gotcha ($27.80 to win in the 8th at Saratoga), I’mgonnabesomebody ($114.60 in Del Mar race 3) and On Our Way Boyz ($11.60, Saratoga Race 10) all landed for O’Malley within the first five contest races. He was blanked over the next five, but held on to win $2,986 in Thursday’s $5,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which closed with a pot of $6,636.

Labor Day weekend kicked off on Friday with our Last Chance qualifier to the Kentucky Downs King of the Turf Handicapping Challenge.

Stephan Gravina, Anthony Spinazzola, Nick “48 Hrs.” Noce and Brian Brush each secured themselves six challenging days of handicapping fun in this one.

In the meantime, runner up Spinazzola displayed a particular fondness on Friday for Kentucky-based handicapping contests.

Spinazzola had Pulsate ($15.00, $4.80) in the 9th at Saratoga as one of his four winners that went along with two seconds. That earned him a place worth $3,500 in the October 16th Keeneland Fall BCBC/NHC Challenge.

Another Pulsate fan was Jim Lisowsky.

Pulsate provided the margin of victory for Lisowsky (4 wins, 1 place) who, as a result, will be making a return trip to The BIG One. Incidentally, the cash portion of the prize pool for the September 18-19 event is now up to a very nice $128,000 (and counting).

Another upcoming two-day event is this weekend’s $50,000 Guaranteed Exacta Extravaganza.

Zachary Zehnder and Michael Marlaire each connected on three winning three-horse exacta boxes to secure their berths in the Extravaganza—where they will be making even more three-horse boxes…on every race of the Saturday and Sunday Kentucky Downs and Woodbine cards.

Friday’s cash-game star was Carl “Flick My” Bick.

Bick lit up 4 winners and 2 runners up to pocket $8,902 in Friday’s HT Tour event, our $15,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which finished up with a purse of $19,783. His best return came with Federalist Papers ($21.60, $7.10) in the 10th at the Spa.

Over at HorsePlayers, 2017 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge runner up Ron Ferrise (2 wins, 1 place) came up with Federalist Papers…

…and that will allow Ferrise to try and improve upon his 2017 finish in the 2021 renewal of the BCBC.

Scott McKeever (5 wins, 1 place) and David May (4W, 1P) were the two seat winners in Friday’s $75 NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers.

May got up for his berth by 30 cents after hitting a 2-1 shot in the contest finale.

We mentioned earlier that Jim Lisowsky is a devotee of The BIG One. So is Michael Caposio.

Caposio, a Southern California auto dealer whose commercials are often seen these days on Los Angeles Dodgers telecasts, earned his way into the 2021 edition of The BIG One thanks to 2 wins and 2 places.

Caposio’s qualifying success prompted a kind reaction on Twitter from a pretty prominent member of the Dodgers family.

Now a Dodgers TV analyst, Hershiser (who, along with Joe Davis, makes up what I think is one of the best broadcast teams in MLB these days) presumably sees plenty of Caposio between innings. Who knew the 1988 Cy Young and World Series MVP winner was aware of (and appreciative of) Caposio’s handicapping exploits!

Of course, when you think of the Dodgers and their history, the name “O’Malley” is one that certainly comes to mind. The same can clearly be said of the Exacta Extravaganza.

Sean O’Malley—he of the $2,986 cash game success on Thursday—obtained his $500 entry for the Exacta fest by doing all his scoring in a single race at Woodbine (race 9). Michael “Copa” Kavana took a different approach in landing the other available entry. He chipped up frequently with five successful exactas.

One of Saturday’s featured-tourney heroes was one of Friday’s featured-tourney heroes.

On Friday, Anthony Spinazzola cornered the market on Kentucky-based contests, bagging seats to both the Kentucky Downs and Keeneland competitions. Apparently the one thing he was missing was a little spending money…so he won that too. Joker Boy ($19.80, $6.20 in the 6th at Del Mar) was one of 4 winners and 3 places that Spinazzola picked en route to a $14,248 payday in Saturday’s sold-out $10,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks game, which ended up with a purse of $20,355.

John Kennedy (3 wins, 4 places) and Chris Podratz (3W, 2P) were both rewarded with 2022 NHC spots owing to their fine performances in Saturday’s $165 qualifier.

They both selected Luz de la Luna ($56.50, $18.70) in the 9th at Woodbine.

Though it took some time for Podratz to pick up his first 2022 NHC seat, it sure didn’t take him long to nail down his second.

Jumping on the very next NHC qualifying opportunity (there wasn’t one on Sunday), Podratz finished second—and third!—in Monday’s $100 play-in. This particular tourney was pretty wild. First-place finisher Brian “BC” Chenvert was already double-qualified and, therefore, playing for NHC Tour Points. Podratz was second and third…but NHC rules only permit someone to win one seat in a given tournament…so Podratz’s second Monday “seat” had to be tossed back into the pond. To make things a bit more unusual, there were enough entries on this Saratoga/Del Mar dual closing day to hand out three seats—which meant that it was necessary to drill down to 4th-and 5th-place to complete the bestowing of 2022 Bally’s Berths. Congratulations to Vic Vickers and Andrew Morisch who completed the superfecta and Super High 5, respectively, in a fashion seldom so lucrative at HorsePlayers. In fact, Morisch did so by a margin of just 40 cents. 

Pardon the break with chronology…let’s get back to Saturday.

Eric Beyea swept the first 3 races but missed the 7-2 winner of Leg 4 in Saturday’s $15 Pick 4 Jackpot tourney.

On Sunday, two winners (at 13-1 in leg 1 and 36-1 in leg 4) got Nicholas Nagy top honors in Sunday’s Pick 4 tourney.

Since no one went 4-for-4 either day, next Saturday’s $15 Pick 4 Jackpot will begin at $871.

Once again, we mess up the chronological order of things as we rewind (again) to Saturday…but we don’t want to overlook the highest scorer of the day, Brett Wiener.

A weekend earlier, Wiener was cheering on his spouse Sarah at the NHC Final Table. This past weekend he was cheering on himself—in Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge qualifier at HorsePlayers…

…and again in Saturday’s HT Tour event, our $30,000 Guaranteed cash tourney.

In the latter, Wiener’s 5 wins and 3 places got him $16,029 from a final total pot of $35,621,

Wiener’s winning weekend wasn’t over, however.

On Sunday, he picked himself up a $1,500 entry to the October 2 Santa Anita Opening Weekend Challenge at Xpressbet (thanks to 4 winners). So did runner up Brian Chenvert (4 wins and a place).

Wiener also added a $3,500 Keeneland seat to his portfolio on Sunday by running second to Joseph Costello.

Costello (3 wins, 1 place) and Wiener (4W, 0P) rode different longshots into the winner’s circle. Costello was aboard Kentucky Downs 36-1 Race 10 winner Accredit, while Wiener backed 34-1 victor Liam’s Dove in the 9th at Del Mar. They both had High Limit Room ($12.40, $6.60) in the 12th at Saratoga.

There were a couple other very substantial double-winners on Sunday. One of them was Howard Welsh.

With two wins and two places, the noted cash-game specialist won $7,836 from a total pool of $11,195 in Sunday’s $7,500 Guaranteed Big Bucks game.

In his other Sunday victory, Welsh won even bigger bucks.

Welsh only had 2 wins and 1 place in Sunday’s $20,000 Guaranteed game, but one of those winners was a doozy—Liam’s Dove ($71.80, $27.40)—in the 9th at Del Mar. In exchange for $1,345 in entry fees, Welsh’s HorseTourneys account was credited with $18,242 on Sunday night, $10,406 of it from the $195 HT Tour event, which closed its doors with a purse of $23,125.

The other “double celebrator” on Sunday was Stephen McNatton who won a pair of seats valued at $6,000 each.

In the qualifier to The BIG One, McNatton (2 wins, 1 place) had Liam’s Dove plus Thomas Shelby ($28.40, $9.80) in the 10th at Saratoga.

In Sunday’s Pegasus World Cup Betting Championship qualifier, McNatton had almost the same score…despite connecting on totally different horses!

Here McNatton had 3 wins (plus a place) that included Accredit ($75.00, $25.80) in the 10th at Kentucky Downs and the horse that put him over the top—Grace Adler ($11.20, $4.80) in the final contest race, the 10th at Del Mar. It was a rare instance in which a player split his winners across two tickets almost as dramatically as possible…yet still won with both of them. Had he played all the winners on one ticket, he might have conquered the world!

As it turned out, Sunday’s highest single-entry score was posted by Ken Jordan.

It always helps when your place collections pay like winners.

Jordan’s 2 firsts and 3 seconds got him a $10,000 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge entry in Sunday’s Low Ratio qualifier at HorsePlayers. Runner up Robert Stringini received a $5,000 partial BCBC entry for his efforts.

In a weekend seemingly filled with double-winners, there was another such performer on Labor Day.

Duncan Courtney led the way in Monday’s Keeneland qualifier with 4 wins and a place. Also earning a $3,500 place in the Keeneland lineup was Paul “None the” Weizer (5W, 1P). They both had Gunite ($25.20, $6.90) in race 10, the Hopeful Stakes, at Saratoga.

Those same selections also garnered Courtney a $10,000 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge entry over at HorsePlayers.

Thanks to there being a whopping 50 entries in this Low Ratio play-in, a second BCBC berth was awarded, and that was good news for Jeff “Land” Ho.

Like Duncan Courtney, Paul Weizer and also Jeff Ho, Paul Sadler was another whose Hopeful hopes were fulfilled by Gunite.

Gunite was Sadler’s best of four winners in the course of his victory in Monday’s special $7,500 Guaranteed Big Bucks Pick & Pray. Sadler’s winning share came to $7,836 from a total closing purse of $11,195.

Gunite was also tops on Frank “54-40 or Fight” Polk’s hit parade of six winners.

Polk was the only triple-figure scorer in our $25,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which closed with a pot of $30,833. Polk collected $13,875 of that, and his score of $109.20 was the day’s best.

Not everyone needed Gunite to have a successful Labor Day.

HT Tour leader at the beginning of the weekend, Jorge Cruz-Aedo picked a six-pack of winners, though none went off higher than 9-2. For those low prices, Cruz-Aedo will cry all the way to The BIG One on September 18-19 where he will be one of no more than 57 in the field competing for at least $128,000 in cash and one of 10 top tournament seats (NHC, BCBC or Pegasus).

In Monday’s Exacta Extravaganza qualifier, John Schulist and exacta-game player par excellence Frank Fosbre each doped out five winning plays.

Both Schulist and Fosbre had the Gunite-Wit exacta ($35.00 for a buck) in the Hopeful as one of their five. They both move on to this weekend’s Extravaganza with $500 entries already paid for.

Thanks to all for being part of a full and fast-paced Labor Day week. We’ll be back next Monday to recap Exacta Extravaganza weekend—and the days leading up to it.