Gary Machiz and Darren Rudnick Each Strike Early and Often; Darren Yarwood Takes First Tampa Play-in and is Also Heading to Hawthorne; Michael Beychok Qualifies for NHC (Weekly Recap, November 17-21)

Two of this past week’s hottest players wasted no time in making their identities known. As a result, we are able to present this particular Monday recap in essentially straight, chronological order.

Darren Rudnick cashed tickets (albeit mythical HorseTourneys ones) in each of the final seven races to leave with the completely non-mythical grand prize of $2,700 in Wednesday’s $6,000 Guaranteed cash-game feature, which went off with a takeout to players of just 2.6%.

Finishing second to Rudnick—by just 30 cents—was Gary “Macho Man” Machiz, who had to settle for second-money of $1,200.

Machiz did no settling, however, in Wednesday’s Flo-Cal Faceoff qualifier.

Although the cash-game was operated in Live format, and the Flo-Cal play-in was a Pick & Pray, Machiz used the same picks in both—collecting in the first six races and in nine out of 10 overall. It figured to be a hard performance for Machiz to top…but the next day, he tried.

While Machiz suffered the indignity of only collecting in the first five races on Thursday (as opposed to six), he bumped his final tally up to $89.20, which was good for $3,950 payday in Thursday’s $5,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which closed its doors with a purse of $8,776. The first four of those early five collections for Machiz were all winners, and he finished with a total of 5 wins and a place on the day.

On Friday, it was back to being Darren Rudnick’s turn.

Wednesday’s cash-game hero turned out to be Friday’s as well. Here, Rudnick put up 5 winners (and no places) out of 10 races to pocket $8,977 in the day’s HT Tour event, our $15,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which wound up with a final pot of $19,950. With total earnings of $11,677 over the course of his Wednesday/Friday victories, it’s safe to say that Rudnick can afford all the trimmings to go along with his Thanksgiving turkey this week.

Contrary to what you might be thinking at this point, Rudnick and Machiz did not win all the featured tourneys last week.

Gregory Lewis needs to digest his Thursday turkey (and trimmings) quickly because on Saturday and Sunday, he’ll be competing at Hawthorne in their Thanksgiving weekend contests with his $1,000 in entry fees already covered. Lewis put up 4 winners—topped by Thinkin Cowtown ($20.40, $7.60) in the 7th at Gulfstream—plus one runner up to trot off with the grand prize.

Giuseppe Petrella and Daniel Goldstein have more time for the Tryptophan to wear off.

No matter how much turkey they stuff themselves with, we trust they’ll both be in fine shape by the time the $250,000 Guaranteed Flo-Cal Faceoff rolls around here on January 15-16. Petrella (2 wins, 4 places) and Goldstein (3W, 1P) each earned $1,500 Faceoff entries for their one-two finish. Both players had Thinkin Cowtown on their scorecards.

That 9-1 winner at Gulfstream was the only double-digit win price of the day in the Friday features. So it’s no surprise that the two winners of the $75 NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers had Thinkin Cowtown…or (given the number of entries) that the tourney yielded Friday’s highest score.

That high score belonged to William Sullivan (3 wins, 4 places), who made collections in each of the first 6 races. 

Finishing second to Sullivan and also grabbing an NHC spot was 2012 NHC champ Michael Beychok. The Million-Dollar Man had 3 wins and 3 places on Friday, and in a couple of months, he will see if Las Vegas lightning can strike a second time—10 years after the first strike.

Unlike Friday, when one horse (Thinkin Cowtown) was a veritable pre-requisite to success, there was a lot more meat on the Saturday bones. That led to many different pathways to victory—and also wound up meaning that no one claimed more than one featured grand prize on the day.

Clint Littlejohn was responsible for the high score of the day. His 3 wins and 2 places got him into the winner’s circle of the weekend’s richest game, our $30,000 Guaranteed cash competition, which served as the day’s HT Tour event and closed up shop with a final purse of $33,880. Littlejohn had three of the several good prices out there on Saturday.

One horse that Littlejohn missed was Have a Souper Day ($22.80, $9.80) in the 8th at Woodbine. Gregory Caliwag (4 wins, 1 place) and Richard Ilharreguy (2W, 2P) didn’t miss that one, though.

The Woodbine winner was the biggest piece of Caliwag’s and Ilharreguy’s portfolios in Saturday’s Flo-Cal Faceoff qualifier. Unique Unions was the key contributor for Michael Marlaire (3 wins, 1 place) who finished third and pulled in the other available $1,500 entry—despite failing to enter a pick in one of the 12 contest races.

The best horse of the day for Rick Vasquez (4 wins, 1 place) was Scuttlebuzz ($15.20, $7.10) in the 8th at Aqueduct.

The lack of any $20+ horses was no problem for Vasquez in Saturday’s $10,000 Big Bucks Pick & Pray. He hit for $11,398 in a high-end game ultimately worth a total of $16,284.

Brass Compass ($24.00, $11.30) in the 8th at Woodbine was the pathfinder that brought Daniel “El Camino” Real and Eddie Inman out of the $165 NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers successfully.

Real finished the day with 5 firsts and 3 seconds while Inman checked in with 4 winners and another 4 runners up.

On Saturday, we hosted our first qualifier to the Del Mar Fall Challenge, to be held this Saturday on-track and at

There were enough entries to award three $3,000 entries and the skillful trio was comprised of local Tyler Frausto (5 wins, 2 places), Gloria Kahlden (5W, 1P) and Jorge Palza (4W, 3P). Emblematic of the day’s play, Frausto had Brass Compass, Kahlden came up with Unique Unions and Palza had…neither.

On Saturday, Nicholas Bozovsky (4 wins, 2 places) and Gary Leff (3W, 0P) stuffed their pockets with $1,000 in entry fees for the Hawthorne Thanksgiving weekend contests.

Bozovsky came up with Brass Compass and Leff uncovered Unique Unions on the way to their respective grand prizes.

James Smith had 2 winners (the two toughest) on Saturday…

…while Paul Stath prevailed with just one on Sunday in the weekend’s $15 Pick 4 Jackpot tourneys.

In Sunday’s game the entire field was knocked out of Jackpot consideration after Leg 2 when Chase the Cat upset the favorite at 20-1 odds at Aqueduct. That means a carryover of $1,419 will await those who elect to dip a toe into the water of next Saturday’s $15 Pick 4 Jackpot tourney. 

A big winner on Sunday was Darren Yarwood.

Yarwood had Chase the Cat ($42.80, $13.60) among three winners on the day, and he led the way in our first qualifier to the January 8th NHC qualifier that we are presenting at Tampa Bay Downs. Ron Tackett (5 wins, 2 places) saved his day with Miss Carousel ($5.20, $3.40) in the final contest race, the 7th at Del Mar, to get up for the other available $1,000 entry.

Simultaneous to his Tampa triumph, Yarwood (one of two highly successful Darrens this week) got himself $1,000 in entry fees for this weekend at Hawthorne.

Yarwood ran second to Don Allen who compiled 4 winners—Chase the Cat, plus each of the final three contest race victors.

Incidentally, that Miss Carousel race in the 7th at Del Mar was the sort that might have left half of all competitors either celebrating or feeling highly disappointed for falling just short. Here’s how they finished:

Three noses at the wire—and four more not far behind them.

Brett Wiener (3 wins, 1 place) and Eric Kurzhal (3W, 2P) were the two winners in our first play-in to the December 26th Santa Anita Opening Day Challenge.

The biggest producer for both was Starlight Ridge ($29.40, $12.00) in the 8th at Woodbine.

Jim Trepinski was another who used Starlight Ridge as his primary springboard to victory.

And a lucrative springboard it was! Starlight Ridge was one of four winners that propelled Trepinski to a $7,836 cash prize in Sunday’s $7,500 Big Bucks tourney, which ended up with a pot of $11,195.

Some may remember the name Miguel Wenceslao. Miguel was the winner of our $90,000 Breeders’ Cup Saturday cash feature. This past Sunday, those who had forgotten Miguel’s name relearned it.

Wenceslao had just 2 firsts and a second on Sunday, but they were all pricy collections that enabled him to bank $10,305 in the day’s HT Tour event, our $25,764 cash game, which closed with a purse of $25,764.

Sunday’s highest scorer had both of the day’s big longshots, Chase the Cat and Starlight Ridge.

Those two tote busters plus one other winner and two runners up sent Kevin Engelhard on to victory in Sunday’s Del Mar Fall Challenge qualifier. Also earning $3,000 entries were the second- and third-place finishers Nick “48 Hrs.” Noce (4 wins, 1 place) and John Kimove (4W, 0P). Kimove was on the winning end of that Del Mar race 7 photo, involving Miss Carousel, to get up late for third.

There were three Sunday winners of $1,500 entries in our Flo-Cal Faceoff play-in (even though the 1-per-15 game attracted 43 entrants).

Congratulations to Steve Terelak (2 wins, 3 places), Ralph Lough (5W, 3P) and Michael Solakis (3W, 1P). 

The first qualifier—over at HorsePlayers—to the 2022 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge wound up being a pretty straightforward affair: Reach triple figures and you win.

The three who did so were Rocky Hardy (4 wins, 0 places), Rich Cristiano (4W, 2P) and 2017 BCBC runner up Ron Ferrise (2W, 1P). All three had the 20-1 Chase the Cat in the 10th at the Big A.

Chase the Cat was also the key to victory in the other Sunday feature at HorsePlayers, a $165 NHC Pick & Pray restricted to those who had yet to garner a 2022 berth.

The good news for William Kennedy is that he will be in the field for the 2022 NHC on January 28-30 thanks to his 4 firsts and 2 seconds. The bad news for him is that he is no longer eligible for these restricted contests. We think he can live with that.

Congratulations to last week’s winners and thank you to all who competed. There figures to be some excellent racing over this upcoming holiday weekend, and we’ll be back here on Monday to recap all of the featured-tourney action. In the meantime, we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and safe travels.