Championship Meet Opening at Gulfstream and Cigar Mile Weekend at Aqueduct Provide the Backdrop for Busy Friday, Saturday and Sunday at HorseTourneys and HorsePlayers

With six featured tourneys on Friday, nine on Saturday and 10 more on Sunday, things are going to be hopping here this weekend with upwards of 20 important contest seats and $82,500 in guaranteed cash at stake.

The races that will decide where these prizes go figures to be excellent too. Gulfstream Park opens its 2021-22 Championship meeting on Friday, while Aqueduct hosts its stakes-packed Cigar Mile Day on Saturday and Woodbine offers its customary assortment of big fields on what is its next-to-last weekend of the year.

Simply put, the stage is set and the arrows seem to be pointing in the right direction. Now all that’s left is for the horses—and your handicapping—to follow the script. As usual, we raise the curtain on the weekend featured-tourney acts on Friday.

Friday’s top event is our $15,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which also serves as the day’s HT Tour event. You can play for $190, and there is no limit to how high the purse could go…though it won’t be less than 15 grand.

Four qualifiers will be offered on each day of the weekend. One of them is our play-in to the $250,000 Guaranteed Flo-Cal Faceoff here on January 15-16. An entry fee of $118 buys you a 1-in-15 chance at a $1,500 entry.

The same entry fee and winning ratio will be in place for Friday Xpressbet Santa Anita Opening Weekend Challenge Pick & Pray. Winners get a $1,500 entry to the December 26th competition.

Business had been brisk in our qualifiers to the January 8th Tampa Bay Downs “Last Chance/First Opportunity” NHC qualifier held on-track in Oldsmar, Fla., and presented by HorseTourneys. One of every 15 entries, at $80 per entry, will earn a $1,000 Tampa seat in this Pick & Pray.

Another one-per-day qualifier here this weekend is that to the Bally’s NHC First Chance/Last Chance tournament on Thursday, January 27th. Victors in Friday’s $59, 1-per-10 Pick & Pray earn a $500 entry for the annual Vegas prelude.

HorsePlayers regulars know what the Friday feature is.

It’s a $75 NHC Pick & Pray with two spots guaranteed and a winning ratio of 1-per-143. Remember—you must be a 2021 NHC Tour member, prior to the start of the contest, in order to be eligible for an NHC package in this or any other NHC qualifier. If you’re not a member, you can become one quickly and easily at for a $50 membership fee.

Contest races for Friday are the 8th through 10th from Aqueduct; the 8th through 11th on the opening-day card at Gulfstream and races 7 through 9 from Tampa Bay Downs—10 races in all.

The weekend’s richest tourney—another HT Tour event—is part of the Saturday featured slate.

That big-money game is Saturday’s $30,000 Guaranteed, No Limit tourney, which, like most of the Saturday and Sunday features, will be run in Live format this week.  An upfront investment of $350 gets you action in this one.

In addition to the “big-money” game, there’s also the Saturday Big Bucks tourney, which is always run as a Pick & Pray. It’s an “up-to-$20,000” competition with a purse guarantee of $10,000. Entries—at $1,150 each—are limited to 20 (unless we get a late arrival or two from last-minute Saturday feeders…in which case the pot will exceed $20,000). Payouts go just to the top three finishers with the winner collecting 70 percent of the net pool, the runner up getting 20 percent, and the third-place finisher picking up the remaining 10 percent.

Also on tap on Saturday, as alluded to earlier, are qualifiers to the Flo-Cal Faceoff ($118 entry fee, 1-per-15 winning ratio), the Santa Anita Opening Day Challenge ($118, 1-per-15), the Tampa Bay Downs tournament Presented by HorseTourneys ($80, 1-per-15) and the Bally’s NHC First Chance/Last Chance contest ($59, 1-per-10). Unlike the Friday versions, however, all four of these games will be operated in Live format.

In Pick & Pray format is Saturday’s $15 Jackpot Pick 4 tourney. The carryover amount heading into it is $1,767. In our Pick 4 Jackpot games, going four-for-four means you win or share the Jackpot. (You don’t have to be the only winner.) Meanwhile, 70% of the daily net pool gets paid out to players via the traditional $2.00 win/place scoring system. The other 30% goes to the Jackpot pool. Entries in these Jackpot Pick 4 tourneys are limited to three per person.

The Jackpot Pick 4 races for Saturday are the 9th and 11th from Claiming Crown Day at Gulfstream and races 9 and 10 (both stakes) at Woodbine.

Over at HorsePlayers, there’s an NHC qualifier and a Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge play-in on the Saturday featured schedule.

The NHC game is a “regular,” $165, Live-format tourney with two berths to next month’s (!) big dance guaranteed. 

The Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge qualifier is a $179 Pick & Pray with at least one $10,000 entry guaranteed to be awarded regardless of participation levels.

Saturday’s 12-race featured-tourney contest races are the 7th through 10th (all graded stakes culminating with the Grade I Cigar Mile) from Aqueduct; the 7th through 11th (all Claiming Crown races with at least 10 horses entered each) at Gulfstream; and the 8th through 10th (average field size is 12 with two of them being stakes) from Woodbine.

Ten more features come your way on Sunday.

They’re not all loaded into our system and picture on our homepage yet, but count on the fact that liive-format qualifiers are again slated for the Flo-Cal Faceoff ($118 entry fee), Santa Anita Opening Day Challenge ($118), Tampa Bay Downs Last Chance/First Opportunity contest ($80) and the Bally’s NHC First Chance/Last Chance tournament ($59). 

Sunday’s HT Tour event is our $20,000 Guaranteed, No Limit cash game. Entries cost $195 each for this Live-format test.

The Sunday Big Bucks tourney is always run in Live format. It’s an up-to-$20,000 skirmish with $7,500 Guaranteed and an entry fee of $1,150. Entries are limited to 20, and payouts again are directed only to the top three finishers.

Another $15 Pick 4 Jackpot tourney is also on the Sunday agenda. The Jackpot amount will depend on how many played in the Saturday Pick 4 Jackpot tourney—and whether anyone hit it. Check our website or our Twitter feed starting on Saturday night for updates.

Meanwhile, there are not one…not two…but three featured tourneys on Sunday at HorsePlayers.

Two of them are NHC qualifiers. One is a $165 Pick & Pray restricted to those who have yet to garner a 2022 berth. At least one seat is guaranteed to be dispersed, and since this is a restricted affair, no NHC Tour points will be awarded here.

The other NHC qualifier is a Live-format Low Ratio play-in. The entry fee is $500, the winning ratio is 1-per-21—and note that there must be at least 10 entries signed on in order for this game to “go.”

The Sunday BCBC qualifier is a $500, Live-format, Low Ratio tourney with at least one $10,000 definitely headed out the door. The winning ratio here is 1-per-23 (though less than that, given the guarantee, should fewer than 23 sign up). 

We hope this weekend marks the beginning of a “December to Remember” for you. Good luck in all of your qualifying and cash-game pursuits.