Steve Arrison Wins Two on Wednesday and Another Two on Saturday; HT Tour Leader Jorge Cruz-Aedo Pads His Lead and Also Picks Up NHC Seat; A Sunday Three-Bagger for Gregg Kingma (Weekly Recap, December 8-12)

It’s always a noteworthy feat when a player has the skill and the courage of conviction to win multiple tourneys in a single day. It’s a far rarer occurrence when someone manages to pull such a thing off twice in one week.

But that’s what Steve Arrison did.

The Garden State handicapper assured himself of a spot in the $250,000 Guaranteed Flo-Cal Faceoff here on January 15-16 by taking Wednesday’s qualifier with 5 firsts and a second. And those same picks netted him a $500 Bally’s NHC Last Chance entry as well.

Finishing behind Arrison, but also garnering NHC Eve berths were 2016 NHC Tour champ Cheryl McIntyre (5 wins, 1 place), Eric Kurzhal (6W, 0P), Shawn Heron (3W, 2P) and William Miller (6W, 2P).

As it turned out, however, Arrison saved his best work for Saturday.

Arrison’s scorecard was Saturday’s highest. This time it netted him another entry to the Bally’s Last Chance event…

…where Arrison will face a field that includes Mark Wilgard (2 wins, 0 places), Michael “Copa” Kavana (3W, 1P), Christopher Dewey (3W, 2P) and Matthew Nixon (3W, 2P). 

We’re not saying it will happen, but should Arrison do poorly in the Bally’s NHC Last Chance tournament, he needn’t fret too much…because thanks to his big day this past Saturday, he’ll definitely be in the NHC, itself.

So will Carolyn Stovall, whose 4 winners and 1 runner up accounted for the second-best score of the tourney—and day—just $2.40 below that of Arrison.

Arrison showed a measure of versatility, prospering on both a low-scoring day (Wednesday) and a high-scoring one (Saturday). By $15.00, the high tally on Wednesday was submitted by Alan Noring.

That scoresheet earned Noring $3,794 in Wednesday’s $6,000 Guaranteed cash game, which closed its doors with a total of $8,433 in the kitty.

It is interesting to note that, among 5 firsts and 2 seconds, Noring’s biggest return ($15.00) came with one of his “losers”—as did his fourth biggest return ($11.00).

Losers were actually key for TVG’s Dave Weaver in Wednesday’s Santa Anita Opening Day Challenge qualifier.

The “Ice Cold” man chipped up with four place payoffs before connecting on his only winner in the final contest race to get up for the $1,500 entry.

Peter Rogers (5 wins, no places) also had a furious finish on Wednesday.

Rogers swept the final four heats to come from behind and grab a $1,000 entry to the January 8th Tampa Bay Downs Last Chance/First Opportunity tournament Presented by HorseTourneys. His biggest-priced winner (at odds of 7-2) came in the first contest race, and he finished with a 10-race score of $48.40.

On Thursday, Scott McFaden had a day that was almost the mirror-image of Rogers’s performance.

McFaden nailed the first 4 races en route to a 5-win, 1-place afternoon that brought him a $1,500 Flo-Cal Faceoff entry.

The top scorer on Thursday was another who strung together four consecutive winners, Alan “The Muscle” Baze.

Thanks in no small part to having Wontoughsunofagun (interesting way to spell that!) at 11-1 in the 10th at Gulfstream, Baze captured Thursday’s $5,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray.

Baze collected $3,421 from a bulky final pot of $7,603.

Daven Turner (3 wins, 2 places) and Gregory Lewis (2W, 1P) also came up with Wontoughsunofagun.

The $25.60-to-win, $12.20-to-place horse was instrumental in Turner and Lewis landing $500 Bally’s Last Chance seats. Francis Drew (4 wins, 1 place) managed to do the same despite not having Wontoughsunofagun.

With the 2021 HT Tour in its final month, the leader heading into the weekend did what he could to pad his lead.

Texan Jorge Cruz-Aedo won $9,725 for his victorious effort in Friday’s $15,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray—and if he can nurse his Tour lead home to the wire after the conclusion of racing on December 31, he’ll receive a $10,000 bonus and the title of 2021 HorseTourneys Handicapper of the Year. (He’ll also win two entries into the special $25,000 site credit tourney for the top 40 Tour finishers.)

Enough about the future. As for the past…”J. Crew” had the high score of the day on Friday.

Happily for Cruz-Aedo, he also played those picks in the $75 NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers.

Cruz-Aedo won here as well, picking up a seat to next month’s NHC along with runner up Michael “Copa” Kavana (who got himself a Bally’s entry the next day for finishing behind Steve Arrison). Both Cruz-Aedo and Kavana had Ben’s Malice ($56.60, $17.60) in the 8th at Tampa.

Terrence Severson (3 wins, 3 places) was another who had Ben’s Malice.

The Tampa longshot helped Severson earn a $1,500 entry to the Santa Anita Opening Day Challenge on the day after Christmas at Xpressbet.

A different Tampa horse proved key for Chris O’Keefe on Friday.

It was Zerenia in the final contest race whose victory at 7-2 propelled O’Keefe into the winner’s circle of our Tampa Last Chance/First Opportunity NHC qualifier. O’Keefe will hope to keep that Tampa magic going on January 8th.

Jim Lisowsky had just 2 Friday winners…but one of them was Ben’s Malice.

That plus an early 7-1 shot got Lisowsky home first in Friday’s Flo-Cal Faceoff qualifier. There were enough entries to award two $1,500 seats, and the other one went to Ed Peters (4 places followed by 1 winner), who also used Ben’s Malice.

Brett Wiener (3 wins, 3 places) led the way in Friday’s Bally’s Last Chance play-in.

Also earning NHC Eve entries were the four immediately behind Wiener—Leigh Van Winkle (3W, 0P), Lou Arellano (1W, 3P), Myles Richards (6W, 1P) and Michael Bailey (2W, 0P).

Earlier we mentioned that on Wednesday, William Miller won a Bally’s Last Chance seat. On Saturday, he added a Flo-Cal Faceoff entry to his portfolio.

Miller got the job done with 5 wins and a place. Also getting the job done for a $1,500 berth were Steven Meier (3W, 3P). Michael Myers (2W, 2P) was also worthy of a Flo-Cal berth—and he completed a Miller-Meier-Myers trifecta.

In addition to Steve Arrison, there was another who took two Saturday features.

David Nelson connected on 3 winners and 4 runners up to add his name to the roster of participants for the Tampa Bay Downs NHC qualifier Presented by HorseTourneys.

And Nelson played those same selections in Saturday’s Santa Anita Opening Day Challenge qualifier…which he also won.

There was a $500 Low Ratio NHC Pick & Pray here on Saturday.

Curtis Meyer hit on three mid-priced winners and three more-than-solid place payoffs to punch his ticket to Vegas next month. 

The richest tourney of the weekend was Saturday’s $30,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray.

This one, an HT Tour event, closed with a purse of $31,724, and its winner’s share ($14,275) was taken home by Gary Blair, who whiffed on the first five races but booked 4 wins and a place thereafter, including Rebelation ($10.40, $4.00) in the final tourney race, the 9th at Golden Gate, to get up.

Paul Cush uncovered five winners that ranged in price from $7.40 to $16.80.

And that brought him victory—and the $7,836 that went with it—in Saturday’s $10,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks Pick & Pray, which amassed a final pot of $11,195.

(Quick aside: I am constantly impressed by the high winning scores in our weekend Big Bucks games despite the relatively small number of entries in each. Apparently people who put up $1,150 a pop know what they’re doing!)

One of the few triple-figure scores of the day on Saturday was generated by Rick Bruton.

Thanks to 5 firsts and 2 seconds, he’ll be in the field about 11 months from now in the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge. Nice to knock that one out nice and early!

Tim Catlett had the first three winners, but William “The Explorer” Clark hit the 14-1 victor in final leg to finish with three winners of his own in Saturday’s $15 Pick 4 Jackpot tourney.

A similar scenario unfolded on Sunday, with Joseph Costello (5th) nailing the first three legs and Warren Coger (1st) solving the final three.

Since no one came up with that elusive fourth winner, next Saturday’s $15 Pick 4 Jackpot will begin with a carryover of $2,902.

There were nine featured tourneys on Sunday. One-third of them were won by Gregg Kingma.

Having Cryptic Creed ($45.40, $18.60) in the final contest race, the 10th at Gulfstream, rocketed Kingma from 27th-place to first in Sunday’s $20,000 Pick & Pray. Kingma banked $10,595 out of a final purse that amounted to $23,546.

Here was Kingma’s scorecard:

Those same selections got Kingma a $1,500 Flo-Cal Faceoff entry.

Finishing second and third to Kingma were Stephen McNatton (2 wins, 2 places) and Cody Conley (4W, 2P). McNatton (like Kingma) was buoyed by Cryptic Creed. Conley’s biggest price came with Richy ($21.40, $8.20) in the 8th at Gulfstream.

Kingma’s other grand prize on Sunday was a Bally’s Last Chance seat.

Joining Kingma in the big “Events Center” on Thursday, January 27th will be his nearest Sunday pursuers Dane Moore (2 wins, 1 place), Matt “The Fly” Tietze (4W, 1P), Tyler Hoffman (2W, 3P), Andy Muhlada (4W, 2P) and Joe Davidson (4W, 1P).

Andy Muhlada was also one of two $1,000 seat winners in Sunday’s Tampa qualifier.

Muhlada (4 wins, 2 places) bested all but Brody Wolfgram (5W, 1P). Richy was the highest-returning horse for both of them.

Richy was also a common denominator—and the highest earning horse—for Zachary Agamenoni (3 wins, 2 places) and Rudy Hardin (5W, 1P).

Agamenoni and Hardin will have a chance to renew their “rivalry” later this month in the Santa Anita Opening Day Challenge at Xpressbet.

Joel Wincowski’s big bombshell came at the end with Cryptic Creed.

The 21-1 shot catapulted Wincowski (4 wins, 1 place) to a first-place prize of $8,549 in Sunday’s $7,500 Guaranteed Big Bucks game, which ended up with a pot of $12,213.

Sunday’s highest scorer with a tally of $114.40 was James Lafferty.

He had both of the day’s big prices (Cryptic Code and Richy) en route to a triumph in the $210 NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers.

David “The Great” Santoni had 3 winners, including Cryptic Code, to finish second and snatch the other available NHC spot.

A 4-win (and no place) day did the trick for Anthony Laurino in Sunday’s Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge Low Ratio Pick & Pray.

Bernard Moore filled out the exacta and earned a $5,000 partial BCBC entry. 

Thanks to all of you for making it possible for host to host another 33-featured-tourney week last week. We’ll have—and recap—another full slate of marquee games in the week ahead. I look forward to typing a bunch of new names—and perhaps a few of the same ones—in this space next Monday. Good luck!