Evan Trommer and Wayne Atwell Grab NHC Seats on Friday, Then Do More Winning Two Days After; Gregg Kingma and Lucas Van Zandt Dominate Saturday; One Week Later, Brett Wiener Enjoys a Truly Super Sunday (Weekly Recap, February 16-21)

To my knowledge, Floridian Evan Trommer and Californian Wayne Atwell do not know each other. However, the two were coincidental “running buddies” last week, seldom leaving the other’s shadow. 

It started on Friday.

There were enough entries in Friday’s $75 NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers to award three spots to next year’s big dance. The first-place finisher was Gary Bain, who turned in the day’s highest score.

The second and third NHC seats went to Trommer (4 wins, 1 place) and Atwell (1 place, followed by 3 winners). Like Bain, Trommer and Atwell both had Jeff’s Angel ($34.80, $13.00) in the 9th at Tampa.

Two days later, Trommer and Atwell turned up in the Low Ratio Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge qualifier at HorsePlayers, and again the two were breathing down each other’s neck.

This time, Atwell got the better of Trommer, hitting the final three races to finish off a 4-win, 3-place day and claim the $10,000 BCBC spot. Trommer had to settle for a $5,000 partial entry.

It was quite a Sunday for Trommer. He played in a couple of other Sunday games that Atwell sat out—and, in those, Trommer did little “settling.”

Trommer had the day’s biggest price in Rosenquist ($18.40, $8.40) in the 6th at Santa Anita, and that plus four other winners got him the grand prize of $7,836 in Sunday’s $7,500 Guaranteed Big Bucks tourney, which finished up with a total purse of $11,195. Not only did Trommer rake in the “Big Bucks,” but in doing so, he was able to “Beat Bobby Flay.”

Trommer couldn’t Beat Brett Wiener, though.

That didn’t upset Trommer too much, however, as he still got a $2,000 Players Championship out of the deal. So did third-place finisher Jose Giron (2 wins, 4 places). 

Let’s get back to Wiener, though. While we’ve been justifiably trumpeting the Sunday (and Friday) exploits of Trommer and Atwell, no one had a better Sunday than Wiener.

With 4 wins and a place, he captured Sunday’s Monmouth Pick Your Prize qualifier, thus grabbing his second $2,000 seat of the day.

He also locked down a spot in the 2023 NHC.

Adding a place collection to his Monmouth scoresheet in this one, Wiener bested all but victor David Pyrz, who accumulated 5 firsts and 1 second. As was the case on Friday at HorsePlayers, this NHC qualifier drew enough entries to award one seat more than the 2-seat guarantee, and seat #3 here went to “Iso” Joe Johnson on the strength of a Pyrz-like 5 wins and 1 place.

Winning NHC and Players Championship and Monmouth seats is always nice, but a bird in the hand is good too. Wiener got that as well.

It wasn’t the grand prize, but second money of $5,512 had to be a nice kicker to all the seat stacking by Wiener. The leaderboard was tight at the top of Sunday’s $20,000 Guaranteed tourney (an HT Tour event) and, at the end, the big prize went to Barbara Small (5 wins, 3 places) who had 9-5 Barraza at the end in the San Simeon at Santa Anita. She finished with the co-top score of the day (tied with David Pyrz) and pocketed $13,781 in a game ultimately worth $30,625.

Before we rewind back to the beginning of the week and start to recap things in a more chronological way, we want to highlight one other very impressive Sunday performance. It came in the day’s qualifier to the Sam Houston Texas Champions Day  contest.

It wasn’t exactly a parade of longshots, but any way you slice it, firing off seven consecutive winners at the start of a contest is pretty fancy shootin’. That’s what David Long did en route to his well-earned $1,000 entry for March 26th in Texas.

The first featured cash tourney of the week went to Michael Lynch Jr. on Wednesday.

Sent off at 27-1, Shesascoldasice was the heavy lifter for Lynch (6 wins, 2 places) en route to the high score of the day and a reward of $4,074 in our $5,000 Guaranteed game.

Final pot for this one came to a hefty $9,055.

Fourteen seats to the Players Championships, middle leg of the 2022 Tourney Triple, were awarded during the week. The first two of those were bestowed in Wednesday’s Pick & Pray.

Charles Welch (2 wins, 1 place) did all his scoring over the first five tourney races. He and the other $2,000 seat recipient, Michael Marlaire, both had Shesascoldasice.

Given the way the prices shook out on Wednesday, Shesascoldasice was a veritable prerequisite for Wednesday featured-tourney success. Gregory Lewis was another who reaped the benefits for channeling his inner Foreigner.

Lewis gets a $3,500 berth in the April 23rd Keeneland Grade One Gamble—a popular fixture on each year’s contest calendar.

Another who was hot as a pistol thanks to Shesascoldasice was Dave Gray.

Gray earned a $2,000 seat to another highly popular contest staple, the Monmouth Pick Your Prize Handicapping Challenge on June 4th.

On Thursday, Troy Robertson earned $3,670 by taking the day’s $6,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which closed with a purse of $8,156.

Robertson hit all three double-digit winners that were available to be had on Thursday, including a 30-1 bomb in the 4th at Sam Houston.

Jared Quigley didn’t have the Sam Houston longshot—and finished with a score less than half that of Robertson—but he still finished best of all in Thursday’s Players’ Championship qualifier.

Quigley finished with 4 winners out of 10 races to earn the seat in the $350,000 Guaranteed all-cash event here on April 9-10. 

Two more players handicapped their way into the Players Championship on Friday.

The skillful pair was Ronald Wissig (2 wins, 1 place) and Steven Meier (2W, 5P). They both came up with Jeff’s Angel ($34.80, $13.00) in the 9th at Tampa.

The big horse for Gary Blair (5 wins, 1 place) was Gulfstream Race 9 winner Drillomatic ($39.40, $16.00) in the final contest race.

The Chantal Sutherland-piloted longshot rocketed Blair all the way to the top for a victory worth $9,276 in Friday’s HT Tour event, our $15,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which closed with a purse of $20,615.

Another who had Drillomatic—though not much else—was 2021 HT Tour Champ Jorge Cruz-Aedo.

The Houston native had just a mere $2.40 place collection prior to the Drillomatic fireworks, but those two collections alone got him the $1,000 entry for the March 26th Texas Champions Day contest. And Cruz-Aedo shouldn’t be too inconvenienced by the crosstown drive to Sam Houston that day.

Over the first seven races on Friday, Dane Moore’s score was even worse than Cruz-Aedo’s.

Taking a score of zero into contest race 8, Moore made collections in each of the final three to walk off with a $3,500 1/ST Ultimate Betting Challenge entry.

Eric Kurzhal also had Drillomatic—and augmented that longshot with three other winners plus two places.

The six Kurzhal collections added up to a $3,500 Keeneland Grade One Gamble berth.

Every price counted for William Price (2 wins, 3 places) in Friday’s Monmouth Pick Your Prize qualifier.

A $7.40 place payoff in the final race gave Price a total of $40.60—good for a 20-cent victory over Steve Arrison and 20 others…and good for a $2,000 Monmouth entry.

Saturday was a rewarding day in cyberspace for Gregg “Sky” Kingma and Lucas Van Zandt.

The two combined to account for all three of the available $2,000 entries in Saturday’s Players Championship qualifier.

Kingma played those same picks in Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge qualifier and enjoyed an even more lucrative triumph.

Van Zandt, meanwhile, took his talents…not to South Beach…but to the Keeneland Grade One Gamble play-in.

So it turned out to be a $12,000 Saturday (in terms of seat winnings) for Kingma, and a $7,500 afternoon for Van Zandt.

“Ask not what your horses can do for you. Ask what you can do for your horses.” John Kennedy didn’t say that—but he did manage to record the highest score on Saturday.

Kennedy’s tally resulted in a narrow yet valuable victory worth $17,740 in the richest tourney of the week, our $30,000 Guaranteed cash game, which closed with a purse of $39,424 and doubled as the day’s HT Tour competition.

A recent NHC Hall of Fame inductee captured Saturday’s Monmouth Pick Your Prize qualifier.

It was 2007 NHC Hero Stanley Bavlish. He had Ever Smart ($31.40, $13.20) in the 3rd at Santa Anita among his 3 firsts and 1 second.

Bill Shurman also had Ever Smart en route to a Saturday triumph.

Thanks to 3 wins and 3 places that included a key block of Ken Seeman in the final contest race, the West Coast-based member of the Handicapping Shurmans scooped up a $3,500 entry to the March 5th 1/ST Ultimate Betting Challenge.

Kerry Sangara cashed for $11,398 in Saturday’s $10,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks Pick & Pray, which closed with a final pot of $16,284.

Sengara’s biggest return—with a 5-1 winner—came in the first contest race. He chipped up consistently from there, adding another 5 winners and 2 runners up.

Neither Paul Stath (2 winners)…

…nor Tony Calabrese (1 winner)…

…managed a perfect 4-for-4 ticket in taking their respective $15 Pick 4 Jackpot tourneys last weekend. So next Saturday’s $15 Pick 4 Jackpot game will start out with a carryover of $447.

Moving on to other Sunday featured tourneys not touched upon earlier, Dylan Donnelly (5 wins, 1 place) had the day’s biggest price, Rosenquist ($18.40, $8.40 in the 6th at Santa Anita) among the three winners that closed out his day.

The fast finish earned Donnelly a $3,500 spot in the 1/ST Ultimate Betting Challenge a week from Saturday.

Kirk Rockwell also smoked out Rosenquist as his best of seven collections (6 wins and a place).

He moves on to the Keeneland Grade One Gamble with a paid-up $3,500 berth.

The Presidents Day holiday meant a fourth day of featured-tourney fun this past weekend, and the Monday Commander-in-Chief turned out to be Neal Thomas.

With 4 firsts and 1 second, Thomas landed a $9,576 windfall in Monday’s $20,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which closed its doors with a final purse of $21,280. 

Thomas played two entries in this tourney. His other one wound up in 28th place.

What’s the significance? Thomas used the same horse on both tickets in every race—except for the 10th at Parx. In that race, his winning entry contained #3 Cobble Road, who prevailed in that 10th race in suburban Philadelphia, returning $41.60 to win and $13.20 to place. For a guy who clearly likes to double down, Thomas certainly picked a good spot to “hedge his bets” a little.

That featured cash game was a Pick & Pray. So was Monday’s Monmouth Pick Your Prize qualifier. In this event, Neal Thomas only deployed one entry. Fortunately for him, he chose the right entry—the one that included Cobble Road.

Joining Thomas in the Pick Your Prize Challenge will be 2020 Spa & Surf Showdown champ Scott Fiedler (2 wins, 2 places) who also hit Cobble Road in that decisive10th race in Bensalem, Pa.

There were three winners of $2,000 seats in Monday’s Players Championship play-in.

Nick “48 Hrs.” Noce (5 wins, 0 places) and Frank Perri (3W, 2P) separated themselves from the pack, largely by virtue of having Cobble Road. It was a long way back to the other $2,000 spot winner, Chris McDonald (2W, 1P). McDonald whiffed on the final five contest races, but was able to cling to 3rd-place…by 10 cents.

Featured, multi-track tourneys pick back up tomorrow.

In the meantime, thanks to all of you for giving me plenty to write about in the week gone by. Hope to see you back here in this space on Monday.