Drew Keaton Scores Sunday Hat Trick; Joe Johnson Knocks Down Two Important Shots From Long Distance; Michael Caposio Wins Twice on Wednesday (Weekly Recap, May 4-8)

Someone new to horse racing might look at the result of the Kentucky Derby and conclude that big longshots are the way to prosper in this game. Sometimes that’s true, but it certainly wasn’t the case here last week. At least not very often.

Only two double-digit prices—none higher than 5-1—came home first during Wednesday’s abbreviated seven-race featured-tourney schedule…and Michael Caposio had them both.

Those two plus another winner and a runner up got the Temecula, Calif., car dealer a very good deal on a $2,500 seat to the $400,000 Guaranteed Spa & Surf Showdown.

They also put him behind the wheel of a Monmouth Pick Your Prize entry.

Caposio didn’t win Wednesday’s $5,000 Guaranteed cash tourney, but he was nevertheless smiling at the end of that one too.

Caposio finished second here to add $1,188 to his Wednesday tally. The winner—of $2,675 in the game that ultimately paid out a total of $5,940—was Eric Kurzhal. He did all his cashing in the first four contest races (3 wins, 1 place) and his soccer of $53.40 held off Caposio by $1.20.

Win prices stayed in the teens on Thursday. The high score of the day was delivered by Michael “The Coach” Goodrich.

In what was the first of two straight good days for racing people known as “The Coach,” Goodrich caught a $14.40 place payoff on a 24-1 shot in the 9th at Belmont, and that got him to the head of the class in Thursday’s $6,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray.

The Goodrich…strike…got him $3,888 in a game that closed with a purse of $8,640.

Thursday’s Spa & Surf Showdown qualifier was captured by Vineet “Please don’t squeeze the” Sharma. 

All of Sharma’s scoring came in contest races 2 through 5, when he rattled off four consecutive winners.

Juicy prices finally started rolling in late in the day on Friday. The day’s high score came, as it often does, from the $75 NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers. The author was John Nespolini.

Nespolini recorded 5 wins and a place while Paul Yaffee (4W, 2P) ran second to grab the other available 2023 seat to the big dance.

Scoring almost as well as Nespolini and Yaffee was Joshua Chupik—and he did an even better job of smoking out those late-day longshots. 

For his “late Pick 3,” Chupik was rewarded with $7,481.

The final pot for the $15,000 Guaranteed Friday Pick & Pray, which served as the day’s HT Tour event, wound up at $16,625.

Like Joshua Chipik, Peter Kovic also had those lucrative last three Friday winners.

The payoff for Kovic was a $2,500 entry to the final leg of the 2022 Tourney Triple, the Spa & Surf Showdown here on August 6-7.

The big horse for Brian Fairlie (2 wins, 2 places) was Red Road ($33.40, $8.60) in the 9th at Santa Anita. 

That one netted Fairlie a $2,000 berth in the June 4 Monmouth Pick Your Prize Challenge.

Todd Cady (4 firsts, 2 seconds) hit a pair of 9-1 winners, including Miss Bobbit ($20.70, $6.30), who knifed through the field in the next-to-last contest race, the 7th at Woodbine.

The 6-collection effort earned Cady a $10,000 entry in Friday’s Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge Low Ratio qualifier at HorsePlayers.

Saturday was Derby Day, and for the second time this week, we lost a contest track due to rain. This time, it was Monmouth—and so our featured schedule was 9 races instead of 12.

It figures that someone named Joe Johnson would heat up while the NBA playoffs are going on. And like his sharpshooting namesake, the handicapping Johnson tasted victory thanks to a buzzer beater from long range.

Johnson (4 wins, 2 places) hit Shadow Sphinx ($33.00, $12.20) in the last contest race, race 10 at Santa Anita, and that propelled Johnson to a $13,500 payday in Saturday’s HT Tour competition, our $30,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which went off at a Derby Day overlay to players of 5.5%. Congratulations to all the sharp-eyed players who spotted the value and jumped in.

In Saturday’s $179 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge qualifier at HorsePlayers, Johnson’s score was a bit lower—perhaps due to early foul trouble. In any event, he knocked down Shadow Sphinx at the end of this one too. The long-distance shot silenced the partisan crowd (of 46) and moved Johnson from 18th place to first, earning him the $10,000 entry.

Saturday’s highest score came from Anthony Spinazzola in the day’s Spa & Surf Showdown qualifier.

“The Spinner” also emerged from the Saturday shadows with Shadow Sphinx, and he took home the sought-after $2,500 entry to Whitney Weekend on August 6-7.

Another Shadow Sphinx backer was 2005 NHC Champ Jamie Michelson.

Michigander Michelson booked 2 runners up, followed by 3 winners to reel in the $2,000 seat in Saturday’s Monmouth Pick Your Prize Challenge play-in.

Paul Cush did not have Shadow Sphinx, but it turned out he didn’t need him.

Of course, picking 5 winners, including 4 of the double-digit variety, out of 9 races can well excuse the final-race omission. Cush collected $7,000 in Saturday’s $10,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks Pick & Pray, which had a takeout to players of 3.4%.

Neither Mike “Afternoon” Delatte (3 wins—all but the 5-1 Leg 2 victor)…

…nor Marshall Garnick (all but the 2-1 Leg 3 winner)…

…went 4-for-4 in taking their respective $15 Pick 4 Jackpot tourneys last weekend. So next Saturday’s Pick 4 Jackpot will be begin with a carryover of $6,319.

It should be noted that both John Van Arnam and Kenneth Szeszycki were very alive for the Pick 4 Jackpot on Sunday going into the final heat, and, between the two of them, they had the first two betting choices covered in that last leg. So, of course, the third choice won.

On Sunday, we went back to the chalky ways of early week—and, this time, we couldn’t blame things on abbreviated race schedules. 

Let’s start with Lawrence Kahlden, who was the day’s big scorer with $71.30. His scorecard was emblematic of the day.

See that final-race, $21.20 place collection Kahlden had with Amazing Mzkitty that propelled him to victory in the Monmouth Pick Your Prize qualifier? Amazing Mzkitty was the highest returning horse all day…despite finishing second as opposed to first.

Though his score was more than $14 south of Kahlden’s, the star of Sunday had to be Drew Keaton, the runner up behind Kahlden in the Monmouth game. In addition to earning that $2,000 Pick Your Prize seat, Keaton and his 4 firsts and 5 seconds also secured his place in The BIG One.

And that same set of picks got him the $2,500 seat in Sunday’s Spa & Surf Showdown.

So a score of $57.00 brought Keaton back three important contest seats worth a total of about $11,000. (And he also got a $500 winner’s bonus for taking the qualifier to The BIG One.)

Here’s another representative Sunday performance: Bernard Moore made collections in 11 out of the day’s 12 contest races en route to victory in the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge Low Ratio Pick & Pray at HorsePlayers. The thing was…he only won by $2.40…and his final score, despite all those collections was just $58.70.

The biggest win price among Moore’s five winners? $6.50.

The other Sunday feature at HorsePlayers saw Karen Richards and Michael Karalis scoop up NHC seats.

Richards hit the final three winners, and she made collections in the final eight, to finish with 6 wins and 4 places. Karalis posted 4 firsts and 2 seconds.

Only Mark “Santana” Tabakman showed a flat-bet profit (barely) in Sunday’s $7,500 Guaranteed Big Bucks Pick & Pray.  

Tabakman (4 wins, 1 place) whiffed on the final three races, but still managed to hold for a $1.60 victory over Howard Welsh that was worth $5,250. The tourney went off with a takeout of 6.8%.

Last but not least, top-notch cash-game player Travis Pearson (5 wins, 2 places) captured Sunday’s HT Tour event, our $20,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray.

Pearson entered last week in second place, four points behind Anthony Trezza in the overall HT Tour standings. So with his Sunday victory, expect Pearson to leapfrog Trezza when the standings are updated later this week.

Thanks to all of you out there for your part in allowing us to host a fun weekend of featured tourneys—even without the benefit of the Churchill Downs races. (No such worries with the Preakness and Belmont). In the meantime, have a good week ahead…and remember—always bet the #21 horse!