Late Rallies Earn Justin Dew Seats to NHC and The BIG One on Back-to-Back Days; William Smith Also Enjoys Two Profitable Days During Belmont Weekend (Weekly Recap, June 8-12)

We couldn’t use as many Belmont Stakes Day races as we might have expected to, but the three that made the cut turned out to be exciting and/or lucrative heats. Obviously 19-1 winner Tribhuvan in the Manhattan was a key horse to have. Most—but not all—of the Saturday winners had that Chad Brown trainee. On Friday and Sunday, however, the top winners were all in a pretty tight, $15-$20 range. That meant multiple paths to victory and no single-day mega winners. In fact, two of the few to pull off multiple victories last week recorded their triumphs on different days. 

One of them was Justin Dew.

Early signs weren’t pointing in Dew’s direction on either Saturday or Sunday, though.

Neither Dew (4 wins, 5 places) nor Saturday high scorer George Carr (6W, 3P) were exactly killing it early on in Saturday’s $210 NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers. Carr made cashes in the final seven races—including a big hit with Tribhuvan to wind up with the gaudy scoresheet and the NHC seat. Dew’s day had a similar feel to it even though he and Carr weren’t together on too many of their picks. Dew missed on Tribhuvan, but he pieced things together with collections on the final four races and nine of the last 10 to get up for the second available seat.

Given Dew’s Saturday, it was probably easier for him to keep a positive mindset during the course of Sunday’s qualifier to The BIG One…but it turns out the Dew point was high on Sunday as well.

Here, Dew whiffed on the first four contest races prior to cashing on seven of the final eight—including each of the last six. The weekend comebacks insure that Dew will be part of not only the humongous NHC field but also the small but select group of no more than 57 that will do battle for cash and 10 important contest seats on September 17-18 in The BIG One.

For “Battlin’” William Smith, the two-day heroics began on Friday.

There were three 8-1 winners out there among the 12 contest races, and Smith found two of them in Friday’s Spa & Surf Showdown qualifier. All together, he landed 4 firsts and 4 seconds to take home the $2,500 seat to the final leg of the Tourney Triple on August 6-7.

From there, it was on to Saturday’s $10,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks Pick & Pray for Smith.

Obviously the 15-entry field helped…but Smith (5 wins, 1 place) was another who managed to win big on Saturday despite not coming up with Tribhuvan. In the end, it was Mo Donegal’s victory in the Belmont Stakes that made the difference between victory and defeat for Smith. He earned $10,686 for the success in a game that closed with a purse totaling $15,266.

The featured-tourney week began on Wednesday, and 6 wins and a place was the way that Robert Grace rolled.

Grace had all three of the day’s available double-digit winners, led by Stop Hammertime ($25.80, $11.00) in the 8th at Horseshoe Indianapolis, and that led him to victory by a whopping $53.80 in Wednesday’s $5,000 Guaranteed tourney. Here was his scorecard:

Grace pocketed $3,172 from a final pot that ended up at $7,051.

The other Wednesday feature went to Clint Littlejohn.

The winner of $3,701 in the June 2 featured cash game, Littlejohn here earned a spot in the $400,000 Guaranteed Spa & Surf Showdown thanks to 2 firsts and 1 place. His biggest return came with She’s Crafty ($25.00, $8.40) in the 7th at Thistledown.

Another player who has been very hot of late is Anthony “Doczilla” Trezza.

Trezza (5 wins, 2 places) kept the good times rolling on Thursday by nailing the last two races and bagging $3,203 in the day’s $6,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which closed up shop with a pot of $7,119.

Owing to a strong Belmont Stakes-eve card in New York, we expanded last Friday’s race schedule to 12 from the usual 10. Bryan Ingram would have liked it just as well if we had only used 8.

Those 4 firsts and 4 seconds, all amassed over the first 8 contest races, earned him the day’s highest score…

…and a victory worth $9,276 in Friday’s HT Tour event, our $15,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, whose final prize pool came to $20,615.

Friday was our first qualifier to the June 19 (next Saturday!) Santa Anita Closing Day Challenge at Xpressbet.

Stephen Thompson uncovered two of Friday’s three 8-1 winners en route to a 3-win, 2-place day and a $1,500 Closing Day Challenge entry.

Over at HorsePlayers, John Agnello (6 wins, 0 places) and Stephen Luca (6W, 3P) were the two winners of Friday’s $75 NHC qualifier.

They both had Nashtrick ($18.00, $7.20) in the 6th at Woodbine. Luca made collections in each of the final 7 races to get up for second place. Meanwhile, here’s a look at Agnello’s six-pack of visitors to the winner’s circle:

The other Friday marquee game at HorsePlayers was a Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge Low Ratio Pick & Pray. 

Congratulations to Shad Walton, who brought home the $10,000 seat thanks to 4 firsts and another 4 seconds.

On Saturday, Belmont Stakes Day, we had not one but two HT Tour competitions.

The regularly-scheduled one, our $30,000 Guaranteed Live-format game went to Barbara Small, who had Tribhuvan among her 5 wins and a place. Here was how her Saturday went:

Small picked up $15,661 from a purse that ultimately settled at $34,804. 

In honor of Belmont Stakes Day, we also hosted a $15,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray and made that one an HT Tour event as well.

Paul Cush (5 wins, including Tribhuvan) was the primary beneficiary of the added scheduling. He bagged $9,725 from a total final pot of $21,612.

Matt Dugger also liked Tribhuvan.

The 19-1 winner helped Dugger (4 wins, 1 place) to an eventually comfy $53.60 victory in Saturday’s qualifier to The BIG One.

Things were less comfy on Saturday for Raul Pantoja.

No one had Tribhuvan in Saturday’s 17-entry Santa Anita Closing Day qualifier. That made for a tighter finish, but one that was ultimately satisfying for Pantoja, who picked 6 winners (including each of the first 4) but nothing that went off any higher than 5-1.

Jeff Bussan (4 wins, 1 place) and Tim Moline (5W, 3P) were the two to snatch $2,500 entries in Saturday’s Spa & Surf Showdown play-in.

Tribhuvan was the key to victory for Bussan. Moline missed on the Chad Brown/Manny Franco frontrunner, but he helped make up for that by having Rosebud’s Hope ($23.30, $10.50) in the 9th at Woodbine.

Alan Hoffman had both Rosebud’s Hope and Tribhuvan…but he still needed to get the Belmont Stakes right in order to prevail over Frank Foss in a hard-fought $179 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge qualifier at HorsePlayers.

Mo Donegal delivered for Hoffman (3 wins, 3 places) and, after Hoffman blocked Foss in the final contest race, HorsePlayers officials delivered him a $10,000 BCBC entry for this coming November.

On Sunday, the high score belonged to Becky Mulligan. It came not in one of the highly-attended games but in the 30-entry Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge qualifier at Horseplayers. 

Becky’s performance had her opponents wishing for a mulligan. In fact, there were 5 double-digit winners out there, and Mulligan smoked out 4 of them.

Tony Garofalo (4 wins, 3 places) and Robert Little (5W, 1P) were the winners of the other Sunday feature at HorsePlayers—a 2-seats-guaranteed NHC qualifier.

Garofalo and Little both had The Minkster ($19.10, $7.50) in the 9th at Woodbine.

The Minkster also helped Donal Lydon to a lucrative Sunday.

The Woodbine 8-1 shot in race 9 was Lydon’s best of 4 winners (and a place) on the way to a payday of $11,910 in a $20,000 Guaranteed cash game that wound up with a purse of $26,468.

Dr. Ronald Tang earned two grand prizes on Sunday, even though his picks looked a bit different across his two entries.

Despite whiffing on the first six races, Tang (3 wins, 1 place) finished first in the Spa & Surf Showdown qualifier that also saw Lawrence Kahlden pick up a $2,500 spot. Kahlden hit the final two winners to get up late for second.

In the Santa Anita Closing Day Challenge,  Dennis Decauwer pulled a Tang-job of his own.

Decauwer also did all of his scoring in the first 6 races. In this one, though, Tang didn’t wait as long to get on the scoreboard. Fortunately for him, he did elect to use two good Gulfstream winners—Hot Blooded ($17.60 in race 13) and Lady Emily ($17.00 in race 14) here as well. If you like, you can…check it and see.

The finish of Sunday’s Lone Star Summer Betting Challenge qualifier, our first play-in to the July 16th event, was a real nail biter.

Trailing Rocky Hardy with one race to go, Kim Dixon (5 firsts, 2 seconds) got a $4.80 place payoff in the final race to tie Hardy. Dixon then went on to best Hardy in the tiebreaker by virtue of having 5 winners to his 3. 

Brian Johnson was on his A game on Sunday.

He picked 5 winners, including three consecutive one of the double-digit variety to take the day’s Del Mar Summer Challenge qualifier on Sunday.

Evan Trommer was on his B game on Sunday.

He still won, though. Despite failing to turn a flat-bet-profit on his 12 plays, Trommer (2 wins, 3 places) turned a real-life profit by earning $6,411 in Sunday’s $7,500 Guaranteed Big Bucks tourney, which closed with a final purse of $9,159.

We hope your Belmont Stakes week was more Flightline than Echo Zulu. If you’re game for more action, we’ll start up the featured-tourney fun again on Wednesday. Thanks for your part in making things fun around here last week.