Gary Machiz Captures Month-End Blowout; Tang Takes Two on Sunday; Small Scores Yield Large Returns for David Nelson; Sean O’Malley Triumphs Despite No Winners (Weekly Recap, June 22-26)

June is not over yet, but the Month-End Blowout for it is—and that was a happy development for Gary “Macho Man” Machiz. 

Gary is a man for all seasons—or, rather, a man for all breeds. He has been a very successful Standardbred trainer. His wife, Stacy, trains Thoroughbreds. Gary is comfortable with Thoroughbreds too, too—especially in handicapping them.

On Saturday, Machiz added a victory worth $20,000 to his handicapping-contest achievements by capturing June’s $50,000 Guaranteed Month-End Blowout. Here was his scoresheet.

Saturday wasn’t much of a day for prices. Machiz (5 firsts, 2 seconds) had the biggest one out there in Artie’s Angel ($18.80, $5.80) who took the 9th at Monmouth. But chalk worked out fine for him in what turned out to be the final race of the Blowout, the Ohio Derby at Thistledown. It was a tricky finish for a Live-format game since the 10th at Laurel and the Ohio Derby went off almost on top of each other. That added an extra, difficult dimension to customary end-game strategy. By having favorite Tawny Port in the big Thistledown race, however, Machiz moved up from 3rd to 1st and claimed the $20,000 first prize. Tailing right behind Machiz was Anthony “Doczilla” Trezza, who also had Tawny Port and went from 4th to 2nd—which was worth $8,000.

A double grand-prize winner (and almost a triple grand-prize winner) on Sunday was Dr. Ronald Tang.

The California oncologist was best of seven in Sunday’s $7,500 Guaranteed Big Bucks game, which had a takeout of 6.8%.

Tang finished with 3 wins and a place. His winners did not include cap horse 30-1 cap horse Vindatude at the end, but he did have Runningwscissors ($44.60, $16.20) in the 7th at Belmont to do most of his heavy lifting.

In Sunday’s Haskell Challenge qualifier, Tang misplaced his place horse, but the same three winners got him where he wanted to be here as well.

Leading the way was Howard Johnson (3 wins, 2 places) who, like Tang, condoned Runningwscissors. Reporting home third, and also winning a $1,000 seat for July 23rd was Steve Simonovic (2W, 1P) who did have first-time starter Vindatude in the 9th at Belmont.

Tang nearly pulled off a Sunday hat trick.

Tang had to settle for second—and a $1,000 breakage refund—behind Chris Podratz (2 wins, 2 places) in Sunday’s Low Ratio Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge qualifier. Podratz was the only player of 29 with the fortitude to pick Vindatude.

One of the most interesting handicapping-contest feats of the week was turned in by David Nelson. Check that…Nelson was responsible for TWO of the most interesting feats of the week.

Nelson captured Friday’s Spa & Surf Showdown qualifier with 4 winners. There was obviously nothing at all wrong with his handicapping, but his final score of $79.10 was rather low compared to almost everyone else who won on Friday. Nelson chose his spots very wisely on Friday, however.

He made the low ratios work to his advantage and also won a $10,000 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge seat on Friday at HorsePlayers. 

Now Nelson’s 10-race score of $79.10 on Friday was higher than any of the 12-race scores on Saturday. Of course, as almost any player knows, final scores are largely a function of the prices that come in on a given day. That said, Nelson took his game of “How Low Can You Go?” to another level on Saturday.

Saturday’s $10,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks Pick & Pray (final purse: $17,301) was not poorly attended—it drew 17 entries. It was just the scores that were poor. No one turned a flat-bet profit. Nelson’s biggest winner paid $6.60. However, his five collections—four of which were winners—got the job done. And so, with a score of $39.10, Nelson added another $12,111 to his Friday-Saturday winnings, which totaled $24,611. There’s certainly a lot of hay to be made in some of our lower-ratio games—and with his BCBC and Spa & Surf Showdown entries now paid up, who knows how much hay Nelson will ultimately make from his pretty amazing 48 hours?

As fascinating as David Nelson’s weekend was, it probably wasn’t as shocking as what we saw on Wednesday from Sean O’Malley in the day’s Haskell Challenge qualifier.

I don’t believe I’ve ever seen this before. O’Malley won a featured tourney despite not picking a single winner. He did record 4 places, including a max $22.00 collection on 45-1 runner up Agent Peter Graves in the 7th at Canterbury, the Mystic Park Mile. And that made O’Malley’s Mission Impossible possible. Despite no winners, he turned in the only flat-bet profitable scorecard and took home the $1,000 Haskell entry. 

Rick Vasquez did pick some winners on Wednesday. In fact, he picked seven of them.

Nothing fancy here…nothing higher than $6.80…just lots of winners—seven out of 10 races, plus a runner up thrown in just for laughs. In the end, Vasquez earned his way into the $400,000 Guaranteed Spa & Surf Showdown here on August 6-7.

Charlie Ricks picked one fewer winner than Vasquez, but he finished with a higher score thanks to having the “bomb” of the day on Wednesday, a 4-1 winner!

That tote-rocker, Spycraft ($10.40, $6.40), came in the 4th at Canterbury, the Dark Star Turf Sprint Stakes—which is named not for the 1953 Kentucky Derby winner but for the late, inimitable radio and print personality known in greater Minneapolis simply as “Dark Star”. It helped propel Ricks to a payday of $2,955 in Wednesday’s $5,000 Guaranteed cash tourney. The game closed with a pot of $6,566.

On Thursday, the big winner of the day was Igor Mirambeau. 

Mirambeau turned in 4 firsts and 3 seconds to collect $3,794 in Thursday’s $6,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which closed its doors with a total of $8,433 in the till. His best winner, Raw Courage ($12.80, $4.40), came at the end of the tourney in race 9 of the twilight card at Belmont.

On Friday, the high score of the day came from Gary Bain.

His 4 wins and a place got him a berth in the 2023 NHC.

There were enough entries here to hand out three spots. Steven Meier (2 wins, 5 places) hit a 9-1 shot at the end to get up for second. Anthony Mroz (3W, 1P), the only other player to score in triple digits, got the third and final berth. All three seat winners had Hell Bent ($37.60, $15.40) in the 6th at Woodbine. 

Michael Bailey was the victor in Friday’s HT Tour event, our $15,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which wound up with a final prize pool of $16,625.

Bailey had 3 winners, including Hell Bent, plus 2 places to grab the up-top money of $7,481. Steven Meier (2 wins, 4 places) didn’t use one of the runners up that was part of his successful NHC entry, and, as a result, he had to settle for second, which was worth $3,325.

Michael “Copa” Kavana had Hell Bent among his 6 consecutive cashes (4 firsts, 2 seconds).

The six-race streak got Kavana to the wire first in Friday’s Haskell Challenge qualifier. Also earning a $1,000 entry in the online Xpressbet contest on July 23rd was runner up Peter Rogers, who whiffed on the last two races but held on to second by 90 cents. He didn’t have 17-1 Hell Bent at Woodbine, but he came up with Barleewon ($25.80, $12.00) in the 8th at Belmont.

On Wednesday, Rick Vasquez compiled 7 wins and a place to earn a Spa & Surf Showdown entry. On Saturday, he racked up 4 wins and 5 places.

The second show of consistency during the week brought Vasquez a Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge this time around. His final score of $73.80 was just 90 cents short of the day’s best.

In the $165 NHC qualifier at HorsePayers, it was Mark Hackworth who accounted for the top Saturday score of $74.70 on what was a chalky day. Hackworth’s winners, of which there were 7, included the day’s biggest: Artie’s Angel ($18.80, $5.80) in the 9th at Monmouth. Jeff “Mike” Allstadt posted 5 firsts and 2 places to bull his way into second and punch his ticket to the 2023 as well.

Wendy Long won Saturday’s guaranteed qualifier to The BIG One on the strength of 4 firsts and 5 seconds.

Long’s two largest returns both came from runners up.

Bob Bandzwolek had an inauspicious beginning to his Saturday, but an ultimately satisfying ending.

Bandzwolek failed to get a pick in for the first contest race of the day, but he put up 4 wins and 3 places thereafter to take Saturday’s Haskell Challenge play-in. Kevin “Hercule” Perau swept the final three races to finish with 5 winners and get up late for the other available $1,000 seat.

There were two winners of $2,500 entries in Saturday’s Live-format qualifier to the $400,000 Guaranteed final leg of the 2022 Tourney Triple, the Spa & Surf Showdown here on August 6-7.

Congratulations to Tim Darnell (4 wins, 2 places) and Nick “48 Hrs.” Noce (1W, 4P).

On Sunday, the best horse to have came in the final contest race, the 9th at Belmont. It was Vindatude ($63.50, $22.00), the lone first-time starter in a large field of grass maidens. 

The two at the top of Sunday’s $165 NHC qualifier—Ernest “Say” Hey Jr. (4 wins, 2 places) and Amy Brantley (3W, 2P)—both played the George Weaver-trained, George Weaver-owned upsetter, and they wound up with the two highest Sunday scores.

Another who used Vindatude was Robert Reidy.

Reidy picked just 2 winners, but one was Vindatude and the other was Runningwscissors ($44.60, $16.20) in race 7 at Belmont. The twin killings won Reidy $11,714 in Sunday’s HT Tour competition, our $20,000 Guaranteed cash game, which finished up with a purse of $26,031.

Vindatude was also big—in more ways than one—for Barbara Bowley.

Vindatude was Bowley’s biggest and best winner among 3 firsts and 2 seconds, and she will now be part of a field numbering no more than 57 for the Sept. 17-18 The BIG One here at HorseTourneys.

David Long (2 wins, 0 places) also had the long price at the end.

Long will now report to Lone Star Park on July 16 with his $1,000 Lone Star Summer Betting Challenge entry fully paid up.

Mike Sylvester (3 wins, 4 places) was the winner of Sunday’s Del Mar Summer Challenge qualifier.

Sylvester hit Vindatude at the end—but he doesn’t get home first if not for also having 4-1 winner Lucky Score in the next-to-last contest race, the 8th at Woodbine. (Also…I just noticed that Ron Tang finished second here as well. He had a good weekend as it was, but it likely would have been a really memorable one if not for Vindatude.)

Sunday’s Spa & Surf Showdown qualifier was an interesting affair. There were three winners, and they each took decidedly different paths to their $2,500 seats. 

Jonathan “Green New” Dille didn’t make a single collection over the first seven contest races, but he came up with 2 wins and 2 places over the final five—including 30-1 Vindatude—to score the come-from-behind-victory. Richard Reese (3W, 2P) missed on Vindatude, but he laid claim to the other longshot turf winner at Belmont, 21-1 Runningwscissors in race 7 at the oversized Elmont, N.Y., oval. Third-place finisher Michael Somich (4W, 3P) also picked up a $2,500 Showdown berth—and did so despite not coming up with either Vindatude or Runningwscissors.

Thank you all for reading. This blog will self-destruct in five seconds.