Tim Hughes Wins $222,552 in $622,636 Spa & Surf Showdown; Inaugural 2019 Champ Paul Shurman Finishes Second; Albion Benton Tops Tourney Triple Bonus Series Standings

Combining a 26th-place performance on Saturday and a 5th-best Sunday score added up to a windfall of $222,252 for Tim Hughes of Point Pleasant, New Jersey, in the 4th annual Spa & Surf Showdown here at HorseTourneys.

The event challenged its 281 entrants to make a mythical $2.00 win-and-place selection on each race of the Saratoga and Del Mar cards on both Saturday and Sunday. The final overall purse for the $400,000 Guaranteed event wound up at $622,636.

Finishing second in the 44-race tourney was the first-ever winner of the Spa & Surf Showdown in 2019, Paul Shurman of Dix Hills, N.Y.

As a measure of how the event has grown since its inception, Shurman won almost as much for being the runner-up this year—$98,294, which included $9,273 in Day 2 bonus money—compared to the $109,032 he collected in 2019 when the inaugural total purse was $272,000.

By the numbers, Hughes, a 59-year-old C.P.A., put up $118.90 on Saturday and $155.50 to arrive at his final total of $274.40—nearly $25.00 better than Shurman’s scorecard. However, Hughes’s two days had a strikingly similar complexion. On Saturday, he had 2 wins and 4 places from his 23 plays. On Sunday, he recorded 2 wins and 3 places from 23 selections.

Chalk? “No thank you,” Hughes seemed to be saying. Not a single pick went off at less than 9-2…and 31 of his 44 horses were 10-1 on the toteboard or higher.

Here’s how his Saturday went:

And here were his Sunday contest plays:

As well as Hughes played on Saturday, the first day of the competition really belonged to last year’s winner of The BIG One, Ken Seeman. 

Seeman had a big hit early with the 23-1 winner of the Lure Stakes at Saratoga, Dynadrive, then he came back in the Longines Test Stakes (race 9 at the Spa) with 17-1 come-from-behind victor Chi Town Lady. Seeman didn’t get a handsome timepiece for that pick…but a few hours later, he did take home the top day-money prize on Saturday—$15,455. 

Sunday just wasn’t Seeman’s day unfortunately. He added just $6.10 to his Day 1 total. Still, he lasted for 11th place, which earned him another $8,346 for a total weekend haul of $23,801—enough for Seeman to purchase several stylish chronometers if he wishes. 

Things tightened up for Seeman right at the outset of Day 2 when first-time starter Gilcrease took the eight-horse opener at Saratoga at odds of 26-1. Lucas Van Zandt, 13th AND 16th after Day 1, had Gilcrease with his “good” entry to move into a close second position, and Hughes had the Al Stall charge as well to put himself right into the thick of things.

Van Zandt didn’t get a whole lot of traction thereafter, though, and had to settle for 5th place, which paid him a still-very-worthwhile $27,819. His other entry finished 25th.

Right after hitting Gilcrease, Hughes loosened his price standards a little bit and allowed a 9-2 shot and two 6-1 propositions to crash his longshot medley. All he had to show for his first 10 post-Gilcrease picks, however, was a single $6.10 place collection. 

The bad news for Hughes was that he had lost several places in the standings and had fallen out of the top 10.

The good news was that Seeman was still in first place with his Day 1 total plus just the same $6.10 place payoff that Hughes had nabbed. So despite now having a few more opponents to hurdle, Hughes had not lost an inch of ground on the leader.

At this point, Hughes reverted to the style responsible for his success—aggression—and it paid off big. The next seven minutes would change his life…at least financially.

Hughes struck cap-horse gold with 44-1 second-time starter Bear Mountain in the 3rd at Del Mar to take a narrow lead, and he immediately followed that up with 20-1 runner up Splendid Summer ($15.40 to place) in the nightcap at the Spa. The two added a combined $79.40 to Hughes’s score. An hour later, he picked up another $11.20 on a 13-1 shot in Del Mar’s race 5. It was all the scoring Hughes did on Sunday—and all the scoring he’d need.

After a $75.10 Day 1, Paul Shurman had the second-highest score on Day 2 to grab second place in both the overall and “Day 2 only” standings. The only player to do better than him on Sunday was Anthony Spinazzola.

Spinnazola earned a Day-Money bonus of $15,455 for his Sunday exploits. 

Finishing third overall was Gregory Caliwag, who was a strong presence throughout. He earned $44,510 for his bronze-medal finish plus another $9,273 for having the second best score ($204.50) on Saturday. NHC Hall of Famer Steve Wolfson Jr. reported home 4th to collect $33,383, while the aforementioned Lucas Van Zandt ($27,819) rounded out the top five.

Here’s a look at who finished where among all 24 who ended up in the money on the two-day leaderboard:

You’ll note that the 18th-place finisher was Albion “A.J.” Benton. More important than the $2,782 he made for that showing was that the result made him the winner of the 2022 Tourney Triple standings.

For coming in first in the three-race (Flo-Cal Faceoff/Players Championship/Spa & Surf Showdown) points standings, Benton receives both a $10,000 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge seat and a 2023 NHC spot. Runner up Michael Solakis got a BCBC entry…while Brett Wiener landed a berth in September’s The BIG One for completing the series in third place.

Check back with us in this space tomorrow when we’ll get a chance to meet Tim Hughes and learn about his highly…serendipitous…route to the winner’s circle of the Spa & Surf Showdown.