Great Start and “Big” Finish for Jayson Rockett; Patrick Kennedy has Good Friday and Even Better Saturday; Sunday? It Takes Two to Tang (Weekly Recap, December 7-11)

Sometimes a contest day unfolds in such a way that favors some players more than others. People who like to bomb away with one longshot pick after another didn’t like Wednesday very much. The day’s top-priced winner, Hierro in the 7th at Gulfstream, paid just $9.40 to win and $3.00 to place.

That suited Jayson “Radio City” Rockett just fine, however.

Rockett used Hierro, and he found 3 other winners and 2 runners up to pocket $3,515 in a well-attended $5,000 Guaranteed tourney, which finished up with a total pot of $7,811. 

The same picks worked equally well for Rockett in Wednesday’s Flo-Cal Faceoff qualifier. 

Joining Rockett in the $250,000 Guaranteed first leg of the 2023 Tourney Triple will be second-place finisher Turner West, whose picks visited in the winner’s circle four times, including in the final contest, the 9th at Tampa Bay Downs with Roundabout ($7.00, $4.60). That one really had West saying, “Yes!”

On Sunday we had another contest day when big prices were in short supply. Only two winners out of 12 paid double digits to win, and those two returned just $13.40 and $10.20. 

Wouldn’t you know it? Jayson Rockett had them both.

This victory—in the day’s $7,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks tourney, gave Rockett an end to his week that was every bit as exciting and profitable as his beginning. Here, he took home $5,699 from a total final purse of $8,142. That gave him $9,214 in cash for the week…plus the $1,500 Flo-Cal seat.

There certainly weren’t any cap horses on Thursday, but at least there were four (out of 10 races) that went off at 4-1 or better. Alan Rorrer uncovered three of them.

The 4-win, 1-place performance earned Rorrer $3,794 in Thursday’s $6,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which wound up with a purse of $8,433.

The most lucrative Thursday winner was found at Mahoning Valley. That’s where Exceeding ($19.20, $8.00) took race 7.

Both Raj Satyan (4 wins, 0 places) and Stephan Gravina (3W, 1P) had Exceeding, and they were the recipients of $1,500 seats for the January 14-15 Flo-Cal Faceoff here at HorseTourneys.

Friday’s high scorer was NHC Hall of Famer Trey Stiles.

What did Stiles win for his Friday feat of (Moor) strength? Not a whole heck of a lot.

We say that in jest. Stiles is already double qualified for the NHC. In fact, he has qualified a co-record 20 times (every year since 2003). As a dual-qualifier, he wasn’t allowed to win a seat in Friday’s $75 NHC play-in at HorsePlayers, but he will receive a heaping helping of NHC Tour points, which could prove to be quite valuable to Stiles in those standings since he was sitting in a strong 6th-place when the week began. 

As for those who DID punch their ticket to the 2023 NHC on Friday, congratulations to 2nd-, 3rd- AND 4th-place finishers John Vogel (2 wins, 1 place), Ralph Magnetti (2W, 4P) and Ralph DeBartelo (4W, 2P). Those three were certainly no Moops. Like Stiles, they all had Moor Strength ($64.20, $16.00) in the 9th at Gulfstream.

The highest-returning horse for Max Schnepf on Friday was Curbstone ($27.20, $7.20) in the 6th at Aqueduct.

That one, plus three other winners got Schnepf the “W” in Friday’s HT Tour event, our $15,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray.

Schnepf collected a winner’s share of $8,528 in a game ultimately worth a total of $18,952.

There were two winners in Friday’s Flo-Cal Faceoff qualifier.

Troy Robertson (3 wins, 0 places) and Patrick Kennedy (1W, 2P) left with the two available $1,500 berths. They did so largely on the strength of Moor Strength.

The next day, Patrick Kennedy showed he was anything but a one-bomb wonder.

On Saturday, Kennedy piled up 4 wins and 2 places—including Silver Seeker ($41.40, $15.60) in race 7 at Aqueduct—to finish first in the day’s Pegasus World Cup Betting Championship qualifier. There were enough entries to award two $6,500 Pegasus packages, and the other one went to Kirk Tesar (3W, 1P). Tesar also used Silver Seeker.

There were two big bombs hiding out there on Saturday. One was the aforementioned Silver Seeker. The other came a half hour earlier at the Ozone Park, N.Y., oval—My First Love ($43.20, $15.40) in race 6. Tim “Moose” Haas had ‘em both.

My First Love began a string of four consecutive winners for Haas en route to victory in our richest tourney of the week, Saturday’s $30,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray.

Having those two big longshots essentially meant that Haas could whiff on the final five races without repercussions. He won $14,414 out of a total prize pool in this HT Tour event of $32,032.

Kerry Bassore also had both Saturday totebusters—and yet he didn’t finish first in the day’s $165 NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers.

Don’t feel too sorry for Bassore. He still won a seat for finishing second. However, he couldn’t top Bob Gianquitti, who missed on My First Love, but had Silver Seeker plus 5 other winners and 3 runners up. Gianquitti’s score of $143.20 was Saturday’s best (narrowly so over that of Tim Haas).

In the other Saturday feature at HorsePlayers, Steven Meier was apparently in the Army-Navy game spirit.

Meier (3 firsts, 2 seconds) had Silver Seeker early, but he needed Cadet Corps ($10.80, $5.60) late in the 10th at Gulfstream to put himself over the top in Saturday’s $179 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge qualifier. We’d say that Army and the cadets turned out to be lucky for Meier, but it may well have been the other way around. At the time of Meier’s victory, Army was still trailing Navy. But after news of Meier’s win with Cadet Corps made its way around Lincoln Financial Field and filtered down to the Army sideline, the Black Knights suddenly rallied for a come-from-behind, double-overtime victory.

We’re not sure where Howard Welsh stood on the Army-Navy game, but we know where he stood on Saturday’s $10,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks Pick & Pray.

On top! Welsh (2 firsts, 1 second) used Silver Seeker as a springboard to success—and a payday of $7,836. The final purse in this one was $11,195.

The three players who cracked the century mark were the three to march off with $1,500 entries in Saturday’s Flo-Cal Faceoff qualifier.

Congratulations to Rick Vasquez (5 winners, including the final 2), Pete Acocella (3W, 2P) and Eric Kurzhal (3W, 4P…all in the first 7 contest races).

Only one player cracked the century mark—all day—on Sunday.

We mentioned earlier that there were only two double-digit winners on Sunday…so the amazing thing wasn’t that only one player, Derek Lapikas, broke $100…but that anyone did so. Even more amazing was the fact that Lapikas didn’t even have the biggest ($13.40) winner of the day. What Lapikas may have lacked in flash, however, he made up in substance, rolling up 11 collections out of 12 races to prove much the best in Sunday’s Pegasus World Cup Betting Challenge qualifier. 

With such a tight range of win prices on Sunday, it is surprising to report that we had not one, not two, but three multiple winners on Sunday. One was Barbara Bowley.

In capturing Sunday’s HT Tour event, our $20,000 Guaranteed tourney, Bowley went one better than Derek Lapikas—or one lesser, depending on how you look at it.

Bowley achieved her winning score of $99.00 despite not having either of the day $10+ horses. She got over the hump thanks to 6 wins and 4 places (just one fewer collection than Lapikas had) and her single biggest race return came with a runner up that paid $14.00. In the end, Bowley left with a winner’s share of $12,304 from a final overall purse of $27,343.

Bowley didn’t score quite as well in our first play-in to the January 29th Hialeah NHC qualifier, but she got the job done in that one as well.

Bowley lost two winners but gained a runner up relative to her cash-game performance, but managed to score a $3.00 victory that got her a $500 entry for the on-track contest on the day after Pegasus World Cup Day at Gulfstream.

Another double winner on Sunday was Dr. Ronald Tang.

The Southern Californian won’t have far to travel on December 26th for the Santa Anita Opening Day Challenge.

Tang posted 3 wins and 2 places (including both of the double-digit victors!) to top fellow seat winner Rich Pawlowski…who needed Go Emi ($7.40, $5.00) in the 7th at Hawthorne at the end to nail down the other available $1,500 berth.

Tang used the same picks to reel in an even more lucrative prize at HorsePlayers.

Here, he was best of 34 in Sunday’s Low Ratio Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge qualifier. Nick “48 Hrs.” Noce came in second (and also third) to pick up a $5,000 partial BCBC entry.

The other Sunday feature at HorsePlayers saw Frank “Plaster of” Paros make collections in the first six contest races and the final three.

The nine total collections landed Paros an NHC spot in this qualifier that was restricted to those who had yet to earn a 2023 seat.

In Sunday’s Flo-Cal Faceoff qualifier, Paros misplaced one of the 8 winners he had in the NHC game, but he still came away with a $1,500 seat.

Paros bested all but Todd Faro, who led the way with 6 wins and 3 places. Michael “Million Dollar Man” Beychok took the opposite approach—3 wins and 6 places—but he also got a $1,500 Flo-Cal entry for finishing 3rd.

Brendan Fay had to swallow a disappointing $3.00 loss to Barbara Bowley in Sunday’s Hialeah qualifier, but he enjoyed a better result in another new addition to the HorseTourneys featured-tourney menu.

The same selections that left Fay narrowly short of Bowley left him even more narrowly ahead of William Miller in our first qualifier to the February 11 Tampa Bay Downs High Rollers Contest. Fay receives a $1,000 entry to play on-track in Oldsmar, Fla., on Super Bowl Eve.

Christmas Eve…is less than two weeks away. So be sure to stay on top of your holiday shopping…so that you can devote sufficient energy to your contest play when the opportunity arises. Around here, that all starts on Wednesday—when our featured-tourney schedule resumes. In the meantime, thanks to all of you for the fun and competitive week just completed.