Blockbuster Saturday for Vineet Sharma; Lawrence Kahlden Earns Grand Prizes on Consecutive Days; Bernard Moore Picks Eight Straight Winners (Weekly Recap, December 14-18)

Let’s just say it figures to be an extra-nice Christmas this year in the Sharma household.

It was a tale of two formats for Vineet “Please Don’t Squeeze the” Sharma on Saturday. Unlike most situations that get the “Tale of Two…things” treatment, however, both sides of this particular “tale” turned out well for Sharma. Very well.

Saturday’s $10,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks tourney was a Pick & Pray (as per usual), and after collecting just a token $3.60 on the first seven contest races, Sharma scraped and clawed his way to an 80-cent victory by connecting on three mid-priced winners over the final five races. He earned the lion’s share ($8,549) of a purse that closed at $12,213.

Unlike the Big Bucks game, most of the weekend games were run in Live format this week, and that turned out to be very fortuitous for Sharma. While he had just enough to prevail in the $1,150-buy-in competition, the switch in format allowed him to add a couple more winners and reel in even bigger fish—or bucks, as the case may be.

Here, Sharma utilized 13-1 Aqueduct victor Saratoga Banker in mid-tourney and 8-5 shot Outperform at the end. That final $5.20 winner edged him past Michael Caposio, earning him the up-top money of $13,500 in Saturday’s HT Tour event, our $30,000 Guaranteed cash game, which had a takeout to players of 3.7%.

The same picks that put Sharma on top in the $30,000 game also got him a $6,500 Pegasus World Cup Betting Championship package on Saturday.

Sharma topped all but fellow Saratoga Banker fan Brendan Fay (6 firsts, 1 second), who wound up with the best score of the day on Saturday. As for Sharma, the $6,500 Pegasus package, when added to his cash haul, gave him a total of $28,549 in Saturday winnings. Merry Christmas, indeed!

The “week before Christmas” week got off to a nice start for Jeffrey Ferrazano.

Ferrazano counted Son of an Angel ($74.40, $19.20) in the 8th at Gulfstream among his 4 firsts and 1 runner up, and he stormed home by $31.00+ in Wednesday’s $5,000 Guaranteed tourney, which finished up with $6,774 in the cash drawer. Ferrazano’s share of that was $3,048.

Racing commentator Matt Bernier also came up with Son of an Angel.

The bomb put Bernier (3 wins, 2 places) over the top in Wednesday’s Flo-Cal Face-off qualifier. In fact, he was the only one of 48 entrants to have it.

There were enough entries to award three $1,500 seats here…so joining Bernier in the starting gate for the $250,000 Guaranteed cash tourney here on January 14-15 will be second-place finisher David “Chelsea” Pyrz (4W, 2P) and trifecta-completer Dave Gray (3W, 1P).

Things started slowly on Thursday for Sammy Toups, but an Alcoa fantastic finish had him smiling at the end of the day’s $6,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray.

Toups swung and missed on the first four races. However, three consecutive winners—at odds of 9-1, 5-1 and 12-1—got Toups into the thick of things late, and then it was a $7.40 collection on runner up Red Hot and Blue at the end that gave him the $3,763 triumph…and relegated Mark Winland to placeland.

Brent Sumja (4 wins, 2 places) and Bryan Ingram (3W, 2P) were the two winners in the Thursday edition of the week’s Flo-Cal Faceoff qualifiers.

Of their 11 combined collections, not a single one was held in common. The results give further credence to the contention posited 51 years ago by Robert Plant—there are two paths you can go by.

On Friday, Shirley Wolff proved Plant additionally prescient by showing that, indeed, there was still time to change the road she was on.  

A final table participant in last January’s NHC, Wolff was building a stairway to the 2023 NHC by having the most NHC Tour points among those not otherwise qualified.  On Friday, she took her name off that list, and now Michele Ravencraft can write her name in ink on the roster of participants for next March.

Wolff selected five winners and amassed the highest score of the day in taking Friday’s $75 NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers. Double-qualified NHC Tour hopeful Jay Johns aided his cause in those standings considerably by finishing second. His placing, though, left the other available NHC spot to George “W.” Bosch, who had 4 winners, including the day’s biggest price, Sheza Happy Girl ($37.20, $14.20) in the 9th at Gulfstream.

Back here at HorseTourneys on Friday, Ed Peters (4 wins, 0 places) led a group of three winners in our qualifier for the first leg of the 2023 Tourney Triple, the $250,000 Guaranteed Flo-Cal Faceoff.

Also landing $1,500 seats were runner up Patrick Kennedy (4W, 1P) and 3rd-place finisher Tim “Moose” Haas, who had the final three winners to finish with 4 firsts and a second. For Kennedy, it was his second Flo-Cal Faceoff entry in as many weeks. Last week, he came away with a Flo-Cal seat and also a Pegasus World Cup package.

Winning $1,500 berths on Friday for the December 26 Santa Anita Opening Day Challenge were Joseph Vida (5 wins, 1 place) and Craig Rowe (3W, 1P).

Vida’s five winners paid no more than $14.20. Rowe, on the other hand, made much of his hay by hitting one of the day’s two $30 winners, Summer Nitro ($33.80, $12.00) in the 7th at Tampa.

Friday’s HT Tour game, our $15,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, was accounted for by Lawrence Kahlden, who picked 4 winners out of the 10 contest races.

Kahlden had both of the day’s $30+ horses en route to an $8,154 payday in this tourney that was ultimately worth $18,121. He wasn’t done for the week, though.

Kahlden came back the next day to grab a Flo-Cal Faceoff seat by finishing second (by just 60 cents) to Joseph Brocato. They both had Saratoga Banker ($28.20, $12.40) in the 10th at Aqueduct. 

The first qualifier of the week for the February 10-11 Tampa Bay Downs High Rollers Contest took place on Saturday.

The two to reach the $80 mark—David Brownfield and Dylan Donnelly—were the two to come away with $1,000 entries to the on-track event. Brownfield got the job done despite failing to get his first contest play in on time. Both Brownfield and Donnelly used Saratoga Banker as a springboard to their success.

Michael Caposio had 4 Saturday collections—winners that went off at 9-1, 13-1 and 6-1 and a runner up that paid $13.60 to place. 

Collectively, the four payoffs added up to $103.20…and a $1,500 entry to the December 26th Santa Anita Opening Day Challenge (playable on-track or at Xpressbet).

There was a pair of 1-per-65 qualifiers at HorsePlayers on Saturday—one to the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge and the other to the NHC.

Nick “48 Hrs.” Noce had Saratoga Banker among his 3 firsts and 3 seconds. Noce was the winner of the $10,000 seat in the BCBC Pick & Pray.

The NHC play-in was operated in Live format.

Saratoga Banker was common to the scorecards of seat winners Tom Lenberg (5 wins, 1 place) and Michael Pirrung (3W, 2P). Lenberg had $5.20 winner Outperform in the final contest race (the 11th at Gulfstream) to move himself up from third to first.

Sunday was a low-scoring day in which only three horses paid double-digits to win, and the highest-priced winner paid $14.00. Rhonda Fink had all three of those double-digit winners.

For the 6-win, 1-place performance—which included the winners of the final three contest races—Fink was rewarded with $12,009, the winner’s share of Sunday’s HT Tour event, our $20,000 Guaranteed cash tourney.

The game closed with a final purse of $26,687.

With Fink smoking out all three of the day’s $10+ winners, one would think that no other Sunday handicapping performance could approach hers. One would be wrong.

In Sunday’s Flo-Cal Faceoff qualifier, Michael Odorisio had the three double-digit winners…plus another 4 winners and 3 places on top of that. His total of 7 wins and 3 places added up to a day-best $113.00.

It’s very rare that you see someone win a featured-tourney by $33.00 on a day when no winner pays more than $14.00, but that’s what Odorisio did. 

Their scores may have paled in comparison to Odorisio’s, but Brian “BC” Chenvert (4W, 3P) and Cara Yarusso (4W, 2P) still managed highly-respectable-for-the-day tallies of $79.80 and $68.90, respectively. For those totals, Chenvert and Yarusso also received $1,500 Flo-Cal Faceoff seats. 

The exploits of Michael Odorisio and Rhonda Fink notwithstanding, one could argue that the most remarkable feat of Sunday handicapping strength was that put forward by Bernard Moore in Sunday’s Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge Low Ratio qualifier at HorsePlayers.

Eight consecutive winners to close out the contest…nuff said. Wait…we’ll say one more thing. If anyone out there is unimpressed by such a streak, blame us, not Moore. Had we run a longer tourney, his winning streak may have kept right on going!

For a while on Sunday, Ralph Lough had a nice winning streak of his own going.

Lough swept the first four contest races en route to capturing Sunday’s NHC qualifier (the one here at HorseTourneys) with 6 winners. William Mauer hit the last 3 races to also finish with 6 winners and also secure a 2023 NHC berth.

There was another NHC qualifier on Sunday over at HorsePlayers. It was the first Low Ratio play-in to the 2023 event.

Robert Childress’s $500 entry fee in this 1-per-21 game paid off big thanks to his 5 firsts and 2 seconds.

The biggest winner of the day on Sunday for Kevin Lux paid $9.00.

That didn’t stop Lux (6 wins, 2 places) from leading the way in Sunday’s Santa Anita Opening Day Challenge play-in. Frank “Plaster of” Paros (5W, 2P) had the final two winners to report home second and grab the other available $1,500 seat.

The biggest winner of the day on Sunday for Peter Rogers paid not $9.00, but $8.00.

Nevertheless, Rogers placed first in Sunday’s Tampa Bay Downs High Rollers Contest qualifier on the strength of 4 firsts and 3 seconds.

The biggest winner of the day on Sunday for Joseph Zuer paid not $9.00, not $8.00, but $7.00.

No one turned a flat-bet profit in Sunday’s $7,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks game, but Zuer (3 wins, 1 place) came the closest to doing so and, for that, he pocketed the top prize of $4,986.

Elio Imbornone made collections in each of the first 6 Sunday contest races.

Imbornone’s 4 firsts and 2 seconds during the first half of Sunday’s Pegasus World Cup Betting Championship qualifier were augmented by an additional winner and runner up later on, and he made off with the $6,500 package for January 28th.

Last but not least, Sunday was the day of our first play-in to the January 28th Sam Houston NHC qualifier (an on-track event held in the nation’s 4th-largest city). The winner, after a furious late rally, was William Miller.

Miller rocketed to the top of the standings of this Space City qualifier thanks to his hitting 5 of the final 6 races. He finished the day with 7 bulls-eyes and 1 near-miss and took home the $1,000 entry.

There certainly was no shortage of impressive performances this past week. There WILL be a slight shortage of featured tourneys next week…with Christmas falling on Sunday. However, we’ll still have a pretty robust menu of events to choose from between Wednesday and Saturday. Happy Holidays and…if you play…good luck!