First Chances to Qualify for the Keeneland Grade One Gamble and Final Weekend of Tampa High Rollers Play-Ins Highlight the Friday, Saturday and Sunday Featured-Tourney Action

Even though a cold snap is hitting much of the country (knocking out Friday and Saturday Aqueduct racing in the process), you know spring can’t be far off once we start talking about the Keeneland Grade One Gamble—and that’s what we’re doing now.

The popular Jim Goodman-run contest—playable both on-track and at Xpressbet—will be hosted on Saturday, April 15 this year. As per usual, the buy-in amount will be $3,500…and, as per usual, you can get in for a smaller amount if you win one of our many qualifiers to it. 

Starting on Saturday, we’ll be offering $207 play-ins that will see one of every 20 competitors earn their spot into the Blue Grass bout that will award cash plus seats to the NHC and Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge.

That all begins on Saturday. Weekends around here begin on Friday, however, and on that day we have five marquee games at HorseTourneys and HorsePlayers.

This weekend is the final one in which to land a $1,000 seat for the Tampa Bay Downs High Rollers Contest, to be held on-track only on Friday and Saturday, February 10-11. Winners of Friday’s $80, 1-per-15 Pick & Pray will have action in Oldsmar, Fla., the following weekend.

Another two-day, Friday and Saturday contest coming up is the $350,000 Guaranteed Players Championship, held right here on April 7-8. It’s the middle leg of the 2023 Tourney Triple, and it will be run in All Optional Live format with players making 15 plays each day from approximately 30 eligible races.

We’ll have a $156 “PC” qualifier on each day of the weekend with one of every 15 entrants, at $156 per entry, scoring a $2,000 seat. Friday’s play-in is a Pick & Pray.

A qualifier a day will also be held this weekend for the March 9 NHC First Chance/Last Chance contest at Horseshoe Las Vegas.

Friday’s NHC First Chance/Last Chance Pick & Pray calls for an entry fee of $59, with one of every 10 competitors grabbing a $500 berth to play in the popular NHC prelude. (Incidentally, contest veterans will tell you that the NHC First Chance/Last Chance contest can have a lot to say about who wins that year’s NHC Tour since there are lots of entrants, and since it is treated as an “on-track” event by the NTRA. Win or do well in it, and you’ll be off to a flying start.)

We haven’t forgotten about you cash gamers. The featured cash tourney on Friday is our $15,000 Guaranteed, No Limit Pick & Pray, which serves as the day’s HT Tour event. The entry fee for this one is $190, and there is no limit as to how high the purse can go.

The lone Friday feature at HorsePlayers is their weekly staple—a $75 NHC Pick & Pray.

Two seats are guaranteed in this test, which has a winning ratio of 1-per-143 and also offers a good amount of NHC Tour points. Remember—you must be a 2022 NHC Tour member, prior to the start of the contest, in order to be eligible for an NHC package in this or any other qualifier to the 2023 NHC. If you’re not a member, you can become one at for a $50 membership fee.

Contest races for the Friday featured tourneys at both HorseTourneys and HorsePlayers are the 7th through 9th from Gulfstream; the 8th and 9th at Tampa Bay Downs; and the 4th through 8th from Santa Anita—10 races in all.

Saturday is “Day 1” in which to qualify for the Keeneland Grade One Gamble.

An upfront investment of $207 gets you a 1-in-20 chance at playing in the “KGOG” with a paid-up $3,500 entry. Again, Gamble gamblers can participate on-track on April 15th or via Xpressbet. If you’ve never been to Keeneland, though, you probably owe it to yourself to go there at least once!

As promised, there will again be qualifiers on Saturday for the February 10-11 Tampa Bay Downs High Rollers Contest ($80 entry fee), the March 9 NHC First Chance/Last Chance tournament ($59) and the April 7-8 Players Championship ($156). All three will be Pick & Prays.

The richest tourney of the week is our $30,000 Guaranteed No Limit Pick & Pray. It’s the day’s HT Tour competition, and it carries an entry fee of $350.

Another lucrative get together is our Saturday Big Bucks tourney, which is a Pick & Pray and offers a $10,000 purse guarantee. The purse could swell above $20,000, though, with total entries—at $1,150 each— capped at 20. Payouts go just to the top three finishers with the winner collecting 70 percent of the net pool, the runner up getting 20 percent, and the third-place finisher picking up the remaining 10 percent.

Over at HorsePlayers, there are three Live-format features.

One is a $179 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge qualifier with a winning ratio of 1-per-65. At least one $10,000 BCBC berth will be awarded regardless of participation.

There are two NHC play-in at HorsePlayers on Saturday. For $500, you can try your luck in a Low Ratio NHC qualifier. The winning ratio is 1-per-21, but note that at least 10 entries must be signed up in order for this tourney to take place.

The other featured tourney at HorsePlayers will take place no matter what. It’s a $165 NHC qualifier with two spots guaranteed. The winning ratio is 1-per-65. 

The 12 contest races for Saturday are the 8th through 12th from Gulfstream; the 2nd, 4th, 6th, 7th and 8th at Santa Anita; and races 7 and 9 (both stakes) from Tampa Bay Downs. Closing time is set for 3:16 pm ET.

Nine more marquee games are slated for Sunday.

The Sunday HT Tour battle is our $20,000 Guaranteed No Limit Pick & Pray. If you slip the doorman $250, he will show you to your seat. 

Our second qualifier to the Keeneland Grade One Gamble takes place on Sunday, and it’s the same deal as on Saturday—$207 entry fee, Pick & Pray format, 1-per-20 winning ratio and winners get a $3,500 entry.

There’s an NHC qualifier here at HorseTourneys on Saturday. It’s a $165 Pick & Pray with two spots to next month’s event certain to be awarded.

For the third straight day, there are direct qualifiers to the Players Championship, the NHC First Chance/Last Chance tournament, and the Tampa Bay Downs High Rollers Contest. All three of these will again be Pick & Prays.

Our Sunday Big Bucks tourney is always a Live-format game. It has a purse guaranteed at a minimum of $7,000, though that could go to $20,000 if we reach our maximum entry capacity of 20. Entries cost $1,150 and payouts go only to the top three finishers on a 70/20/10 basis.

There are two features on Sunday at HorsePlayers.

One is a Live-format, Low Ratio Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge qualifier. The entry fee is $500; the winning ratio is 1-per-23; and at least one $10,000 seat will awarded even if fewer than 23 show up.

The other is a $165 NHC qualifier that’s restricted to those who have yet to earn a 2023 berth. One seat is guaranteed, and no NHC Tour points will be available since it’s a restricted affair. The format is Live.

We hope you have an enjoyable—and profitable—first weekend in February. Good luck!