Paul Calia First NHC Champ to Qualify via HorseTourneys; Disappointing Vegas Effort Doesn’t Stop Seth Wilkey; Rocco Lombardi Takes Back-to-Back Monmouth Qualifiers (Weekly Recap, March 8-12)

As most of you know by now, Paul Calia of Kansas City, Missouri, captured last weekend’s NHC. Not only did he take the $800,000 grand prize, but he finished fourth with his other entry.

For that reason, the photo above does not do him justice, because he got another $150,000 for the fourth-place finish, plus a BCBC seat for the highest Day 2 score, plus $10,000 in lieu of what would have/could have been a second BCBC seat earned as part of his grand prize.

So Calia earned pretty darned close to a million dollars, but we here at HorseTourneys are celebrating his victory due to more than just the windfall. Though it seems a little hard to believe, Calia was the first to win the NHC after qualifying via HorseTourneys (as opposed to HorsePlayers, an on-track contest, the NHC Tour, etc., etc.). May he be the first of many!

There was also something of an NHC-HorseTourneys connection for many other players in Vegas last week…especially Seth Wilkey.

If at first you don’t succeed, log onto HorseTourneys! 

Wilkey’s 5 firsts and 1 second generated the high score of the day, and that put him in the winner’s circle of Sunday’s $25,812 HT Tour event…

…and also our first qualifier to the April 1 Florida Derby Challenge.

No oversized checks or photos with Horseshoe Las Vegas/NTRA honchos…but a successful weekend in Vegas nonetheless for Wilkey!

Another NHC contestant, Kenneth Arenrich got his time in Vegas off to a profitable start.

Arnerich came up with Lady Petal ($52.00, $20.80) in the 8th at Gulfstream and Denying ($25.60, $8.20) in the final contest race, the 9th at Tampa, to get up and grab $3,110 in Wednesday’s $5,000 Guaranteed cash game, which had a final purse of $6,912.

Lady Petal was the last of five consecutive winners reeled off by Bryan Clifford.

The quintet gave Clifford a $2,000 berth into the $350,000 Guaranteed Players Championship here on April 7-8.

The 2020 Spa & Surf Showdown champ, Scott Fiedler, could not be denied after nailing Denying at the end of the day.

Fiedler will now have action on April 15 in the Keeneland Grade One Gamble. He can play his $3,500 entry either on-track or at Xpressbet.

There were two features on Thursday…but just one winner.

Vineet “Please don’t squeeze the” Sharma (4 wins, 2 places) scored with a pair of $40+ horses, including Hoppestry ($67.60, $21.40) in the 5th at Hawthorne en route to a victory worth $2,955 in Thursday’s $6,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which closed its doors with $6,566 in the kitty. 

Sharma played the same picks back in Thursday’s Players Championship qualifier.

Here, his margin of victory was even greater ($39.40). Next stop for Sharma: the middle leg of the 2023 Tourney Triple.

Joining Sharma in the Players Championship field on April 7-8 will be Anthony Mastropietro.

Mastropietro ruled Friday’s “PC” qualifier thanks to two nice-priced winners—Cahuilla ($22.60, $7.60) in the first contest race (the 6th at Gulfstream) and Necromancer ($25.80, $12.20) in another early race, the 5th at the Big A.

Alan “The Muscle” Baze also had the Cahuilla-Necromancer “early double.”

All together, Baze had 3 wins and a place, which got him the top spot in Friday’s HT Tour event, our $15,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray.

Baze collected $8,079 from what was a total final pot of $17,955.

Thomas Michael Abinanti (2 firsts, 2 seconds) missed Cahuilla, but he had Necromancer.

Abinanti earned the sought-after $3,500 berth in Friday’s Keeneland Grade One Gamble play-in.

On Friday, we hosted the week’s first Monmouth Pick Your Prize Challenge qualifier. It was captured by Rocco Lombardi, thanks to 4 wins and a place.

What’s better than having a paid-up spot in the Monmouth Pick Your Prize Challenge? Having two paid-up spots!

Three wins and two places enabled Lombardi to pull off the back-to-back (belly-to-belly) Pick Your Prize conquests. His big Saturday horse was Coop Tries Harder ($23.40, $9.60) in the 10th at Gulfstream.

Coop Tries Harder was also the top yielder for Chris Verderame.

In all, Verderame amassed 5 firsts and 2 seconds in this $7,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks Pick & Pray. The winner’s share came to $9,261, and the final purse ended up at $13,230.

Rich Gesiakowski picked Coop Tries Harder and he also landed on Tesos ($21.00, $8.40) in the 7th at Santa Anita.

Gesiakowski, thus, picked up a $1,000 seat for the April 22 Lone Star Spring Betting Challenge.

There were two winners of $2,000 entries in Saturday’s Players Championship qualifier.

Congratulations to Gregory Caliwag (4 wins, 3 places) and Joseph Parella (4W, 1P). Parella got up late with 7-1 A Mo Reay at the end.

There were also dual grand-prize recipients in our first qualifier to the March 25 Laurel Champions tournament.

The $500 seat winners were the two to scale $70—Jason Phillips (5 wins, 0 places) and Paul Kimos (3W, 3P). Little Jewel ($18.00, $6.00) in the 11th at Gulfstream was a winner that each of them had. Phillips had A Mo Reay, which allowed him to leapfrog all the way to the top.

Over at HorsePlayers, Rick Vasquez connected in the final contest race with the aforementioned A Mo Reay ($17.80, $5.20) to close out a 6-win, 1-place day.

The final-race mutuels got Vasquez up for a razor-thin, 10-cent victory in Saturday’s $179 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge Pick & Pray.

On Sunday, the cost to compete in the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge play-in was $500 since it was a Low Ratio game.

The player who made the ratios work to his advantage was Anthony Laurino (2 wins, 1 place). A narrow loser in the Saturday Laurel qualifier, Laurino had the one Sunday horse that was the day’s best precursor to success—Downtown Connector ($82.80, $25.80) in the 6th at Aqueduct.

Downtown Connector was the lone winner of the day for Nick “529” Fazzolari.

The Ozone Park bomb plus two place collections got “Nicky Fazz” the $2,000 berth in Sunday’s Monmouth Pick Your Prize Challenge play-in.

Robert Turner (4 wins, 1 place) and Rick “I-65” Broth (3W, 0P) each had Downtown Connector as well as Ballet Dancing ($11.40, $5.60) in the final contest race, the 7th at Santa Anita. 

They were the two to punch their tickets on Sunday to the $350,000 Guaranteed Players Championship.

Stephen Lerma put up 5 wins and 2 places to take Sunday’s Keeneland Grade One Gamble qualifier by a wide margin ($37.80).

Happily for runner up John Twomey, there were enough entries to award a second $3,500 seat. Twomey did all his scoring (3 winners) over the first four contest races.

Sunday’s $7,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks tourney attracted a field of just five, which meant that it went off at an overlay to players of 17.8%.

The winner of the $4,900 grand prize was Howard Welsh, who seldom misses our high-end, Saturday-and-Sunday tourneys. His biggest return came with Cut Across Shorty ($13.40, $5.40) in the 4th at Golden Gate.

For our final two featured-tourney recaps, we rewind a bit back to Saturday action.

This was Chris Cupples’s best NHC ever…but not for the reason one would normally think.

Shortly after sending out that tweet, Cupples entered Saturday’s Keeneland Grade One Gamble qualifier and came in 2nd to earn a spot along with first-place finisher Eric Liebmann.

Even better for Cupples, he entered our richest tourney of the week, Saturday’s $20,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray.

Here, as if guided by a higher power, Cupples picked 9 winners out of the first 10 races, and he won $13,582 in an HT Tour event ultimately worth a total of $30,184. We bet Emma’s going to get something nice out of this deal. 

Meanwhile, the rest of us already have.