Gregory Lewis Sweeps Florida Derby Challenge Qualifier While Winning an NHC Seat; Ron Tang and Daniel Fischer Each Double Up on Saturday; Craig Spencer Grabs a Keeneland Entry Thanks to Horse that Runs Third (Weekly Recap, March 22-26)

Point #1: You know that feeling when you play two entries in a tourney, use different horses on each entry, and wind up doing a really good job of almost perfectly splitting your good picks between the two entries? Gregory Lewis knows that feeling.

And he’s okay with that.

With 2 firsts and 4 seconds on one ticket and five completely different collections (4 firsts and a place) on the other, Lewis managed to sweep Friday’s Florida Derby Challenge qualifier, so he’ll now have double-barrel action this Saturday.

Some could argue what Lewis did in Friday’s NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers was even more remarkable.

In this one, Lewis played three entries rather than two. And on that “entry #3”, he somehow managed to put together a veritable “Greatest Hits” album, finishing with 6 wins and no places. All six winners were from his two Florida Derby Challenge entries, and the six-pack gave him just enough ($72.90—a $14 improvement over his best Florida Derby entry) to get him the third and final NHC seat. Crafty!

The top two finishers in this crowded tourney were Leonard Peterson (5 wins, 2 places) and Matthew Thomas (4W, 4P). They, of course, also punched early tickets to next years NHC.

Appropriately, Peterson, Thomas and Lewis all had Vegas Weekend ($13.20, $5.70) in the 5th at Aqueduct.

Point #2: You know that feeling when your selection gets away from the gate slowly, closes too late to have any chance of catching the winner in the stretch, but you think you have a shot for second and you start to get a little excited…only to see him come up just short and finish third? Frustrating, right? Craig Spencer knows such disgust. Little did he know, though, that the 3rd-place finish by Bolt Supremacy in the 1st at Santa Anita on Sunday—a race that didn’t help his total one bit—wound up winning him a $3,500 Keeneland Grade One Gamble seat.

Spencer and Craig Siedler each picked four winners and they were the exact same four. Neither of them had any place collections, and they wound up tied for second in what was a two-seat qualifier. So it came down to place collections, and Spencer outdid Siedler on that front by a count of 2 to 1—with Bolt Supremacy making the difference. 

It’s hard to feel happy when you watch your horse run third, but once in a blue moon, it can actually work for you like it did for Spencer.

Meanwhile, winner Braden Selvig had to do a little less nail biting on his way to securing a Grade One Gamble—however, he did need to hit Shezmisbehaving ($12.80, $6.00) in the final contest race (Santa Anita’s 5th) in order to do so. 

A Keeneland Grade One Gamble play-in also helped get the featured-tourney week underway on Wednesday—when Mike Thomas got off to a very fast start.

Thomas nailed the first 4 races, added a place in contest race 5 and held on from there to earn the $3,500 berth for April 15.

The top returner for Thomas was Rachel’s Rock ($12.00, $6.20) in the 7th at Gulfstream. And the same could be said of Jaime Rivera.

Rachel’s Rock was among 3 winners and 3 runners up posted by Rivera in taking Wednesday’s $5,000 Guaranteed cash tourney. His winner’s share was $3,203 in a game ultimately worth a total of $7,119.

Rachel’s Rock was also common to the scorecards of Lawrence Kahlden (2 wins, 3 places) and Rocco Lombardi (3W, 2P).

There were the two $2,000 seat winners in Wednesday’s qualifier to the $350,000 Guaranteed Players Championship, which is now less than two weeks away.

On Thursday, Peter Behr, the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge victor, captured the day’s $6,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray.

Behr (3 firsts, 2 seconds) nailed Just a Wonder ($18.00, $7.20) in the final contest race, the 7th at Hawthorne to get up for the $3,577 grand prize. The total pot in this one came to $7,949.

Clint Littlejohn (3 wins, 2 places) and Wendy Long (also 3W, 2P) were the two $2,000 seat winners in Thursday’s Players Championship qualifier.

Littlejohn and Long each had Near Perfect ($20.00, $9.00) in the 7th at Mahoning Valley and 8-1 Just a Wonder at the end.

Friday saw three players advance to the middle leg of the 2023 Tourney Triple.

Robert Rosenzweig (4 wins, 2 places), Brendan Fay (3W, 1P) and Thomas Piotrowski (3W, 2P) were the skillful three. They each landed on Callaloo ($10.00, $4.40) in the 6th at Aqueduct.

Happily for runner up Fay, the same picks that got him a Players Championship berth, also brought him a $3,500 seat to the Keeneland Grade One Gamble.

Also picking up a “KGOG” seat was runner up Mark Stillmock, who booked 5 winners on the day, including the longest price during a chalky day—Mandy Green ($13.20, $7.20) in the 8th at Gulfstream. 

Stephen Wagner didn’t enjoy many Friday collections, but the ones he had were worthwhile.

Wagner carded two double-digit winners and a $17.20 place collection to take home the winner’s share of $9,501 in Friday’s HT Tour event, our $15,000 Gtd. Pick & Pray, which closed with a purse of $21,113.

Kirk Rockwell (4 wins, 0 places) and Basil DeVito (3W, 2P) each played Mandy Green in the 8th at Gulfstream and Forever Amy ($7.30, $3.70) in the last contest race (Aqueduct race 8).

Rockwell and DeVito were rewarded for their efforts with $2,000 entries into the June 3 Monmouth Pick Your Prize Challenge.

On Saturday, Dr. Ron Tang (2 wins, 2 places) and Daniel Fischer (4W, 0P) ran one-two in the day’s Florida Derby Challenge qualifier.

Tang and Fischer each reeled in $1,500 entries, but that’s not all they won on Saturday.

Tang also finished first in the Keeneland Grade One Gamble qualifier that also saw Bobby Marks (3 firsts, 2 seconds) pick up a $3,500 spot. Tang and Marks both made hay with Traffic Song ($29.80, $15.60) in the 8th at Gulfstream.

Fischer, meanwhile, got the third and final available seat in Saturday’s Players Championship play-in.

The top two ahead of Fischer were Michael Solakis (4 wins, including Traffic Song plus 2 places) and Ron Ricciuti (3W, 2P).

Saturday’s highest score (in our 12-race multi-track games) was achieved at HorsePlayers in the NHC Pick & Pray.

Joe Johnson did the hours with 5 wins and 3 places. The other contestant to break 100, Terry Jerge, got the other available Vegas spot. Mosienko ($11.20, $6.00) in the 9th at Aqueduct was the highest common denominator in their respective scorecards.

Dennis Clark put up a nice score in his own right to take the one-seat Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge Pick & Pray at HorsePlayers.

Traffic Song ($29.80, $15.60) in the 8th at Gulfstream was the heavy lifter for Clark among 6 wins and a place.

Saturday started early at HorsePlayers due to our Dubai World Cup Day $10,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray. James Dickson wound up winning the $5,000 grand prize by the length of the Meydan stretch.

While it was still light out, Dickson hit cap horse Danyah ($139.40, $33.40) in race 4. Then, after night had fallen in the desert, he had Ushba Tesoro ($28.30, $9.30) as his Dubai World Cup coup de grace. Entry fees in this affair fell short of the guarantee…so players (especially Dickson) wound up enjoying a 9.6% overlay here.

Elsewhere on the Saturday cash-game front, Michael Cherello accounted for the richest tourney of the week, our $30,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray.

Cherello recorded 5 winners—including Traffic Song—and a place to pocket $16,216 in this HT Tour event, which closed with a pot of $36,036.

Paul Kimos also smoked out Traffic Song.

He was the winner—by $20.90—in Saturday’s Monmouth Pick Your Prize Challenge qualifier.

Ray Barnes (4 wins, 2 places) and Joe “Tex” Scanio (3W, 3P) each played Luni Sima ($11.40, $5.30) in the 8th at Aqueduct.

They’ll both be in action deep in the heart of Texas on April 22 in the Lone Star Spring Betting Challenge.

Ken Jordan (3 firsts, 1 second) hit No Burn ($6.20, $3.40) in the final contest race, the 10th at Aqueduct.

The modest victory proved big for Jordan, as it enabled him to bag $8,549 in Saturday’s $10,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which closed with a purse of $12,213.

The Big Bucks tourney on Sunday—a $7,000 Guaranteed deal—was totally dominated by our 2021 The BIG One champ, Ken Seeman.

This one went off at a slight, 1.4% overlay to players and Seeman took full advantage, scoring with Otago ($27.80, $7.80) in the 8th at Tampa and amassing a score more than twice that of his nearest foe. His winner’s share was $4,900.

Andrew Walker enjoyed a Sunday windfall of $13,387.

Walker fired off three $20+ winners over just the first five contest races, and he followed those up with two nice place collections en route to victory in Sunday’s HT Tour game, our $20,000 Pick & Pray, which closed its doors with $29,750 in the kitty.

The NHC qualifying opportunity on Sunday took place here at HorsePlayers, and it provided us with the day’s two highest scores.

Not only did Kirk Tesar nail four $20+ winners, he added a max $22.00 place collection to earn his 2024 NHC spot and then some. Meanwhile, Jeff Arthur (4 wins, 4 places) made collections in each of the first 7 races to lock down the other ticket to Vegas.

Christopher Olsson (4 wins, 1 place) and Jeff Bussan (2W, 1P) were the two seat winners in Sunday’s Monmouth Pick Your Prize qualifier. 

Olsson and Bussan both selected Be There Now ($23.00, $9.20) in the 7th at Gulfstream.

Three players earned $1,500 entries in Sunday’s Florida Derby Challenge qualifier.

Congratulations to Stephen Thompson (4 wins, 0 places), Jim Colbert (3W, 0P) and Anthony Mastropietro (3W, 0P).

That was a small group of winners compared to how many took home Players Championship seats in Sunday’s qualifier to the $350,000 Guaranteed event.

A total of five earned their way into the April 7-8 extravaganza, topped by “The People’s CEO,” Joe “JK” Koury. He hit the last two winners to finish with four on the day. Behind Koury but still smiling were Bruce D’Agostini (3W, 0P), Alexa Zepp (3W, 2P), Mike Elsass (2W, 1P) and Pete Acocella (3W, 0P).

Finally…NHC Hall of Famer Paul Shurman is known more for his prowess in Vegas, but this year, he’s hoping to do some damage in the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge. 

Shurman (4 wins, 1 place) finished strong with Shezmisbehaving in the final race to get up and win Sunday’s BCBC Low Ratio Pick & Pray over Scott McKeever, who earned a $5,000 partial seat for running second. 

Thanks to all who played last weekend, and before we go, we want to give a special shoutout to loyal HorseTourneys player Anthony Laurino—winner of Saturday’s Laurel Champions Tournament. Well done, Anthony!