Thomas Guthrie Collects in Every Race En Route to Sunday Cash-Game Triumph; Mark Stillmock Wins One Tourney on Wednesday and Another on Friday; Steve Wolfson Sr. Grabs a Pair of Players Championship Berths (Weekly Recap, March 29-April 2)

Thomas Guthrie had the highest score on Sunday—but not drastically so. It was only by a margin of 20 cents. Guthrie still gets the top billing in this recap, however, for what he accomplished.

Some players like to bomb away and reach for the stars. Guthrie scored one for the “chipper-awayers” on Sunday, boosting his score in every race of the day’s $20,000 Guaranteed cash tourney.

Despite missing the day’s double-digit winners, Guthrie’s 5 wins and 7 places got the job done by $11.20 (a big winning margin for the day) in this HT Tour event that closed up shop with a purse of $25,812. Guthrie’s share of that came to $11,615—not a bad payday for some modestly-priced horses!

On Wednesday, Lucille DeRuisseau started the featured-tourney week off with a bang by recording two nice victories.

In the Live-format, $5,000 Guaranteed cash game, DeRuisseau hit the jackpot with Et’s Toy Soldier who won the final contest race (the 10th at Parx) and paid $92.20 to win and $30.40 to place. DeRuisseau earned $3,546 from an overall prize pool of $7,880.

Of course, that was a Live-format game, and obviously DeRuisseau was just stabbing at the end with that 45-1 shot…right?

Stab this!

Clearly a woman of her convictions, DeRuisseau had Et’s Toy Soldier in Wednesday’s Pick & Pray Players Championship qualifier as well. That was bad news for all but Peter Osella, who managed to snag the second available $2,000 entry for finishing $34.70 back in second place.

Like Peter Osella, Mark Stillmock (4 firsts, 1 second) hit About the Multiple ($38.60, $14.60) in the 7th at Parx.

Stillmock was the victor in Wednesday’s Keeneland Grade One Gamble qualifier—and that began a pretty impressive 72 hours of handicapping by Stillmock.

In Thursday’s $6,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray (final pot: $8,571), Stillmock was ahead going into the last race, when Lawrence Kahlden (and also Al Richardson) squeaked past him with an even-money winner in the contest nightcap. Kahlden earned $3,857 for the narrow victory, while Stillmock—just 80 cents out of first—had to settle for $857.

Stillmock did no settling on Friday.

Again eschewing favorites, Stillmock was backed by 4 double-digit winners and 2 places, and he came roaring back from the Thursday close call to pocket $9,127 in Friday’s HT Tour event, our $15,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which ended up with a purse of $20,282. 

Catching up on one Thursday tourney we missed…Michael “Copa” Kavana (3 wins, 1 place) and Gary “Left Right” Leff were the two to earn $2,000 spots in our Players Championship qualifier.

Kavana and Leff took different routes to their respective successes. Kavana’s biggest return came in the third-from-last contest race with Happy Farm ($16.20, $5.40) in the 7th at Aqueduct. Leff, meanwhile, did all of his scoring over the first five contest races.

Getting back to Friday action, NHC Hall of Famer Steve Wolfson Sr. led a group of three $2,000-entry winners in the day’s Players Championship qualifier.

Wolfson was deadly early on, connecting on 5 of the first 6 winners, including Swifty Devil ($19.20, $6.90) in the 5th at Aqueduct. Also securing spots in the $350,000 Guaranteed middle leg of the 2023 Tourney Triple were Russell Priola, who hit the last two winners to finish with 5 on the day and Max Schnepf (4 wins, 3 places).

Two days later, Wolfson was back to earn a second Players Championship berth.

Wolfson only managed 5th-place here, but happily for him, this was a 5-seater as enthusiasm mounts for next Friday-Saturday’s All Optional Live extravaganza. Like all of the Sunday features, this one had a tightly-bunched leaderboard. Finishing on top was Rick Bruton, whose best winner among 4 wins and 3 places was everyone’s favorite turf-sprinting comedian Shekky Shabaz ($12.00, $8.00) in the 8th at Gulfstream.  The other “PC”seat earners were Daniel Goldstein (5W, 3P), Marc Racenstein (5W, 0P) and Douglas Schenk (4W, 4P). 

Our first Monmouth Pick Your Prize Challenge play-in of the week took place on Friday, and it went to Steven Meier.

Meier counted Kerness ($16.40, $7.20 in the 7th at Aqueduct) among his 3 firsts and 4 seconds.

Thomas Michael Abinanti and Anthony Spinazzola each took home $3,500 entries at the conclusion of Friday’s Keeneland Grade One Gamble qualifier.

Their horses weren’t exactly the same, but both Abinanti and Spinazzola finished with 3 winners from the final 4 contest races.

Friday’s $75 NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers guaranteed two seats, but there were enough entries to hand out three.

George “Ki-” Bosch swept the final four races here to finish with 5 wins and a place and score an impressive come-from-behind victory. Joining him at the 2024 NHC just 11 short months from now will be Leonard Peterson (6W, 0P) and (by 80 cents) John Farrar (5W, 0P). Peterson and Farrar each got up and into “the money” by virtue of hitting the 7-2 winner of the final contest race.

Close finishes were the rule all weekend long. John Aylward captured the richest tourney of the week by a mere 80 cents.

That extra 80 cents meant that Aylward (6 firsts, 1 second) got the winner’s share of $16,770 in Saturday’s HT Tour event, our $30,000 Guaranteed tourney, which paid out a total of $37,268. His top-returning horse was Affirmative Lady ($19.00, $8.40) in the Gulfstream Oaks.

Another who had Affirmative Lady was an affirmative lady in her own right.

That’s NHC Hall of Famer and 2001 NHC champ Judy Wagner. 

Wagner added three winners in addition to Affirmative Lady—plus a runner up for good measure—on the way to earning a $2,000 Monmouth Pick Your Prize Challenge entry.

Matthew Ransdell (3 wins, 5 places) and Joseph Johnson (3W, 2P) both had Mylastredcent ($10.20, $5.20) in Saturday’s race 9 at Tampa.

Another thing they have in common is that they will both be participating in the April 22 Lone Star Spring Betting Challenges with paid-up, $1,000 entries.

Affirmative Lady was also key to Dr. Ron Tang’s Saturday success.

Like Judy Wagner, Tang had the Gulfstream Oaks winner among 4 winners and 1 runner up. In Tang’s case, the payoff was $9,261 in Saturday’s $10,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks Pick & Pray, which had a final pot of $13,230.

Brian Arrigoni had an excellent Saturday.

Arrigoni hit the first 5 winners and 6 of the first 7 to prevail in Saturday’s Players Championship qualifier, which saw Tom O’Connor, Gregg Kingma and Anthony Spinazzola also pick up $2,500 seats for this coming Friday-Saturday.

Arrigoni added a place collection to his scorecard in Saturday’s play-in to the April 15 Keeneland Grade One Gamble.

The 2021 NHC Tour champ Joseph (Kevin) Costello finished second in this one to grab the other $3,500 Keeneland entry that was up for grabs.

Over at HorsePlayers on Saturday, we imagine that the winner of Saturday’s $125 NHC qualifier had difficulty curbing his enthusiasm after all was said and done. 

No, it wasn’t THAT Larry David…though ours does live in California (near Sacramento, actually, as opposed to Los Angeles). Our Larry “A.” David picked 7 winners out of 12 races.

This was a special 5-seat qualifier, so there was plenty of soup for four other masters of their domain. Those four were David Deprospero (4 wins, 2 places), Jason Albano (5W, 3P), Brett Wiener (4W, 1P) and Robert “yada, yada,” Wada (4W, 3P).

The other Saturday feature at HorsePlayers was a $179 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge qualifier.

Ryan Carey got the coveted $10,000 entry in this one thanks to 3 winners (including Affirmative Lady) and 6 runners up.

It seemed to be a good week for NHC Hall of Famers around here, and another one in that select club accounted for the lone Sunday feature at HorsePlayers.

This November, Trey Stiles will attempt to build his case for membership in the yet-to-be-created BCBC Hall of Fame after taking Sunday’s Low Ratio qualifier with 4 wins and 6 places. His top return came via Any Port ($13.20, $5.20) in the 6th at Gulfstream.

Back here at HorseTourneys, David Harrison isn’t an NHC Hall of Famer, but who’s to say he won’t be one someday, since he took top honors at the 2022 renewal. Anyway…Harrison was one of two to earn places in the Keeneland Grade One Gamble on Sunday.

The other was Stephen Berdar, who led the way with 5 wins and a place. He had Harrison both came up with Any Port.

Any Port was also seen on the scorecards of the two to advance to Vegas in Sunday’s NHC qualifier.

Congratulations to John Marino (5 wins, 1 place) and David Nelson (4W, 2P). Nelson caught a $7.80 place collection in the final race to get up for 2nd

Gary Brous was the Sunday Big Bucks tourney winner.

He had Shekky Shebaz ($12.00, $8.00) in the 8th at Gulfstream among his 4 firsts and 3 seconds.

Last but not least, Jeff Bussan reeled in a $2,000 entry in Sunday’s Monmouth Pick Your Prize Challenge qualifier.

On a bunched-up day without a lot of big prices (and in which all of the first-place finishers, with the exception of Brous in the 10-entry Big Bucks game, had scores ranging from $70.10 to $78.00), Bussan picked the two biggest prices to be had during the afternoon.

We hope your close finishes from last weekend turned out more like San Diego State’s and less like Florida Atlantic’s. The upcoming Easter week is an important one here with the Players Championship set for Friday and Saturday. We’ll be firing up the featured tourneys again starting on Wednesday. Hope to see many of you then.