Dave Tuley Captures Free NHC Qualifier; John Nichols Scores a Friday Hat Trick; Ron Tang Wins Three Grand Prizes on Saturday (Weekly Recap, April 19-23)

Some of you may know Dave Tuley from his days writing for Daily Racing Form or Others may be familiar with him owing to his current role at VSiN (Vegas Stats and Information Network). On Saturday, 2,370 players became acquainted with him in a less pleasant way.

Tuley hates favorites. He almost always sides with the underdog. So maybe it’s a little less surprising, then, that he found his way to four Saturday winners that all paid between $27.40 and $35.50. Those four, plus a couple of 3-1 shots, earned him the top spot in Saturday’s free NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers that also saw Barbara Lordi and Stephen Spinelli earn 2024 seats to the big dance.

It is believed that Tuley has attended every single NHC—either as a reporter or, more recently, as a participant. Here’s some more Tuley Trivia: He hates vegetables…in the 1990s, he was said to be an Al Gore lookalike…and he grew up in the Chicago area where he was a big fan of the local teams. This final point is substantiated by the fact that he and his wife Wendy have two daughters and a son, and (I am not making this up) the girls are named Peyton and Jordyn, and their son is named Maddux.

At any rate, Tuley will again new making an appearance at the next NHC—just not near the greener sections of the lunch buffet.

Bobby Shoemaker can afford to take his friends out to several buffets at Golden Corral, CiCi’s Pizza or even Bacchanal after winning Wednesday’s featured cash tourney.

Shoemaker picked just two winners, but they went off at 55-1 and 13-1 respectively, and that got him the up-top money of $3,390 in Wednesday’s $5,000 Guaranteed tourney, which closed with a purse of $7,534.

Clint Littlejohn had the same two big-price horses as Shoemaker.

Littlejohn also threw in a runner up for good measure, and the won the $2,500 seat in Wednesday’s play-in to the $400,000 Guaranteed Spa & Surf Showdown.

James Morgan picked 4 Wednesday winners…but his best return came via one of his three place collections.

Morgan got back $21.72 when 28-1 Bold Looker ran 2nd in the 6th at Keeneland. Morgan will now be in the starting gate with a paid-up $3,000 entry in the May 6 Kentucky Derby Challenge at Xpressbet.

Thursday’s lone feature was a $6,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray (final purse: $8,640) that Raymond Gallant Jr. won by the narrow margin of 62 cents.

It was a tough beat for Michael Sussman. In the next-to-last race, he hit a 10-1 shot that Gallant also had. Then in the nightcap, he nailed a 17-1 winner, but the win-place mutuel left him 62 cents in arrears of Gallant for the $3,888 grand prize.

On Friday, the star of the day was John “The Clocker” Nichols.

This is one of Nichols’s busiest times of the year as Churchill Downs is one of the tracks where he plies his trade. Happily for Nichols, though, he found time to play here last Friday.

He took Friday’s Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge Low Ratio qualifier over Michael Caposio who finished second.

Friday’s Spa & Surf Showdown qualifier basically had the exact same result.

Good for Nichols, unfortunate once again for Caposio.

Guess what happened in Friday’s Kentucky Derby Challenge qualifier?

At least this time Caposio got rewarded with a grand prize for his runner-up effort. As for Nichols, we can only hope that the busy nature of Derby Week doesn’t preclude him from identifying a few horses worth backing on May 6 at Xpressbet.

In Friday’s Monmouth Pick Your Prize Challenge play-in, Caposio apparently grew tired of playing Sham to Nichols’s Secretariat. So he decided to play Sham to someone else!

Here it was Mike Elsass who relegated Caposio to the runner-up position. As in the Kentucky Derby Challenge game, though, Caposio was fine with that as both he and Elsass (3 wins, 3 places) came away with $2,000 berths for the June 3 tournament at Monmouth/Xpressbet.

Friday’s highest scorer was Chris Podratz.

Podratz had Reckoning Force ($15.90, $5.90) in the final contest race, the 10th at Keeneland, among his 4 wins and 2 places, and he won the day’s $75 NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers.

Also picking up 2024 berths were Eugene Spruck (5W, 1P) and NHC Hall of Famer Sally Goodall (4W, 1P), who got there despite whiffing on the first four contest races. For Goodall, the 2024 NHC will be a record 22nd appearance in the event. No one has qualified to the world’s most prestigious handicapping tournament more often.

Friday cash-game victor was “Marvelous” Neil Thornbury.

Thornbury had Reckoning Force at the end to finish with 4 winners on the day and squeak out a 40-cent victory worth $10,024 in the day’s $15,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which closed up shop with a pot of $22,277.

Another who had Reckoning Force was Lillian Pierce.

Pierce picked 5 winners and 1 placer to earn a $1,000 Golden Gate Gold Rush entry for this coming Saturday.

Last year, Anthony “Doczilla” Trezza finished 2nd to Travis Pearson in the HT Tour standings. This year, the New Jersey/Pennsylvania optometrist seems to be on a mission to avenge that defeat.

Trezza led the 2023 standings coming into last week, and his edge will increase after capturing our richest tourney of the week, Saturday’s $30,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray. For his 5-win, 3-place effort, Trezza was rewarded with beaucoup de HT Tour points and—oh yeah—$15,939 in this game that finished with a total purse of $35,420.

The other featured cash game on Saturday was the day’s $10,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks Pick & Pray.

Frequent victor Ronald Tang got the $9,973 top prize here thanks to 3 wins and a place. His top winner in this $14,248 affair was Aunt Becca ($28.10, $5.04) in the 7th at Keeneland.

The same selections also got Tang a $1,000 entry in Saturday’s Golden Gate Gold Rush Challenge…

…and also a $2,500 seat for the Spa & Surf Showdown.

Brett Wiener finished in front of Tang in this one. For Wiener, it was one of two victories on the day. The other came in Saturday’s Monmouth Pick Your Prize Challenge qualifier.

Like Tang, Wiener came up with both Aunt Becca and also Nature Boy ($27.40, $12.60) in the 9th at Keeneland.

Troy Robertson (2 wins, 3 places) and Paul Fishman (4W, 0P) both liked Nature Boy.

They were the two winners on $3,000 entries in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby Challenge play-in.

John Behnke won three races in a row early on, and added another tally later.

The quartet of winners added up to a $6,500 package for Behnke in Saturday’s Del Mar Summer Challenge play-in.

Verstappen ($34.30, $12.50) in the Elkhorn Stakes at Keeneland helped Jim Meeks speed into the winner’s circle on Saturday at HorsePlayers.

Meeks (4 wins, 1 place) was at the center of the podium at the conclusion of Saturday’s $179 Breeders’ Cup Pick & Pray.

On Sunday, the two biggest prices to be had were Little Dixie ($22.76, $7.28) in the 6th at Keeneland and Silver Fist ($20.40, $6.90) in the 6th at Aqueduct. High scorer of the day David McCarty liked them both.

McCarty (5 wins, 1 place) was the winner of Sunday’s $210 NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers, which saw Karen Richards (5 wins, 5 places) also punch her ticket to the 2024 event.

The other Sunday feature at HorsePlayers was a $500 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge Low Ratio play-in.

The $10,000 seat in this one went to Gerald Naber, who counted Little Dixie among his 4 firsts and 1 second.

Little Dixie was also on the scorecard of Justin Kelly (4 firsts, 2 seconds).

Kelly took down the top prize of $13,289 in Sunday’s $20,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which ended up paying out a total of $29,531.

The two players to clear the $80 barrier—Mark Stillmock (5 wins, 1 place) and Michael Kiatipis (3W, 2P)—were the two to win Sunday’s Spa & Surf Showdown qualifier.

Actually, Stillmock and Kiatipis were also the only two to top the $70 mark. In any event, the both move on to the $400,000 Guaranteed final leg of the 2023 Tourney Triple here on August 5-6.

The big Sunday horse for Mark Hackworth was 9-1 Silver Fist in race 6 at the Big A.

The last race of Sunday’s Golden Gate Gold Rush Challenge qualifier was also key for Hackworth. By having the 5-2 winner, he was able to block/hold off Justin Thompson and Jim Settle and keep the $1,000 entry for himself.

Joshua “Pickin &” Prain (4 wins, 0 places) and Richard Gorzkowski (4W, 4P) were the two to snatch up $3,000 entries in Sunday’s play-in to the Kentucky Derby Challenge.

They both used Warrior Richard ($12.00, $3.60) in the 5th at Aqueduct. That seemed particularly appropriate in Gorzkowski’s case.

Little Dixie at Keeneland was key for Joseph Zuer (3 firsts, 1 second).

Zuer collected $5,699 in the lone Live-format feature of the weekend, Sunday’s $7,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks tourney, which closed with a prize pool of $8,142.

Little Dixie was also common to the scorecards of $2,000 seat winners Jerry McClenin (4 wins, 3 places) and Matt “The Fly” Tietze (3W, 4P).

McClenin and Tietze ran one-two in Sunday’s Monmouth Pick Your Prize Challenge play-in.

Even though there was just one cap horse all week (the 55-1 winner at Keeneland on Wednesday), it was still a fun and competitive week of play. Or maybe you found it fun and competitive BECAUSE there was only one cap horse. It all depends on one’s taste, I guess. Regardless of your preferences, we thank you for being a part of the action. Hope to see you again this week.