Three Grand Prizes Each for Dylan Donnelly and Michael Caposio; Shirley Wolff Captures Week’s Richest Cash Tourney and Also Grabs a BCBC Seat (Weekly Recap, April 26-30)

The week before Derby was a profitable one for Dylan Donnelly.

Perhaps the Californian was at something of a home-field advantage with the Saturday featured-tourney contest races all coming from Santa Anita and Golden Gate. More likely, he’s just a darned good handicapper, and on Saturday, he showed off the form that has earned him contest success from coast to coast.

Donnelly lined his pockets with $12,823 for finishing best of 18 in Saturday’s $10,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks Pick & Pray, which paid out a total of $18,319. His biggest winner among 3 firsts and 2 seconds was Trusty Rusty ($31.80, $14.80) in the 7th at Santa Anita.

The same picks got Donnelly a very productive second-place finish in Saturday’s NHC qualifier.

Here, Donnelly bested all but Steve Simonovic, whose three winners came in the first three contest races.

In Saturday’s Live-format Monmouth Pick Your Prize Challenge qualifier, Donnelly played two entries. The one that mustered the same $76.80 score as in the Big Bucks and NHC games didn’t quite get the job done here, but his second entry did.

A key difference for Donnelly here was his final-race selection of Ultimate Hy (instead of Denim in Gold). The $5.40 place return supplied by “Hy” gave Donnelly just enough to edge past Neal Thomas and snatch the second and final $2,000 entry. Finishing a couple of bucks ahead of Donnelly in this one was Robert “Bat” Masterton who, like Donnelly, liked Trusty Rusty.

Another Californian, Michael Caposio, scooped up three grand prizes of his own on Sunday.

Caposio played three Live-format games, but, as is his tendency, he played them like Pick & Prays. One of them was Sunday’s Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge Low Ratio qualifier at HorsePlayers.

Caposio’s three winners (which paid $30.20, $21.00 and $24.80, respectively) were also plenty effective in the day’s Kentucky Derby Challenge play-in.

There were enough entries to award three $3,000 entries for this Saturday, and the other two went to winner Edward Reidy (3 winners and 4 runners up that allowed him  to whiff on the final three races and still laugh about it), and 3rd-place finisher Stephan Gravina (3 firsts, 2 seconds).

The other Caposio conquest came in Sunday’s Spa & Surf Showdown qualifier. 

Same picks, different game. Caposio will be joined in the $400,000 Guaranteed final leg of the 2023 Tourney Triple by Mark Stillmock (4 wins, 1 place). He and Caposio both connected on Smokin Cloud ($30.20, $13.20) in the 7th at Gulfstream.

Stillmock, by the way, also played in the $7,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks game on Sunday. His 4 wins and a place dropped to 2 wins and 2 places here…and his score decreased by $4.60 as a result. But pretty is as pretty does.

Happily for Stillmock, he was sure to keep Smokin Cloud in his starting lineup for this one, and he came away with $6,411 in a game that was ultimately worth a total of $9,159.

The first featured cash game of the week was Wednesday’s $5,000 Guaranteed tourney.

Crypt ($44.80, $19.40 in the 8th at Parx) helped Brian Procopio spin a happy tale here. Procopio finished with 6 wins and a place, and he earned $3,328 from a total final pot of $7,396.

William “23” Sadoo had the final three contest-race winners in Wednesday’s Spa & Surf Showdown play-in.

One of those three was Crypt, and Sadoo’s late rally got him the sought-after $2,500 entry.

The same 5-win, 1-place performance also earned Sadoo some potentially lucrative action this Saturday.

Sadoo will be in action—either at Santa Anita or Xpressbet—with a paid-up $3,000 entry for the Kentucky Derby Challenge. 

There were two features on Thursday, and both were taken by Dave “Gambling Actuary” Nichols.

Dave’s proprietary tables showed that Monjid ($41.32, $16.54) would be a good bet in the final contest race, the 9th at Keeneland, and they were right. That earned Nichols an NHC seat in the special $100 Pick & Pray at HorsePlayers.

Nichols played the same picks, which yielded 5 firsts and 1 second, in Thursday’s $6,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray.

Here, Nichols was rewarded with the winner’s share of $4,074 in a game that shut its doors with a total of $9,055 in the kitty.

Last week turned out to be a good one for people named Nichols.

John “The Clocker” Nichols continued his recent torrid run by selecting 4 winners and 1 runner up in Friday’s Spa & Surf Showdown qualifier. His best return came via Speed Salsa ($38.00, $17.60) in the 8th at Gulfstream.

Robert Reidy (3 firsts, 2 seconds) also had Speed Salsa.

As gaudy as that winner was, it was 6-5 Drink the Wind at the end that got Reidy into the winner’s circle of Friday’s HT Tour event.

Reidy collected $8,453 in Friday’s $15,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which closed with a purse of $18,786.

Lawrence Kahlden (5 wins, 1 place) swept the final 5 contest races on Friday.

His “Late Pick 5”, which included Speed Salsa, got Kahlden the top spot in Friday’s Kentucky Derby Challenge qualifier. Also winning a $3,000 Derby seat was Brian O’Kane who squeezed into second place when his top choice in the finale was a very late scratch, and his alternate play, Drink the Wind, won at 6-5. 

Speed Salsa was common to the scorecards of Michael “Copa” Kavana (3 wins, 2 places) and Mike McIntyre (3W, 0P).

They were the two winners of $2,000 berths in Friday’s Monmouth Pick Your Prize Challenge qualifier.

The high score of the day on Friday was put up over at HorsePlayers by Pete “Thirty” Sluis.

Sluis compiled 4 firsts and 3 seconds from 10 races to rule the roost in Friday’s $75 NHC qualifier.

The other March 2024 seat was won by Chad Passante, whose $2.40 place collection in the nightcap broke what had been a tie for second place.

The other Friday feature at HorsePlayers was taken by Tim Hughes, our 2022 Spa & Surf Showdown champion.

Hughes counted Speed Salsa among his 2 wins and 2 places, and he received the $10,000 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge seat at the conclusion of this Low Ratio Pick & Pray.

Earlier, in the course of covering all of Dylan Donnelly’s Saturday success, we mentioned that Steve Simonovic beat him in an NHC qualifier. That’s not all Simonovic won on Saturday.

Simonovic also captured our first play-in to the on-track Lone Star Million Betting Challenge to take place on Memorial Day. He hit the first 3 races en route to a 4-win, 0-place effort.

Another double winner on Saturday was Shirley Wolff, and she really made her twin killings count.

Wolff came up with 4 winners, including Trusty Rusty ($31.80, $14.80) in the 7th at Santa Anita—plus a place runner—to win the $10,000 seat in the day’s second most lucrative tourney, the $179 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge qualifier at HorsePlayers. She was the only player on Saturday to score in triple digits.

Wolff’s other triumph came in not just the richest tourney of the day, but the richest tourney of the week.

Here the same $100-on-the-nose horses got Wolff $14,968 in Saturday’s HT Tour event, our $30,000 Guaranteed game, which closed up shop with a purse of $33,264.

Elsewhere on the Saturday scene, Ed Peters (3 wins, 1 place) and Raj Satyan (2W, 2P) each landed on Trusty Rusty in race 7 at Santa Anita.

Peters and Satyan each picked up $3,000 spots in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby Challenge. (Qualifying will continue through Friday.)

Travis Foelsch (3 firsts, 1 second) also liked Trusty Rusty.

Foelsch earned the $6,500 package in Saturday’s Del Mar Summer Challenge play-in.

Trenton Waite was one of the few who prevailed on Saturday without trusting Trusty Rusty.

Waite’s top returner among 5 wins and 2 places was Heat N Reheat ($13.60, $5.80) in the first contest race, the 5th at Golden Gate, and Waite will now be in the field for the $400,000 Guaranteed Spa & Surf Showdown here on August 5-6.

Moving on to Sunday tourneys that weren’t won by Michael Caposio or Mark Stillmock…Ciaran Thornton provided the top score of the day at HorsePlayers by coming up with 5 winners and 1 placer.

Thornton bagged an NHC seat in Sunday’s $165 qualifier at HorsePlayers. So did runner up Christopher Olsson. Thornton had 14-1 winner Smokin Cloud at Gulfstream. They both hit Blue Dog ($24.80, $7.40) in the 5th at Santa Anita.

Blue Dog was the highest yielding horse for both Seth Morris (2 wins, 2 places) and Joseph Lindeman (3W, 1P).

Morris and Lindeman were the two to come away with $2,000 berths in Sunday’s play-in to the Monmouth Pick Your Prize Challenge.

Last but certainly not least, Tyler Okasaki picked 4 Sunday winners, including the day’s 3 biggest prices.

Okasaki was well compensated for his feat.

He won $10,434 in Sunday’s $20,000 Guaranteed cash game (an HT Tour event). It had a final purse of $23,187.

Thanks to all of you for your support in bringing April to a fun and competitive close. May May bring you wealth and fame (at least in this blog).