Scott Nelson Captures Featured Cash Games on Wednesday and Saturday; Hubert Gaffney Wins NHC Seat Plus $13,721; Three Past NHC Champs Enjoy Tourney Victories (Weekly Recap, June 14-18)

No one had a better day on Wednesday than Scott Nelson—and it could also be argued that no one had a better week than he did.

Among 24 featured tourneys last week, the highest score came in the very first one, Wednesday’s $5,000 Guaranteed cash game.

Nelson came up with the four highest priced winners of the day en route to his gaudy 10-race total of $145.40, and he did that over the course of the first six races. Nelson played defense from there and still won by plenty, earning $2,799 out of a final purse of $6,221.

On Saturday, Nelson proved that his game doesn’t live or die on big longshots. 

Saturday wasn’t a high-scoring day. The day’s top win price was $14.60, and there were only three double-digit winners…but Nelson found two of them. He had 4 firsts and 3 seconds in all, and that got him a sizable payday of $12,111 in Saturday’s $10,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which paid out a total of $17,301. Combining his Wednesday and Saturday triumphs, Nelson pocketed $14,910.

On Thursday, the featured cash tourney was our $6,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, and it was won by the Million Dollar Man, Michael Beychok.

This victory left the 2012 NHC champ about $996,000 short of his next million…but we’re sure Beychok (3 firsts, 2 seconds) will take it. He caught a $15.40 place collection on a 16-1 shot in the final contest race to edge Michael Sussman by $1.70 in a game that was ultimately worth a total of $8,087.

As it turned out, Beychok was just one of three past NHC champions to visit the HorseTourneys winner’s circle last week.

The 2003 Vegas hero Steve Wolfson Jr. topped a bulky field of 410 in Friday’s $75 NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers. He and fellow seat winner Stephen Berdar each sealed the deal by hitting Cornelia Fort ($25.80, $11.20) in the final contest race, the 8th at Santa Anita. 

The victory by Wolfson assures that he will have the opportunity next March to become the NHC’s first-ever two-time winner. Stanley Bavlish will be gunning for the very same distinction.

Bavlish (4 wins, 2 places) put up Sunday’s highest score in capturing Sunday’s $125 NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers. This event guaranteed three spots, and the other two went to Dale Day (4W, 0P), who reached the NHC final table in 2022, and Edward Chambers, whose 4 wins (and no places) all came over the final seven tourney races. The scorecards of all three were led by Sway’sinmydna ($67.50, $22.80) in the 9th at Belmont. 

David “Trey” Stiles is not a past NHC champ…but like Beychok and Wolfson and Bavlish, he’s an NHC Hall of Famer…and he, too, won a featured tourney last week.

Houstonian Stiles will be bound for Chicagoland this coming weekend after capturing Sunday’s play-in to the Hawthorne OTBs Spring NHC Qualifier. He also had Sway’sinmydna within his victorious 2-win, 1-place portfolio.

Returning to Friday featured-tourney competition, Craig “Home Sweet” Hom found himself trailing by 30 cents heading into the last race of our $15,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, so perhaps his locked-in selection of an 11-1 shot didn’t seem optimal to him at the time…but he sure liked it afterwards.

That 11-1 horse, Cornelia Fort, completed a 5-win, 4-place effort that brought Hom an HT Tour victory and a Friday windfall of $9,426 from a total prize pool of $20,947.

Michael Somich (3 firsts, 2 seconds) also nailed Cornelia Fort at the end.

Somich is now part of the field for the $400,000 Guaranteed Spa & Surf Showdown here on August 5-6. The Spa & Surf Showdown serves as the final leg of the 2023 Tourney Triple series.

Over at HorsePlayers, Cornelia Fort was Cesar Alvarez’s last of five Friday winners.

The Santa Anita race 8 11-1 victor broke a 4-race, mini-cold streak for Alvarez, and got him home first in Friday’s Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge Low Ratio qualifier.

Saturday was a really good day for Hubert Gaffney.

As noted earlier, Saturday wasn’t a great day for longshots, but Gaffney managed to smoke out 7 winners, including the day’s two biggest, and he emerged victorious in Saturday’s HT Tour event, our $30,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray. Gaffney’s winner’s share came to $13,721.

Gaffney’s score of $86.60 was the day’s best. He also played in Saturday’s NHC Low Ratio qualifier at HorsePlayers, and he used the same picks…which means he won that one too.

Happily for Brian Gross (5 firsts, 2 seconds), there were enough entries for a second NHC seat (and for NHC Tour points) to be awarded. He and Gaffney both selected Agency ($14.60, $7.40) in the Saturday opener at Santa Anita.

Another player who won twice on Saturday was Rick Vasquez.

Vasquez put up 7 winners and 2 runners up to walk off with a $1,000 seat to this Saturday’s Lone Star Summer Betting Challenge. 

In Saturday’s Spa & Surf Showdown qualifier, Vasquez used slightly different picks, coming up with one fewer place collection but a higher overall score.

Vasquez got a $2,500 Showdown entry here as did runner up Jayson “Radio City” Rockett, whose $63.40 score was built on 4 firsts and 2 seconds.

We mentioned before that Hubert Gaffney set the high-water mark for Saturday with a score of $86.60. Lou Arellano’s glass was almost as full.

Arellano’s two 9-2 winners led a hit parade of 7 firsts and 1 second on his way to victory in Saturday’s $179 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge Pick & Pray at HorsePlayers.

George “Ki” Bosch has been hot of late. On Saturday, he swept the final 3 contest races to finish the day with 5 wins and 3 places.

Bosch’s closing troika was modest. The three horses went off at 9-5, 4-5 and 7-2, respectively. However, they allowed him to score a come-from-behind victory in Saturday’s Del Mar Summer Challenge qualifier.

If Bosch’s Del Mar qualifying win was modest, David Nelson’s Saturday victory was probably closer to sheepish.

Nelson didn’t turn a flat-bet profit with his 4 wins and 2 places, but he still finished best of 15 in Saturday’s Guaranteed qualifier to The BIG One (back at Laurel Park this year after a three-year pandemic hiatus). A $4.20 place collection in the final contest race nudged Nelson into the winner’s circle.

Like David Nelson, Leigh Van Winkle used the contest finale as a springboard to victory. Unlike Nelson, Van Winkle had the winner of the race.

Van Winkle had the day’s biggest priced winner (6-1) in race 1 at Santa Anita and then Picture of a Lady ($9.60, $4.80) in race 6 there. In all, Van Winkle recorded five tallies in Saturday’s Hawthorne OTBs Spring NHC Qualifier play-in.

Samuel Thompson (6 wins, 1 place) and George Carr (6W, 0P) were the two winners of $500 entries in Saturday’s qualifier to the July 15 William Moore Classic at Delaware Park.

Eatontown Stakes winner Consumer Spending ($11.00, $4.00) was common to the scorecards of Thompson and Carr.

On Sunday, the horse you really wanted to have was Sway’sinmydna ($67.50, $22.80) in the 9th at Belmont. Joseph Zuer used that horse as a stepping stone to success in three different features that day.

Zuer’s best Sunday performance came in our $7,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks tourney where he put together 5 wins and a place in the Live-format game. His victory here was worth $5,699 in a game where the final pot came to $8,142.

Zuer’s score dropped slightly to $103.90 in Sunday’s Spa & Surf Showdown Pick & Pray, but that mark still got him the third and final $2,500 seat.

The first two went to Michael “The Coach” Goodrich (4 wins, 2 places)—who got the job done despite not having Sway’sinmydna—and Jerry McClenin (3W, 2P). 

In Sunday’s Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge Low Ratio play-in at HorsePlayers, Zuer got a $5,000 partial entry for running second to 2020 Spa & Surf Showdown champ Scott Fiedler (5 winners and 1 double-digit runner up). Like Michael Goodrich, Fiedler missed out on Sway’sinmydna but didn’t miss on Divine Armor ($23.80, $8.60) in the final contest race, the 10th at Santa Anita.

Divine Armor was the only winner all day for Chris McDonald.

That final-race pop plus two earlier place collections got McDonald a $500 entry into the July 15 William Moore Classic at Delaware Park.

Sunday’s HT Tour event, our $20,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, was taken by Andy Asaro.

Asaro had Sway’sinmydna plus two other winners and four runners up. Here’s a look at his impressive scorecard:

Asaro bagged the winner’s share of $12,069 in a tourney that closed with a pot of $26,687.

Lastly, Sway’sinmydna was one of three winners selected on Sunday by Eddie Inman.

Inman added three place returns to the three winners on his scoresheet, and he came away with the $1,000 seat in Sunday’s Lone Star Summer Betting Challenge qualifier.

Thanks to all of you for making us a part of your Father’s Day weekend/week plans. More featured tourneys will be coming your way on Wednesday, including Last Chance qualifiers to both Hawthorne and Lone Star. Hope to see you then.