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Playing Dual Entries, Dylan Donnelly Accounts for Seven Fourth of July Grand Prizes; Chris Cupples Wins NHC Seat Plus $10,108; Sherry Arndt Nearly Sweeps Weekend HT Tour Events (Weekly Recap, July 1-4)

If the Fourth of July wasn’t a “year-maker” for Dylan Donnelly, then it was at least a “summer-maker”.

The California contest stalwart came up with his 10 Tuesday Pick & Pray selections and then played them with gusto.

Donnelly began in seemingly innocuous fashion with two small place collections early on, before rattling off 5 consecutive winners, climaxed by I’m Buzzy ($27.20, $9.10) in the 8th at Belmont. That got Donnelly the top spot in Tuesday’s Del Mar Summer Challenge qualifier, which had just enough entrants for runner up Ben Beychok (3 firsts, 0 seconds) to also earn a $6,500 package for July 29-30 fiesta where the Turf Meets the Surf.

Looking back, it was exceedingly kind of Donnelly to play just one entry and allow Beychok to grab the other Del Mar berth. Donnelly wasn’t so accommodating in other Independence Day features.

Doubling down on his winning picks, Donnelly played them twice in Tuesday’s Haskell Challenge qualifier, and he finished first and second in what turned out to be a “four-seater.” The other two prizes went to Christopher Kinum and Kevin Willett.

The Haskell Challenge takes place on July 22. The following weekend is the Del Mar Summer Challenge. A weekend after that (August 5-6) is our own Spa & Surf Showdown with its $400,000 Guaranteed purse—and, wouldn’t you know?—Donnelly suddenly has two entries for that event too.

Donnelly bested all but first-place finisher Jobby Blevins, who hit the final 5 winners and 6 of the last 7. 

The Saturday after the Spa & Surf Showdown is the Saratoga Challenge (playable on track or at NYRABets). Donnelly will have double-barrel action in that one as well.

Joseph Rich struck with both of the day’s $20.00+ winners en route to a 4-win, 2-place afternoon. Close behind him was Donnelly—twice, of course. Craig Siedler checked in fourth to grab the final $1,000 entry.

Winning seats to big contests over four consecutive weekends is all well and good. Dylan Donnelly will need to eat during that time, though, and food costs money. So he won some of that, too, on Tuesday.

Donnelly earned $6,570 for running second and third with his “coupled” entry to…Chris Cupples—whose “uncuppled” entry contained 5 firsts and 2 seconds.

Cupples collected $10,108 in this holiday $15,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which was an HT Tour event with a final pot that closed at $25,270.

As for Donnelly, his Independence Day afternoon brought him total winnings of $22,070. That beats burgers and hot dogs on the grill by the length of the stretch.

Normally our “Weekly Recaps” begin with Wednesday summations, but that was not the case with the Canadian wildfires again wreaking havoc on the sport Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of last week. Friday was particularly weird—at least from a racing standpoint—with Monmouth and Delaware both running but Belmont to the north and Laurel to the south each canceling. In Belmont’s case, the decision to scrap the card came while the horses for the first race had already left the paddock and headed to the track.

The Friday (June 30) doings brought a slightly premature end to the first half of the HT Tour standings. Congratulations to the mid-year top three finishers Evan Trommer ($5,000 bonus), Anthony Trezza ($2,500) and Mark Stillmock ($1,000).

The HT Tour does not have separate, second-half bonuses…but if it did, Sherry “Hit ‘em where they” Arndt would be in the lead!

Arndt caught an $18.60 place collection with 27-1 Joyful Surprise in the final contest race, the 11th at Gulfstream, to edge Michael “The Coach” Goodrich by $1.20 in Saturday’s $30,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which paid out a total of $36,960. Arndt banked $16,632, while Goodrich had to settle for $6,652.

On Sunday, Arndt nearly made it two HT Tour wins in a row.

Arndt finished a not insignificant $35.10 behind winner Zachary Ledford in our $20,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, but she did manage to finish second to pocket another $5,394, making it a $22,000+ weekend for her.

Ledford, meanwhile, picked 5 winners and 3 runners up, led by Half Nelson ($29.00, $15.20) in the 6th at Los Alamitos. He picked up the Sunday winner’s share of $13,485 in a tourney whose purse finished up at $29,968.

Getting back to Saturday action, the most crowded tourney of the day was the free NHC qualifier at HorsePlayers.

Finishing first and second were Keith Simon, who had the day’s 3 biggest winners among his 6 wins and 1 place and Bruce “Streets of San” Francisco (3W, 2P) who also smoked out the 3 biggest win prices. Here’s a look at their scorecards:

This was a three-seat qualifier and that third spot went to Daniel Perry, who had 7 firsts and 2 seconds. His big horse was My Beautiful Belle ($25.00, $7.40) in the first of the 15 contest races, race 5 at Monmouth.

The rest of the Saturday features were 12-race competitions, but Keith Simon proved he could “shorten up” effectively.

Here, Simon amassed 5 wins and 2 places to lead the way in Saturday’s Spa & Surf Showdown qualifier. Also earning $2,500 berths into the final leg of the 2023 Tourney Triple were Thomas Michael Abinanti (4W, 2P) and Peter Kovic (3W, 3P). All three came up with Foggy Night ($30.40, $13.40) in the Delaware Oaks.

Another Foggy Night fan was Brett Wiener (3 firsts, 2 seconds).

Wiener whiffed on the final 5 races, but he was able to hold on for a 30-cent victory in Saturday’s Del Mar Summer Challenge qualifier over Justin Waitekus.

Michael Goodrich had to settle for 2nd behind Sherry Arndt in Saturday’s $36,960 cash game, but he did no settling in the day’s $179 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge qualifier at HorsePlayers.

Goodrich was another for whom Foggy Night made it a sunny day. Goodrich selected 4 of the first 5 winners on the way to a 5-win, 1-place performance.

Frank Foss also picked Foggy Night, and on July 15, Foss will visit the scene of her big triumph.

Foss (4 firsts, 1 second) led the way in Saturday’s qualifier to the William Moore Classic at Delaware Park.

There were 4 winners of $1,000 entries in Saturday’s play-in to the Saratoga Challenge.

Congratulations to Kirk Tesar (3 wins, 2 places), Turner West (5W, 2P), Joseph Parella (3W, 1P) and Joseph Calvo (4W, 0P). Foggy Night was the heaviest lifter for all but West. 

The 2nd- and 4th-place finishers in that Saratoga qualifier—Turner West and Joseph Calvo—ran one-two in Saturday’s play-in to the Haskell Challenge.

West (7) and Calvo (4) combined for 11 collections. None was held in common among the two.

Howard Welsh only picked one winner on Saturday, but his four place payoffs all played like winners.

All four of Welsh’s runners up paid double-digits, and he emerged with the up-top money of $9,261 in Saturday’s $10,000 Big Bucks Pick & Pray, which closed its doors with $13,230 in the till.

The Sunday Big Bucks game guaranteed $7,000, though the final pot was $11,195. The lion’s share of that—$7,836—went to victor Hayden Leibrock.

Leibrock selected three straight winners in mid-tourney and finished the day with 4 firsts and 1 second.

For the second consecutive day, three players punched their tickets to the $400,000 Guaranteed Spa & Surf Showdown here on August 5-6.

The skillful trio consisted of Richard Gorzkowski (4 wins, all in the first 5 races, plus 4 places), Keith Fenton (4W, 3P) and Frank Okasaki (4W, 2P). Okasaki got up thanks to ordering up French Onion ($9.00, $4.00) in the final contest race of the day, race 7 at Los Alamitos.

A different threesome won their way into the Haskell Challenge on Sunday.

Steve Arrison led the way with 3 wins and 3 places, topped by Half Nelson ($29.00, $15.20) in the 6th at Los Alamitos. Also getting a $1,000 seat were NHC Hall of Famer Steve Wolfson Jr. (2W, including Half Nelson, plus 3P) and Kevin Engelhard (5W, 0P), who also finished hot with French Onion.

It was a tale of two halves for Mark Wilgard.

Wilgard score after the first six contest races was a nice round number…but he racked up 2 firsts (including Half Nelson) and 2 seconds over the final six, and now he will be one of no more than 57 in the field (each playing just one entry) in the October 21-22 The BIG One.

The Saratoga Challenge field grew by three at the conclusion of Sunday’s qualifier here.

Like Mark Wilgard, Brian Callaghan did all his scoring (3 wins, 2 places) over the final six contest races. Also earning $1,000 spots were Gregory Lewis (4W, 3P), who made collections in each of the final five races, and Joseph Karabaich (4W, 3P).

Pete Manzo (4 firsts, 2 seconds) was rewarded—not penalized—for a High Stick ($15.20, $5.80) in the 9th at Belmont.

Manzo earned a $500 berth on Sunday for the William Moore Classic on July 15 at Delaware Park.

Jeff Bussan (4 wins, 1 place) and Wendy Long (also 4W, 1P) were the two winners over at HorsePlayers in Sunday’s $210 NHC Pick & Pray.

They both had 13-1 Half Nelson at Los Alamitos…but Long needed a $4.00 place collection in the finale to get up for second. 

Jake Brown’s “big hoss” was Warrior’s Pride ($15.60, $7.40) in the 8th at Gulfstream.

Brown captured Sunday’s Low Ratio Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge qualifier at HorsePlayers. Joseph Zuer completed the exacta, earning himself a $5,000 partial entry.

There WERE a couple of featured tourneys on Tuesday in which Dylan Donnelly was not a factor.

In addition to defeating Donnelly (not easy to do) in the Fourth of July $25,270 cash feature, Chris Cupples got himself an NHC seat for finishing second in the day’s $125 qualifier at HorsePlayers. Dylan Kelley really romped in this one thanks to 7 winners, including 6 in a row. Here’s a look at his scoresheet:

This event guaranteed three seats, but there were enough entries to award four. The other two went to Mark Heider (3 wins, plus a very important max $22.00 place collection at the end with 36-1 Sister Bridget) and Steve “The Admiral” Nemetz (4W, 2P). Nemetz also advanced thanks to Sister Bridget.

Jim Cuzzupe’s best return among 3 firsts and 2 seconds came with Stella’s Tour ($24.40, $9.40) in the 10th at Parx.

It’s not far from Parx to Delaware—where Cuzzupe will be competing on July 15 in the William Moore Classic.

Last but not least, Adam “Kentucky” Burgoon (6 wins, 1 place) captured the BCBC Low Ratio Pick & Pray on Tuesday at HorsePlayers. 

Burgoon made collections in each of the first six contest races. Finishing second was Mike Thomas, and he picked up a $5,000 partial BCBC entry for his efforts.

Thanks to all for bearing with us through a smoke-shortened—but holiday-lengthened—week. The Weekly Recap will return to its customary Monday spot next week. Until then, we wish you good luck in all of your tourney play.