Terrific Holiday Week for Chris Cupples; Gary Machiz Grabs Two Seats on Friday and Another on Saturday; A Week Late, Dylan Donnelly Gets That “Other” Del Mar Entry (Weekly Recap, July 5-9)

The previous “Weekly Recap” covered our Fourth of July featured tourneys. That day, Chris Cupples not only earned $10,108 for winning the day’s $15,000 Guaranteed cash game, he took home an NHC seat in a special $125 qualifier.

As it turns out, Cupples made that $125 seat seem a little expensive.

I’m not sure what’s more impressive—winning a “cupple” of NHC seats in four days…or winning the pair for a total of $200. Anyway, that’s exactly what Cupples (6 wins, 2 places) did after running second to Louis Masry (4W, 3P) in Friday’s $75 NHC qualifier. There were enough entries in this one to award a third seat—which went to Ciaran Thornton (5W, 0P). Here’s a look at the scorecards of the Vegas-advancing trio:

It wasn’t a day for big prices, but all three had the biggest that was out there—More Than Looks ($16.40, $7.60) in race 9 at Belmont.

Our next recap also reaches back to last week’s summary for added context.

On the Fourth of July, Dylan Donnelly won an amazing seven grand prizes. Playing identical entries, he won two seats in three qualifiers. In the Del Mar Summer Challenge qualifier, though, he played just a single $384 entry—which wound up winning—and we good-naturedly razzed him a bit for “only” winning one seat in that two-seater.

It didn’t take long for Donnelly to make amends.

Donnelly selected 5 winners—including Justify My Love ($26.00, $9.40) in the 10th at Horseshoe Indianapolis—plus two runners up to earn his second $6,500 Del Mar package within a five-day span. Key to his victory in this tight affair was having 3-5 Verifying at the end in the Indiana Derby. Verifying didn’t exactly win like a 3-5 shot “should”…but he did win…and that pick by Donnelly wound up blocking runner up Jim Settle.

Kirk Tesar has also now gotten his name into two straight Weekly Recaps (a high honor, indeed!)

On July 2, he won a $1,000 Saratoga Challenge seat. This past Wednesday (July 5), he came right back to capture the day’s Spa & Surf Showdown qualifier with 4 wins and a place. Tesar will now play for a share of at least $400,000 in the August 5-6 Showdown with his $2,500 entry fee now covered.

The other Wednesday feature was our $5,000 Guaranteed cash tourney, which was taken by Gary Lee Russell (4 firsts, 3 seconds).

Like Tesar, Russell had both of the day’s double-digit winners. However, his biggest return was a $20.40 place mutuel on Delaware race 8 runner up Zipper Zapper, who went off at 34-1. Russell collected $2,612 from what was a final pot of $5,806.

The Thursday cash feature was our $6,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which ended up with $7,189 in the kitty.

Justin Kelly had Nicholas Jones ($36.00, $11.60) in the 7th at Horseshoe Indy, along with two other winners and two runners up to take home the top prize of $3,235. The 10-race tourney became a 7-race tourney when Laurel decided to cancel its card after running their first three races.

Frank “Plaster of” Paros also nailed Nicholas Jones.

Paros (3 wins, 1 place) will square off against Kirk Tesar and company here next month in the $400,000 Guaranteed Spa & Surf Showdown.

Two players earned their way into the final leg of the 2023 Tourney Triple on Friday.

Congratulations to Brandon Leigh (3 wins, 2 places) and the always-dangerous Joseph Zuer (also 3W, 2P). They both connected with More Than Looks ($16.40, $7.60) in the 9th at Belmont.

Barbara Bowley went on a Friday tear in which she made collections in 8 straight races—including 5 consecutive winners.

Hers was the high score of the day and she was rewarded with $9,276 in Friday’s HT Tour event, our $15,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which paid out a total of $20,615.

Pete Manzo was so confident in his 10 selections that he played them twice—in Friday’s one-seat William Moore Classic qualifier.

Manzo (4 firsts, 1 second) tied himself for first place…which meant that he not only won a $500 entry for this Saturday’s contest at Delaware Park…but a coveted $59 breakage refund as well.

Over at HorsePlayers, Adam Lewis took Friday’s Low Ratio Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge qualifier.

Lewis had 7-1 More Than Looks among his 4 winners (and a runner up).

Friday turned out to be a very nice day for Gary “Macho Man” Machiz.

In the day’s Saratoga Challenge play-in, Machiz (4 wins, 1 place) led a group of three $1,000 seat winners that also included Brett Wiener (3W, 3P) and Evan Trommer (4W, 1P).

Proving himself to be a man who’s up for a Challenge, Machiz also secured a Haskell Challenge berth on Friday.

Here he finished third behind fellow $1,000 seat winners Dr. Ron Tang (4W, 1P) and Michael “Copa” Kavana (5W, 2P). All three collected on More Than Looks.

On Saturday, Machiz came back on short rest and added a Spa & Surf Showdown entry to his burgeoning portfolio.

Third-best was again plenty good for Machiz (2 wins, 4 places) in this one. Leading the way here was Jim “Never” Settle (4W, 2P) and Bill Shurman (3W, 2P). Justify My Love at Horseshoe Indy highlighted the scorecards of Settle and Shurman.

The top Saturday score—by a wide margin—was posted at HorsePlayers by Alexander Calzi.

Calzi’s 3 winners—and even his two place runners—all returned double-digits, and he rolled home by more than $32 in Saturday’s $165 NHC qualifier. Tom Quinonez picked 6 winners to finish second and grab the other available Vegas seat.

The other Saturday feature at HorsePlayers, a $179 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge play-in was taken by Robert Courtney with 4 firsts and 2 seconds.

Another “RC”, NHC Hall of Famer Roger Cettina, finished second and received a $5,000 partial BCBC entry.

The week’s richest tourney was Saturday’s $30,000 Guaranteed cash game with closed with a purse of $32,956.

The winner, via tiebreaker, was yet another “RC”…Rodolfo “Musical” Chairez, who earned the top prize of $14,830 by virtue of having four winners compared to two for Neal Thomas.

Two players picked up $1,000 seats on Saturday to the July 22 Haskell Challenge.

Lawrence Kahlden only picked one winner—Aspen Grove ($33.40, $13.60) in the Belmont Oaks—but he augmented his scorecard with four place collections to come out on top. The other berth went to runner up Kevin Engelhard (4 wins, 4 places). He finished in second place by 20 cents thanks to having 3-5 Indiana Derby winner Verifying.

Engelhard used a completely different set of 12 picks (clearly to avoid any accusations of having colluded with himself) in Saturday’s William Moore Classic qualifier, and this one he won!

Engelhard’s four collections here were all winners—including Aspen Grove.

After picking up a Saratoga Challenge seat on Friday, Evan Trommer took a swing at Saturday’s $10,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks Pick & Pray. 

Trommer’s heaviest lifter across 2 firsts and 4 seconds was Me and Mr. C ($21.60, $9.20) in the 9th at Horseshoe Indy.

Another Me and Mr. C backer was Duncan Courtney (4 wins, 1 place).

Courtney led the way in Saturday’s Saratoga Challenge qualifier—which also saw Jim Murphy (3W, 2P) and NHC Hall of Famer Trey Stiles (3W, 3P) also secure $1,000 entries.

Sunday was a bit of a crazy day around here—and not necessarily in a good way.

The 2022 NHC Tour champ Jay Johns and Jose Giron ran one-two in Sunday’s two-seat NHC qualifier. However, Jose Giron and 4th-place finisher Mayra Giron were both disqualified for having entries that were way too similar. So the second NHC spot dropped down to 3rd-place finisher Terence Channon. Johns and Channon both had the day’s priciest winner, Stella Mars ($27.80, $9.70) in the 8th at Belmont.

More controversy in the $20,000 Guaranteed cash tourney on Sunday.

None of it involved winner John Covault, who had 5 of the first 6 winners…plus the final 2 en route to a $13,387 payday in an HT Tour event that was ultimately worth a total of $29,750. However, Jose and Mayra Giron finished 7th and 8th with respective entries that were even more similar than those in their NHC play-in. Here, again, the Girons were disqualified.

Jose Giron finished first in Sunday’s Spa & Surf Showdown qualifier, and this triumph was allowed to stand.

That’s because he was the only Giron with an entry in this game. Stella Mars was one of 4 winners picked by Giron, who also recorded a place collection. There were enough entries to award three $2,500 entries in this qualifier and the other two went to Brendan Fay (4W, 2P) and Max Schnepf (3W, 3P).

In addition to his $2,500 Spa & Surf Showdown entry, Fay also reeled in a $1,000 Saratoga Challenge spot on Sunday.

Stella Mars was the star of Fay’s 4-win, 2-place scorecard. Runner up Jim Cuzzupe (who won a Delaware entry last week) also earned a $1,000 Saratoga spot. He had 5 wins and 1 place, and his top winner paid $15.60.

Sunday was a good day for past NHC champs. 

The 2011 hero, John Doyle, romped in Sunday’s Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge qualifier thanks to 7 firsts and 2 seconds. His tally of $142.80 was Sunday’s highest score.

Meanwhile, the 2007 NHC champ, Stanley Bavlish accounted for Sunday’s William Moore Classic qualifier.

Bavlish posted 5 wins and 3 places on the day. Notably, he blocked fellow NHC Hall of Famer Roger Cettina with 5-2 Hawthorne race 7 winner Free Love in the contest finale.

Similarly—as if speaking to Peter Marshall—Howard Welsh said, “I’ll take Free Love to block.”

This time the “blockee” was William “23” Sadoo, and Welsh (5 firsts, 2 seconds) preserved his victory in Sunday’s $7,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks tourney, which had a final purse of $10,177. Welsh’s share of that was $7,124.

“Battlin’” William Smith punched his ticket on Sunday to The BIG One.

Smith slashed out 5 wins and 1 place to become one of no more than 57 in the field for the all-cash event on October 21-22 at Laurel. He also gets $500 for travel, hotel, welcome dinner and full food and beverage amenities at Laurel.

Edward “Wright Stuff” Wright picked 3 double-digit winners in a row (and also added a place payoff) to capture Sunday’s Haskell Challenge qualifier.

Also getting a $1,000 berth for finishing second was Evan Trommer. For Trommer, it was his third straight day of earning a featured-tourney grand prize.

The featured-tourney week begins anew on Wednesday. One day after that: Saratoga! Hope to see you then.