Darryl Lacy and Darryl Mays Earn a Combined Nine Grand Prizes Across Four Days; Dale Hatfield and Sean O’Malley Put a Stranglehold on the Wednesday Features (Weekly Recap, July 12-16)


Unlike in the 1986 World Series, it was the Darryls doing the taunting this time around—especially Darryl Lacy.

Lacy (5 wins, 1 place) and first-place finisher Basil DeVito (4W, 2P) both had 46-1 Sanford Stakes winner Yo Yo Candy at the end of Saturday’s $165 NHC qualifier to earn spots in the 2024 event next March.

We didn’t know it at the time…but Lacy was just getting warmed up. On Sunday, he attacked the day’s marquee games with a vengeance.

There were no Yo Yo Candys for Lacy on Sunday. In fact, his top winner this day paid just $8.60. However, he racked up 7 winners plus two places to pocket $12,501 in Sunday’s HT Tour competition, our $20,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which paid out a total of $27,781.

The same picks worked quite nicely for Lacy in Sunday’s Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge Low Ratio qualifier at HorsePlayers…

…and in Sunday’s $7,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks game.

Here, in a game that finished with a prize pool of $13,230, Lacy collected $9,261 to bring his cash haul for the day up to $21,762.

Lacy was far from done. He took not one but two of the four available seats in Sunday’s qualifier to the $400,000 Guaranteed Spa & Surf Showdown, hitting the last four winners to finish with 6 firsts and 2 seconds—on his “bad” ticket!

Lacy had 6 horses in common across his two entries. The two to finish inside the Lacy sandwich and also grab $2,500 Showdown seats were Ronald “Winter” Cote (5 wins, 4 places) and John Schimpf (5W, 0P).

In Sunday’s $165 Pick & Pray at HorsePlayers, Lacy scooped up his second NHC seat in as many days.

Lacy bested all but Robert “Amazing” Grace who had 1 second and 7 firsts, including the day’s biggest price Peacelovenkarma ($19.60, $5.20) in the 8th at Monmouth.

As for Lacy, he finished the week (the weekend, really) with $21,762 in cash, two NHC seats, two Spa & Surf Showdown entries and a BCBC entry. That’s just about a $50,000 weekend playing the ponies.

A few days earlier, though, it appeared that Lacy wouldn’t even be the top Darryl of the week.

On Thursday, Darryl Mays picked up a $1,000 Haskell Challenge entry by nailing 3 of the last 5 winners and finishing second to Daniel Young (3 firsts, 2 seconds) in the day’s Saratoga-full-card qualifier. They both came up with first-time starter Becky’s Joker, who won the opening day Schuylerville Stakes at Saratoga at 21-1.

Mays turned around on Friday and snagged a second Haskell Challenge seat.

Joining Mays (2 wins, 1 place) in the Haskell Challenge field will be the two who finished in front of him on Friday—winner Sam “Split” Sample (3 wins, 1 place) and Howard Kaplan (4W, 3P).

The featured-tourney week began as usual on Wednesday—when Dale Hatfield and Sean O’Malley had everything to themselves.

Hatfield (6 wins, 1 place) and O’Malley (3W, 1P) ran one-two in Wednesday’s Spa & Surf Showdown qualifier. 

O’Malley also prevailed in Wednesday’s Saratoga Challenge qualifier.

His big horse was Marco Island ($50.40, $12.80) in the 5th at Parx…but just as he did in the Saratoga Challenge play-in, O’Malley leapfrogged Jake Brown at the end to emerge with a seat.

Meanwhile, it was Dale Hatfield who won Wednesday’s cash-game feud — by more than a cap horse!

Hatfield (6 wins, 1 place) really came out with guns blazing here, connecting on 24-1 and 40-1 winners in the first two contest races. He pocketed $2,557 in Wednesday’s $5,000 Guaranteed tourney, which closed its doors with a final purse of $5,115.

Thursday was a busier day than usual last week since we ran a few Saratoga-full-card features in honor of the historic track’s opening day. We already mentioned Daniel Young’s such victory in a Haskell Challenge qualifier. The Spa & Surf Showdown counterpart to that one went to Dan Horvat.

Horvat garnered the $2,500 seat thanks to 3 wins and a place that included victorious Schuylerville Stakes longshot Becky’s Joker ($44.40, $12.80).

In fact, all who won top prizes on Thursday—whether in a multi-track feature or a Saratoga-only one—had Becky’s Joker. One of them was Justin Waitekus (2 wins, 1 place).

Waitekus got the $1,000 seat in Thursday’s Saratoga-only play-in to the August 12 Saratoga Challenge.

Dane Moore (3 firsts, 1 second) also landed on the Gary Contessa debutante.

Moore was rewarded with $7,579 for capturing the Saratoga-only $10,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which had a final pot of $16,843.

Peter Osella (2 firsts, 1 second) took the honors in Thursday’s multi-track feature, our $6,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray.

There may have been more than one track in this test, but Becky’s Joker was still the one you needed to have. Osella had her, and he took home $3,328 of a final purse of $7,396.

Danny Kelly shot and scored with Becky’s Joker.

Kelly (2 wins, 2 places) lit the lamp in Thursday’s multi-track Saratoga Challenge qualifier.

Garry Addley added Becky’s Joker to two earlier winning selections.

Addley left with the $2,500 entry in Thursday’s multi-track play-in to the $400,000 Guaranteed Spa & Surf Showdown.

Over at HorsePlayers, there was a special $125 NHC qualifier on Thursday.

The 2022 NHC Tour champ Jay Johns earned no NHC Tour points for this victory, but we doubt he’s too upset, since he now has his second seat for the 2024 event. 

Three players earned berths for the Vegas extravaganza in Friday’s $75 qualifier at HorsePlayers. 

Congratulations to David Decauwer (3 wins, 4 places), 2022 NHC third-place finisher A.J. Benton (5W, 1P) and Dave “Gambling Actuary” Nichols (3W, 4P). All three had Thinkaboutit ($42.20, $11.80) in the 8th at Saratoga.

The 2018 The BIG One champ Joe Pettit (4 firsts, 2 seconds) also came to the right conclusion regarding Thinkaboutit.

Pettit captured the Friday qualifier to the Saratoga Challenge (playable on-track or at NYRABets).

Thomas Michael Abinanti (4 wins, 2 places) not only had Thinkaboutit, he had the day’s top three winners.

Consequently, the day’s top score came not in the 413-entry NHC qualifier, but elsewhere at HorsePlayers in this 22-entry Low Ratio Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge play-in.

Dave Snider (5 wins, 3 places) didn’t think about Thinkaboutit enough, but he did nail $19.20 and $20.00 winners to lead the way in Friday’s Spa & Surf Showdown qualifier.

Also reeling in a $2,500 entry in this one was David Barnier, whose 3 wins and a place did include Thinkaboutit.

In Friday’s HT Tour event, our $15,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, Eric Morikawa caught a $6.30 place collection in the final contest race that did two things.

It enabled Morikawa to leapfrog David Barnier and to block Bill Shurman, who finished tied with him. Since Morikawa had 4 winners to Shurman’s 3, Morikawa emerged with the top prize of $8.079 in this $17,955 event. Shurman had to settle for $3,231.

The cash feature on Saturday was our richest tourney of the week, our $30,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray, which, of course, is an HT Tour contest.

As was the case on Thursday and Friday, a Saratoga longshot had a big say in the outcome. This time it was Sanford Stakes winner Yo Yo Candy ($94.00, $15.60). The Parx shipper was one of 6 winners chosen by Scott Galica, who claimed the up-top money of $17,325 in a game ultimately worth a total of $38,500.

The other Saturday cash feature was our $10,000 Big Bucks Pick & Pray.

Yo Yo Candy was a sweet finish for Howard Welsh (2 firsts, 1 second). Welsh added $10,686 to his coffers in a high-end game that wound up with $15,266 in the kitty.

Kimberly Moffat (3 wins, 2 places), NHC Hall of Famer Steve Wolfson Sr. (1W, 4P) and Alan “The Muscle” Baze (2W, 3P) all smoked out Yo Yo Candy.

They were the three winners of $2,500 seats in Saturday’s Spa & Surf Showdown qualifier.

Jay Coatta had Yo Yo Candy among his 2 firsts and 2 seconds.

Coatta reeled in an NHC seat in Saturday’s $500 Low Ratio Pick & Pray at HorsePlayers.

Saturday’s top score (by a good margin) was posted by Sidney Gommel.

Gommel managed to string together a lot of short-priced collections and then drop a scud missile at the end with Yo Yo Candy. The end result was 7 winners, 3 runners up and a $10,000 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge entry following Saturday’s $179 qualifier at HorsePlayers.

Unlike Becky’s Joker on Thursday, Yo Yo Candy was not a prerequisite to Saturday featured-tourney success. In one event, no one had “The Candy Man”.

Matthew Baiungo (3 wins, 3 places) and Evan Trommer (6W, 1P) were the two to emerge from Saturday’s Del Mar Summer Challenge qualifier with $6,500 packages. Baiungo’s top winner paid $9.60. Trommer’s (Casa Creed) returned $6.50.

Half the winners in Saturday’s Haskell Challenge play-in included Yo Yo Candy on their tickets and half didn’t.

First-place finisher David Browning (2 wins, 1 place) and third-place finisher Joseph Rich (2W, 0P) did have Yo Yo Candy. Runner up Gregory Lewis (7W, 2P) and superfecta-completer Jimmy Cosenza (5W, 4P) did not. All received $1,000 entries to play this coming Saturday.

You can kind of tell from the win-place totals who among the winners in Saturday’s Saratoga Challenge qualifier had Yo Yo Candy and who did not.

Appropriately Tom “Yo MTV” Rapps (4 wins, 0 places) did pick Yo Yo Candy…as did Alexander Calzi (1W, 1P). Fellow seat winner Michelle Mount (2W, 5P) did not. Her top winner paid $6.00, though she did chip up nicely with a $15.00 place collection.

On Sunday, there actually were a small number of featured tourneys that didn’t involve Darryl Lacy.

Evan Trommer followed up his Saturday Del Mar seat with a Sunday berth in The BIG One. For the second straight day, Trommer (6 firsts, 0 seconds) prospered despite not picking any double-digit winners.

There were four winners of $1,000 entries in Sunday’s play-in to the Haskell Challenge.

Congratulations (and good luck on Saturday) to Jim “Never” Settle (5 wins, 2 places), G.T. Nixon (7W, 1P, including the final four winners), Chad Heyse (4W, 2P, including cashes in each of the last five races) and Rudolph Hardin (4W, 1P).

Runner up G.T. Nixon found that second-best was also plenty good in Sunday’s Saratoga Challenge play-in.

Here, Nixon topped all but William “The Explorer” Clark (6W, 3P). Also grabbing a $1,000 entry for August 12 was Peter Rogers (5W, 1P).

Finally, Sunday was our first qualifier to the Woodbine King’s Plate Challenge, to be contested at Xpressbet, HPI and 4NJBets.

There were two winners—Dan Weisenburger (7 wins, 2 places) and Mark Stillmock (2W, 4P). They each have $1,000 entries with which to try their luck on the races north of the border on August 20.

Thanks for your role in making opening week at Saratoga an exciting one around here. This week: Del Mar! Hope to see you around the ol’ cyberoval. Good luck!