Final Weekend of Spa & Surf Showdown Qualifying and Initial Play-Ins to Laurel, Monmouth and Santa Anita Headline Busy Friday-Saturday-Sunday With Lots of Saratoga and Del Mar Racing

Time is dwindling for you to earn a $2,500 spot in the $400,000 Guaranteed Spa & Surf Showdown on August 5-6. The upcoming weekend is your last in which to win your way into the final leg of the 2023 Tourney Triple.

Meanwhile, as the Spa & Surf Showdown qualifiers near the finish line, we raise the curtain (starting on Sunday) on play-ins to three upcoming contests—the August 19 Laurel Champions tournament, the August 26 Travers Day Challenge at Monmouth/Xpressbet and the Santa Anita Opening Challenge (September 30-October 1) at Santa Anita/Xpressbet.

In all, there are 23 featured events during this Pick & Pray weekend, with the first five of those taking place on Friday.

Friday’s HT Tour competition is our $15,000 Guaranteed, No Limit Pick & Pray. An upfront stake of $190 will get you in the door.

Each day of the weekend offers Pick & Pray qualifiers to the $400,000 Guaranteed Spa & Surf Showdown here on August 5-6 and the Saratoga Challenge the following Saturday, August 12.

The Spa & Surf Showdown serves as the final leg of the 2023 Tourney Triple and the weekend qualifiers call for an entry fee of $147, with one of every 20 entrants receiving a $2,500 berth. In the Spa & Surf Showdown, contestants make mythical $2 win-and-place selection on every race at Saratoga and Del Mar on August 5-6. (If Flo-Cal Faceoff champ David Wolff or Players Championship winner Lucas Van Zandt finish first with their designated Spa & Surf entries, they would receive a $1 million bonus.)

It costs $79 to play Friday’s qualifier to the Saratoga Challenge . Winners (1-per-15 entries) get a $1,000 entry playable on-track at Saratoga on August 12 or online at NYRABets.

HorsePlayers “regulars” already know what the two features are on Friday.

One is the weekly $75 NHC Pick & Pray that promises two certain seats to the Vegas extravaganza next March. The winning ratio is 1-per-143.

An investment of $500 gets you into the Low Ratio Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge Pick & Pray. The winning ratio is 1-per-23, but at least one $10,000 seat will be awarded no matter what.

The 10 featured-tourney races on Friday come strictly from Saratoga and Del Mar. They are the 8th through 11th from Saratoga; and the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th races on the Friday twilight card at Del Mar.

Saturday’s contest races will again be taken just from the Spa (Saratoga) and the Surf (Del Mar). Twelve races from those two showpiece racetracks will determine the outcome of seven featured Pick & Pray tourneys.

The richest tourney of the week is Saturday’s $30,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray. It’s an HT Tour game with an entry fee of  $350.

Another Saturday cash game is our $10,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks Pick & Pray, which has an entry fee of $1,150. Total entries are limited to 20, with the winner earning 70 percent of the net pool, the runner up getting 20 percent, and the third-place contestant grabbing the remaining 10 percent. If we happen to reach the maximum entry count of 20, the total purse will top $20,000.

Saturday is the first of two weekend chances to qualify for the Woodbine King’s Plate Challenge. One of every 15 entrants, at $79 per entry, will earn a $1,000 entry for the August 20 contest that can be played at either Xpressbet, HPI or 4NJBets.

As mentioned earlier, we’ll have Pick & Pray qualifiers on Saturday for the Spa & Surf Showdown and the Saratoga Challenge The same entry fees and winning ratios set up for the Friday games are in place here as well.

On Saturday at HorsePlayers, there are “regular ratio” qualifiers for the NHC and the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge.

The NHC game at HorsePlayers is a $165 Pick & Pray with two seats guaranteed. The winning ratio is 1-per-65.

The same winning ratio applies to Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge qualifier, which costs $179 to play. At least one $10,000 entry is certain to be awarded in this tourney.

The 12 contest races for Saturday will be the 8th, 9th, 11th and 12th from Saratoga; and the 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th from Del Mar. Closing time is slated for 4:26 pm ET. Eleven of the 12 races have pre-scratch fields of at least 10.

Not many people could complain that there isn’t enough variety on the Sunday featured-tourney menu. This week, there are 11 such games—including three brand new offerings.

Let’s get to the new guys first. On August 19, Laurel will host its Laurel Champions tournament. It’s an on-track-only affair with an entry fee of $500. On Sunday, you can earn a spot in it for $59 in a 1-per-10 Pick & Pray.

The following Saturday, August 26, Monmouth (and Xpressbet) will host a Travers Day Challenge. Now, the Travers will be run at Saratoga, not Monmouth…but, hey, simulcasting! The Travers Day Challenge, which will offer both NHC and BCBC entries, will carry an entry fee of $800. You can win one of those for $95 in Sunday’s 1-per-10 Pick & Pray qualifier.

On September 30 and October 1, Santa Anita will play host to its two-day Santa Anita Opening Weekend Challenge. The entry fee is a not insignificant $4,000, but you can reserve your place in it for a less significant $314 in Sunday’s 1-per-15 Pick & Pray play-in. 

A somewhat higher entry fee of $500 will get you into Sunday’s weekly guaranteed qualifier to the October 21-22 The BIG One at Laurel Park. The BIG One features an all-cash prize pool in 2024. The winner of Sunday’s play-in earns a spot in October’s small-field, big-money contest, which will have no more than 57 entries (each playing just one entry). Our qualifier winner also receives hotel, welcome party, track transfers and full food and open-bar amenities at the track…plus $500 for travel. The entry fee is $500, and the runner up in the qualifier gets a $500 consolation refund.

On the cash-game front, Sunday’s HT Tour tilt is our $20,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray. Entries will run you $250 each.

The other Sunday cash feature is our lone Live-format feature of the weekend—out $7,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks tourney. Payouts go just to the top three finishers on a 70%/20%/10% basis. A maximum of 20 entries (at $1,150 each) will be accepted—and if we get that many, the purse will exceed $20,000.

HorseTourneys is the July (30th) place to be for your Sunday chance to qualify for the NHC. We offer a $165, 1-per-65 Pick & Pray. Two seats are guaranteed to be awarded here.

For the second consecutive day, you can compete for a $1,000 entry in a $79 qualifier to the Woodbine King’s Plate Challenge on August 20.

For the third consecutive day, you can try your luck in qualifiers to the $400,000 Guaranteed Spa & Surf Showdown on August 5-6 and the Saratoga Challenge on August 12.

At HorsePlayers, the Sunday featured-tourney spotlight shines solely on a Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge Low Ratio qualifier.

The investment requirement is $500; the winning ratio is 1-per-23, and at least one $10,000 seat will land in some skillful handicapper’s lap even if fewer than 23 sign up.

Good luck to the HorseTourneys qualifiers playing this weekend in the Del Mar Summer Challenge—and good luck to everyone else as well in whichever contest endeavors you pursue. May you stay cool amid the nation’s high temperatures…and heat up only when it comes to your tourney selections.