It’s Spa & Surf Showdown Time!

Just four years removed from its first edition in 2019, the Spa & Surf Showdown has quickly become one of the most prestigious tournaments in all of horse racing. There’s a lot more than prestige on the line, though. The Spa & Surf Showdown carries a guaranteed purse of $400,000. Last year, Tim Hughes won $222,000 for winning it. And that’s chicken feed compared to what David Wolff or Lucas Van Zandt will get this year if they win with their designated, bonus-eligible entries. As the winners of this year’s Flo-Cal Faceoff and Players Championship, respectively, they will earn a million-dollar bonus if they can capture the final leg of the 2023 Tourney Triple. 

–2022 champion Tim Hughes (above)

Tourney Triple bonuses are also on the line this weekend. The top 100 finishers in each leg of the series get points ranging from 100 points for first place down to 1 point for 100th place. The player who finishes the series with the most points gets a BCBC seat plus an NHC entry (or $5,000 in lieu of an NHC spot if the player is already double qualified. The runner up gets an NHC seat (or $5,000 if double qualified). The 3rd-place contestant earns a paid-up spot into the October 21-22 The BIG One at Laurel.

Here’s what the standings look like heading into the Spa & Surf Showdown.

Is your name visible on the above list? If it is, it means that you are within 100 points of 3rd-place—and, therefore, alive to win one of the three Tourney Triple bonus prizes. The current leader is Paul Shurman of Dix Hills, N.Y. Shurman, an NHC Hall of Famer, won the first-ever Spa & Surf Showdown in 2019.

HorseTourneys will again be airing a live webcast of the Spa & Surf Showdown on its YouTube channel. Saturday’s show (covering the final three races of Day 1) will begin at about 8:45 pm ET. Sunday’s webcast will cover the final four tourney races and will commence at approximately 8:15 pm ET. (Check local listings in your area.) NHC Hall of Famer and podcaster extraordinaire Chris Larmey will again provide his cogent contest analysis. Bill Downes will be busy calling the races at Emerald Downs this weekend, so we’ll be scraping the bottom of the barrel to try and come up with a fill-in for him. 

The Spa & Surf Showdown, an HT Tour event that requires players to make a mythical selection in every race of the Saratoga and Del Mar cards on Saturday and Sunday, is the clear-cut headliner of this weekend’s featured-tourney schedule. However, the $2,500-buy-in tourney is just one featured event among many the weekend. The top-shelf action gets started around here on Friday.

This seems like an appropriate place to mention that we offer our Last Chance qualifier to the Spa & Surf Showdown on Friday. One of every 20 entrants, at $147 per entry, will advance to play for the big money on Saturday and Sunday.

Friday’s HT Tour test is our $15,000 Guaranteed, No Limit Pick & Pray. An investment of $190 will get you in the game.

For $79, you can compete in Friday’s Saratoga Challenge qualifier. Winners (1-per-15 entries) get a $1,000 entry for a week from Saturday.

The week after the Saratoga Challenge is the on-track Laurel Champions tournament. Seats on August 19 will run you $500 apiece, but on Friday, you can get one for $59 in this 1-per-10 Pick & Pray.

The week after the Laurel Champions tournament is the Monmouth Travers Day Challenge—playable on-track or at Xpressbet. Friday’s Pick & Pray qualifier offers $800 entries to one of every 10 entrants. The fee to participate on Friday is $95.

As per usual, HorsePlayers plays host to Friday Pick & Pray qualifiers to the NHC and the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge.

The NHC Pick & Pray is a $75 buy-in game that guarantees two seats to the Big Dance next March. The winning ratio is 1-per-143.

A stake of $500 gets you into the action for Friday’s Low Ratio Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge Pick & Pray. The winning ratio is 1-per-23, and at least one $10,000 seat will be headed out the door regardless of participation count.

The 10 featured-tourney races on Friday are the 7th through 11th from Saratoga; the 7th and 8th at Monmouth; and the 3rd through 5th from Del Mar.

Saturday is Day 1 of the two-day Spa & Surf Showdown. Buy-ins, at $2,500 per pop, will be accepted right up until post time of the first race at Saratoga (12:35 pm ET). However, there are plenty of other worthwhile games to play at lower price points.

The Spa & Surf Showdown is an HT Tour event, and so is Saturday’s Live-format, $17,500 Guaranteed cash game. The entry fee is  $350.

Another Saturday cash game is our $10,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks Pick & Pray, which carries 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 opportunities to play for a seat in the Woodbine King’s Plate Challenge. One of every 15 entrants, at $79 per entry, will earn a $1,000 place in the August 20 contest that can be played at either Xpressbet, HPI or 4NJBets.

The King’s Plate play-in a Live-format tourney…as is Saturday’s qualifier for the August 12 Saratoga Challenge. The same entry fee and winning ratio in place for the Friday Saratoga qualifier are in place here as well.

Saturday is our first qualifier to the Kentucky Downs Turf Handicapping Challenge. In a sense, this one is like three qualifiers in one because winners get $1,700 in combined entry fees for each of the three days (Aug. 31, Sept. 3, Sept. 9) of the KDTHC. Saturday’s qualifier calls for an entry fee of $134, and the format is Live. The winning ratio is 1-per-15.

Meanwhile, Saturday is our second qualifier to the two-day Santa Anita Opening Weekend Challenge (September 30-October 1). The entry fee for that one is $4,000, but you can nail down a seat for $314 in Saturday’s 1-per-15, Live-format play-in.

As was the case on Friday, we’ll also have qualifiers on Saturday for the Laurel Champions tournament ($59 buy in) and the Monmouth Travers Day Challenge ($95). All the same prizes and winning ratios are in effect here as on Friday. Note that on Saturday, though, the format will be Live.

On Saturday at HorsePlayers, the NHC and the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge again share the spotlight.

The NHC game at HorsePlayers is a $210 Live-format affair with two seats guaranteed. The winning ratio is 1-per-50.

The winning ratio is 1-per-65 in Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge qualifier, which has a ticket price of $179. At least one $10,000 entry is certain to be awarded in this tourney.

The 12 contest races for Saturday (for all of the multi-track featured tourneys other than the Spa & Surf Showdown) will be the 6th through 12th on the Whitney Day card at Saratoga; the 8th and 9th from Monmouth; and the 2nd, 4th and 5th at Del Mar. Closing time is slated for 3:17 pm ET. Six of the 12 races are stakes.

On Sunday, we will crown a champion of the Spa & Surf Showdown…and of eight other featured tourneys too. 

Sunday’s HT Tour clash is our $20,000 Guaranteed tourney. Entries cost $250 each in this Live-format game.

The other Sunday cash feature is our $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 allowed in—and if we get that many, the purse will exceed $20,000.

Sunday is the day of our 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 $500 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). The winner of our Sunday qualifier also receives hotel accommodations, 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 this qualifier gets a $500 consolation refund. If you’re not sure whether you want to take a swing at The BIG One, ask the opinion of someone who has played in it before!

Sunday is the third consecutive day in which you can try to win a $1,000 place in the Saratoga Challenge field. The entry fee to this Live-format qualifier is again $79.

If you didn’t win the Saturday qualifier for the Woodbine King’s Plate Challenge (or even if you did), you can try again on Sunday. Similar to the Saratoga Challenge qualifiers, entries cost $79 each with the winner(s) getting a $1,000 berth.

There will also be another qualifier on Sunday for the three-day Kentucky Downs Turf Handicapping Challenge. Slipping the doorman $134 will get you inside.

At HorsePlayers, two Live-format Sunday qualifiers are on tap—one for the NHC and the other for the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge.

The BCBC game is a $500 Low Ratio play-in with a winning ratio of 1-per-23, and one $10,000 seat guaranteed regardless of participation.

The NHC tilt is a “regular,” $165 tourney with two seats certain. The winning ratio is 1-per-65.

Good luck to everyone this weekend—especially to those showing off their stuff in the $400,000 Guaranteed Spa & Surf Showdown. May the racing gods be smiling on you.