Final Weekend Qualifiers to the Del Mar Fall Handicapping Challenge and Hawthorne Thanksgiving Contests Plus $74,000 in Guaranteed Cash Games This Friday, Saturday and Sunday

Your Thanksgiving Day plans may be set by now, but what about plans for Thanksgiving weekend? Del Mar is nice at this time of year. Chicago should be crisp and clear (though perhaps a bit windy, I hear). 

If traveling on a full stomach isn’t your thing, then there’s always your couch. No matter your preference, this weekend’s final weekend of qualifying for the Del Mar Fall Handicapping Challenge (playable on-track or at and the Hawthorne Thanksgiving Contests (held on-site at select off-track betting sites in Chicagoland) can help set you up for a fun aftermath to Turkey Day.

Del Mar and Hawthorne qualifiers will be held each day of the upcoming weekend. They account for six of the 21 marquee games on the schedule. The first two of them help build out a menu of five featured tourneys that are on tap for Friday.

The Friday qualifier for the November 25th Del Mar Fall Handicapping Challenge is a $236, 1-per-15 Pick & Pray. Winner(s) earn a $3,000 entry.

If you win Friday’s Hawthorne play-in, you’ll get $1,000 worth of entry fees—enough to cover you for both the Saturday and Sunday single-day contests in the City of Broad Shoulders. The entry fee for Friday’s Pick & Pray is $118, and the winning ratio is 1-per-10.

There will also be a Flo-Cal Faceoff qualifier offered on each day of the weekend. Friday’s is a $118 Pick & Pray with one of every 15 entrants getting a $1,500 berth and moving on to compete for a guaranteed purse of $250,000 here on January 21-22. This past January, David Wolff of Holmdel, N.J., won $187,425 for capturing the Flo-Cal Faceoff.

We haven’t forgotten about you cash-game specialists. The Friday HT Tour event is our $15,000 Guaranteed, No Limit Pick & Pray. An upfront stake of $190 will get you in the door.

Once again, the always-popular $75 NHC qualifier has the featured-tourney stage to itself on Friday at HorsePlayers.

Two seats are assured to be distributed in this Pick & Pray, which carries a winning ratio of 1-per-143 and also has a healthy amount of NHC Tour points on offer. Entries are limited to three per person. Remember—you must be a 2023 NHC Tour member, prior to the start of the contest, in order to be eligible for an NHC package in this or any other NHC qualifier. If you’re not a member, you can become one quickly and easily at for a $50 membership fee.

The 10 contest races on Friday are the 6th through 8th from Gulfstream; the 6th, 8th and 9th at Aqueduct; and the 6th through 9th from Laurel. 

On Saturday, the prevailing format of the day switches to Live. Six of the day’s seven features are in that category. 

The richest game of the week is Saturday’s $25,000 Guaranteed tourney. It’s a No-Limit battle with an entry fee of $350, and the game also serves as the day’s HT Tour event.

The other Saturday cash feature is the day’s lone Pick & Pray—our $7,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks tourney. It carries an entry fee of $1,150. Total entries for this high-end game are limited to 20, with the winner getting 70 percent of the net pool, the runner up pocketing 20 percent, and the third-place contestant leaving with the remaining 10 percent. If we reach the maximum entry count of 20, the total purse will exceed $20,000.

You know by now that we will host qualifiers to the $250,000 Guaranteed Flo-Cal Faceoff, the Del Mar Fall Handicapping Challenge and the Hawthorne Thanksgiving Contests on Saturday. All of the same entry fees in place for Friday apply to Saturday (and Sunday, too). Note, however, that all of these play-ins will be waged in Live format on Saturday.

Saturday also marks the first of two straight days of qualifying for the Fall Simulcast Challenge at Lone Star Park on December 2. One of every 15 entrants in this Live-format game, at $79 per entry, will garner a $1,000 seat to play deep in the heart of Texas (or in Dallas, at least) on the first Saturday in December.

At HorsePlayers, the NHC is once again hogging the spotlight.

The featured-tourney in question is a $165, Live-format tourney with two seats guaranteed. The winning ratio is 1-per-65.

The 12 contest races for Saturday are the 9th and 10th from Aqueduct; the 10th through 12th at Gulfstream; the 5th through 8th from Golden Gate; and the 6th through 8th at Del Mar. Closing time is scheduled to be 3:43 pm ET.

Nine Live-format featured tourneys come your way on Sunday—six here and three at HorsePlayers.

Four of them are the aforementioned play-ins to the $250,000 Guaranteed Flo-Cal Faceoff, the Del Mar Fall Handicapping Challenge, the Fall Simulcast Challenge at Lone Star and the Hawthorne Thanksgiving Contests. All are 1-per-15 games except for the Hawthorne qualifier, which is a 1-in-10 proposition.

With respect to cash games, Sunday’s HT Tour event is our $20,000 Gtd., No Limit tourney. You can buy in to it for $250.

It’ll require $1,150 to get a place in Sunday’s $7,000 Guaranteed Big Bucks tourney. Once again, payouts go only to the top three finishers on a 70-/20-/10-percent basis.

There are three featured tourneys at HorsePlayers, including a pair of NHC qualifiers.

One of the Vegas play-ins is a $165 NHC qualifier only for those who have yet to earn a 2024 seat. One entry is guaranteed. The winning ratio in this Live-format tilt is 1-per-65, but since it is a restricted tourney, no NHC Tour points will be awarded here.

The other NHC qualifier is a $500 Low Ratio game that requires at least 10 entrants to go forward. (So it’s not a “guaranteed” game, per se.). The winning ratio works out to 1-per-21. Per NTRA rules, NHC Tour points will only be awarded in this one if there are enough entries to award two or more spots.

Also on the Sunday HorsePlayers menu is a $500, 1-per-23 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge Low Ratio qualifier. One $10,000 seat is certain to be in the prize pool regardless of participation.

Good luck to all of you who will be feasting on our features over the next few days. Here’s hoping you have something extra to be thankful for on the following Thursday.