03/06/2017 2:30PM

Costello adds UBC to qualifying haul


Kevin Costello’s amazing run on DRF Tournaments continued on Sunday with an outright win in an Ultimate Betting Challenge qualifier. Last weekend, he won his $7,000 seat to Del Mar’s big summer contest, and two weekends ago, he nearly won both a Keeneland Grade One Gamble seat and one for the Wynn Challenge (he was bubbled in the latter).

Jim Hom was the other player to advance the UBC, a live-bankroll contest which takes place next weekend at both Gulfstream and Santa Anita. Both men got off to strong starts in the contest’s first race, Santa Anita’s second. Hom had the winner, Champagne Charley ($17.60), and Costello had the second-place capper, Prince of Arabia ($22).

From there, Costello ($98.40) had six more collections, the largest of which was Royal Blessing ($26.40) in Gulfstream’s 11th. Hom ($89.80) scored in seven further events, his best being Broke Away Grey ($22.40) in Santa Anita’s fourth.

Also on Sunday, four players punched their tickets for the Horse Player World Series at the end of the month, including recent National Handicapping champion Ray Arsenault, who will be returning to the scene of the crime – Las Vegas – looking for an impressive double in seven-figure tournaments.

The order of finish of the four qualifiers from the all-in contest was Steve Arrison ($105.80), Arsenault ($91), Ken McMahan ($86), and Gerard McClenin ($85.60). The key to victory for all four men was near-capper Fleet Eagle ($60.80) in Oaklawn’s sixth. Of the 74 players to participate in the contest, only five had the horse, so you have to feel a little bad for Lawrence Kahlden, the lone contest participant who had the horse and didn’t advance.

Fleet Eagle’s wire score was unlikely enough to cause at least one professional horseplayer to think there was a serious speed bias at Oaklawn, but there were a few things to recommend: He was dropping in class, cutting back, and had some hidden sprint numbers on his form. In any case, all five must have really liked the horse, but it was an all-in contest where all selections had to be in before the first contest race.

On Saturday, six players won their way into major contests. A parade of chalk in the contest’s second half limited leaderboard movement late: The longest price to come on the back six paid just over $12.

Brian Johnson ($154.80) and Thomas Labordo ($92.60) advanced to Keeneland’s Grade One Gamble. Johnson’s monster score came courtesy of two cap horses in the first four races: Small Town Hero ($64) in Santa Anita’s second, and Princess Marie ($64) in Santa’s third. In real life, they paid $85.60-$26.60 and $93.20-$24.40, respectively, and combined for a $1,911.20 double on $2. Nice picking, Mr. Johnson!

Robert Gilbert ($112.80) and Kevin Kreiser ($108.20) won into Monmouth’s Pick Your Prize contest. Both hit early and coasted late. Gilbert had just three collections, all in the first half: Hello Everybody ($18), Princess Marie, and Bronzino ($30.80).  Kreiser collected in three of the first four and tacked on what would prove to be unnecessary place points with Patterson Cross ($8.20) at Gulfstream. The two finished nearly $30 clear of third.

In the Wynn qualifier, Michael Birenbaum ($98.80) and Garry Addley ($93.20) both won seats for the summer spectacular. Once again, most of the damage was done in the contest’s first half, with Princess Marie fueling Birenbaum’s ticket and Small Town Hero augmenting Addley’s score.

Contest action returns to DRF Tournaments on Wednesday with a gamut of feeders, credit builders, and match-ups leading to next weekend’s featured events: qualifiers for the HPWS, Keeneland, Monmouth, the Wynn, and July’s big-money Del Mar Handicapping Challenge. For more information, go to tournaments.drf.com.