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Sun Sets on Fun (in the Sun)

by Johnny D

September 5, 2019

Last weekend, as the sun set on two horseplayer summer favorites--Saratoga and Del Mar--Xpressbet served up a farewell of its own toward Fun in the Sun -- the fascinating and challenging 8 week handicapping tournament that boasted $8,500 in weekly prizes as well as four seats to the Pegasus World Cup Handicapping Championship to seasonal leaders! 

After eight weeks, including 80 competition races—40 from Del Mar and 40 from Saratoga--based on a single, live $10 win wager on one horse in each event, Wayne Tam proved best with a total of $1,351 in seasonal earnings. Paul Weizer finished second with $1,345.50, followed by Teresa Newcomb at $1,329 and Lucas Peltz $1,262.50. Eugene Spruck $1,257.50 finished fifth. 

The extensive Fun in the Sun competition featured the usual display of handicapping prowess and illustrated once more that there are many ways to skin a handicapping tournament feline. Steady, consistent play was effective, but so, too, was a streaky, longshot-reliant approach. 

Fun in the Sun champ Wayne Tam posted a final Saturday score of $262 to leap from 5th to 1st in a single bound. Runner-up Paul Weizer led the pack into the final competition but could only add $60.50 to his bankroll. Eugene Spruck, 3rd into the final stanza, added just $45.50 to his total and slipped to 5th, a final position worth $2,000 in prize money but lacking a coveted Pegasus World Cup Handicapping Championship seat. 

Even though he did well overall, Spruck must be considered the ‘hard-luck’ story of the competition. Since opening week, Spruck had been ranked among the tournament’s top seven players and, at the conclusion of week 2, actually had topped the standings. Additionally, during the season, Spruck had been ranked second twice (weeks 3 & 6) and third once (week 7). He’s also the only player among the top six finishers to have missed winning at least a share of $68,000 in weekly prizes. In hindsight, it appears he played too well to come away with a mere $2,000 prize. 

John Gaspar, who clawed his way up the seasonal standings ladder from 16th to 8th to 6th to 4th in the next-to-final week, added just $60.50 to his total Saturday and faded to finish 8th. Jeanne Curry, William Schwartz and Sean O’Malley, 6th, 7th, & 8th into the finale, wore Saturday collars and faded to 11th, 12th and 16th, respectively. 

The most impressive closing charge came from Teresa Newcomb. Based on $395.50 in powerful Saturday earnings she rallied from 18th to 3rd and won a $12,000 Pegasus World Cup Handicapping Championship seat. The big day also earned Newcomb a $2,000 prize for finishing with the second-highest earnings total of the week. Only Steven Hilbert, 47th overall, did better at $416.50 to earn the $5,000 weekly top prize. 

Throughout the season, there were 33 unique weekly prize winners. Only champ Wayne Tam bagged more than one weekly award. August 17 his total of $523 proved best and was worth a $5,000 prize. He added that to $2,000 he had earned July 27 when his total of $356 had been second best. The runner-up performance in week 3 moved Tam’s name into the top 50 players in 11th-place for the first time. He posted zero earnings in week 4 and dropped to 34th. Week 5 action saw Tam’s name disappear from the top 50. However, the following week, on the strength of his record $523 performance, Tam rebounded into 4th-place. He earned zero in week 7 and slipped one spot to 5th. A solid final week of $262 proved enough for him to garner the top spot. Tam averaged a gross return of $17-per race during the 80 wager-competition. 

Remarkably, at the end of the long Fun in the Sun road, which included Saratoga and Del Mar Saturdays July 13 through August 31, a mere $136 in earnings separated the champ from Jose A. Suarez in 6th. At $10 per-wager that’s not much of a difference. You know how it goes…one more winner here…one more winner there… 

A total of 47 players earned enough in live mutuel payoffs to boast a profit based while making all 80 competition wagers. That’s some fine handicapping and, ultimately, what amounts to a free swipe at a $120,000 brass ring. On August 10 Allison Halbig earned the distinction of grabbing a weekly prize with the lowest winning total at $228. As Halbig might remind you, her $5,000 prize spends the same as anyone else’s. 

Thanks to everyone who participated in Fun in the Sun. And a hearty gracias to the folks behind the scenes at Xpressbet who expertly administered the competition. 

Finally, (insert shameless company plug here) thanks to Xpressbet for hosting such an outstanding handicapping tournament that gives players a chance to compete for juicy weekly and seasonal prizes over an extended timeframe. That Fun in the Sun requires no registration or entry fees with zero added takeout is remarkable. 

Seriously, folks, Fun in the Sun was fun and, except for a few afternoons at Saratoga, mostly in the sun, too. See you next year!

Race On!