03/10/2014 11:59AM

Tony Brice chats about NHC aftermath, bad streaks, and a sentimental pick


NHC 15 second-place finisher Tony Brice has become a handicapping contest fan favorite, both for his handicapping acumen, general excellent sportsmanship, and his personal story – his wife was laid off before the NHC, so the $200,000 he won was truly a life-altering score. Brice won the NHCQualify.com this past weekend, and I caught up with him Sunday night.

What have you been up to since you got back from Las Vegas?

I went straight to my credit union with the check when I landed. I think I’ve been sleeping a little better since then. And my wife just yelled, “Me too!” from the other room. Her job search continues, but she’s not quite under the pressure she was before.

And how’ve things been going betting-wise?

It’s been a desert for me since I got back from Vegas. I haven’t been able to focus enough and my life’s just been crazy. Today I finally got focused a bit and I managed to have winners in five out of the 12 races on NHCQualify.com and a few them paid pretty well. I guess I’m going to Vegas again.

Tell me more about this bad streak you were on – that’s certainly something a lot of players can relate to.

Yesterday I played in a contest at Lone Star Park and a few people recognized me and wanted to talk about the NHC. I ended up doing horribly. By the end of the day I wanted to put on a pair of glasses with a big nose and a mustache just to walk out of there.

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Have you had any close calls?

Three weeks ago I missed qualifying for the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge on BCQualify.com by 40 cents. And in the last race, I switched off the winner at the last minute. I thought I might need slightly longer odds than my top choice but sure enough, the odds drifted up at the last second and my original top pick won – it was the opposite of what happened to me at the NHC. It’s a razor-thin margin in these things.

What advice do you have for players going through rotten runs like that?

Keep looking forward. I’m also a songwriter and I go up to Nashville a lot. And as somebody who has tried to make it in the music business, you hear “no” an awful lot and you learn to just move on to the next thing, whatever it is. And with horse racing, I just move on to the next tournament or betting opportunity. Turn your attention to the next thing and don’t look back.

Since you mentioned songwriting, is there a particular racing-themed song that you admire?

There’s an old George Jones song, “The Race is On,” Sawyer Brown covered it again in the ’80s. It’s not really about horse racing but it uses horse racing as a metaphor. It’s always fun to listen to as a horse racing fan for a lot of the terminology that’s in there.

So you know the one horse I have to ask you about from Sunday...

You caught that, huh?

And so as I saw Fit to Rule – the horse who secured your NHC second – was entered, I knew who you were playing in that race. Was it a sentimental choice?

I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t taking a little stroll down memory lane when I made my final decision there – mostly I remembered how Fit to Rule strolled down the lane to make me an extra $100,000! My only worry with him was going back to the mile. Mark Glatt had claimed him from O’Neill in his next race after the NHC. And Fit to Rule looked to be training well for Glatt and he had shown some mile ability. I’m in love with the horse and he was a great price [10-1 off a 6-1 morning line] so it was like he was saying, “Bet me! Bet me!”

I noticed you played a pretty short price, Carve, late in the day at Oaklawn. Was that a play you only made because you were already doing so well?

That’s just who I liked in the race. I thought it was a two-horse race and it felt right to go with my top pick.

In the next race, you had another winner in the 6-1 range. Was that always one you wanted to play?

I had a lot of confidence in Mythical Storm, a first-time starter. That downhill course is so unusual that typically I like to bet a horse who has some experience on it. But only one horse in there had run down the hill and he didn’t scare me. It looked to me like Gary Mandella had Mythical Storm ready for a good effort first out and it was a jock I knew I could trust in [Rafael] Bejarano.

Is there anything new in your handicapping or the way you’re approaching contests since the NHC?

I learned this from Dirk Nowitzki. Every year he’s been a Dallas Maverick he spends the off-season working on whatever his weakness is. I want to do the same thing. I’ve tried to brush up on my trainers, especially in Southern California. I think it’s so important to be able to assess trainer intent. After Vegas I thought that maybe my lack of familiarity with the trainers out there might have cost me $550,000.

Mike Rutledge More than 1 year ago
Is there any way to get the PPs for his bets that day, just the horses he picked not the whole program? (Free)
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
I privately sent you what I *think* you were looking for. . .hope that helped.
mikey More than 1 year ago
I watched the final table from start to finish.The players were very cool.Mr. Brice may have been the coolest.He was on the heels of the leader and showed no pressure.He not only was cool but a firse class guy.The leader has a group and it seamed like Tony was fighting an army.This is the kink od guy racing needs on the front line.I wish him the best again this year
Tony Brice More than 1 year ago
The winner had a lot of fans but I was 'feeling the love' from a lot of people I didn't know, too (or had just met at NHC15). Thanks for the kind words, Mikey.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Thanks for chiming in, Tony! Everyone at the final table seemed to have plenty of support. Except for my man Paul Shurman who the crowd booed when he played that favorite early on. . .
Jeff Wright More than 1 year ago
Tony first off congratulations.. we actually spent some time on day 2 tied for 6th/7th and just wanted to chime in because i thought you handled the last race with a lot of class, job well done. Iv been wanting to ask you a question about that last race.. What was your take on 'fit to rule's previous start when he was pulled up and vanned off? has anyone asked you this question? Thanks Tony and again great job!
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
I asked Tony this question when I interviewed him right after the NHC, Here's what he said, "I noticed, of course, that Fit to Rule had been vanned off but I think enough of Doug O’Neill as a trainer that he wouldn’t risk the horse if he hadn’t come back sound. It looked to me like he had closing ability superior to anyone in the race." I'll also point out that Fit to Rule's work going into the NHC race was strong, a fast time, singled out by one of the local clocking services as "good for the level," so there wasn't much doubt he was ready to return to the races. If you're interested in more from Tony, you can read the whole interview I did with after the NHC at www.drf.com/news/national-handicapping-championship-questions-and-answers-tony-brice
Jeff Wright More than 1 year ago
My concern is this... Maldnado was pulling up a sound horse in perfect stride, he didn't take a bad step, he never threw his head and his action was perfect. We've all seen questionable things in racing, thats racing. but this was blatant and its usually done to raise odds and get an easy win in his next start.... Which just happened to be the last race of a Million dollar contest.. It raises questions Pete. And his connections also had him entered on 1/27/2013, which was last years final day at NHC.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
This much I know from my research -- any betting coup on that horse had nothing to do with the NHC. I didn't see anything on the tape to suggest the horse was pulled in his previous start anyway -- you can't always tell when something goes wrong and you'd think if it was a putover the same jock would ride back, wouldn't you? Sounds like a pretty average conspiracy theory to me. But hey, if you noticed something and made money, more power to you.
William Waters More than 1 year ago
If you want to check out the ultimate race horse song, go to Dan Fogelberg's classic "Run for the Roses." Awesome lyrics and melody.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Agreed, that's a classic. My Dad -- a NYC DJ for many years -- used to play that every year for the Derby. . .
Shawn Britton More than 1 year ago
Great job congrats on 200,000
Dale McCrossen More than 1 year ago
Just for the record... "The Race is On" was also covered by the Grateful Dead in at least 59 live shows between 1969 and 1995. Also got a kick out of the "Deal" quote in your new book.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Of course! In fact, it's the Dead's version -- from Reckoning I believe -- where I first heard the tune. Though the George Jones version is definitive, I have a soft spot in my heart for that one as well!
Jack More than 1 year ago
Trainer's on the West Coast are Different than the East or Mid-West Trainer's. They ALL lack Integrity. California has the BEST weather for Racing and Look what they've done, All but DESTROYED the Game.... They won't be HAPPY until Santa Anita closes it's doors.. Very Sad..