06/29/2005 12:00AM

Retired 75-year-old takes top prize

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Billy Weiss, of Marina Del Ray, Calif., is the new king of Hollywood Park handicapping.

Striking on the first contest race, Weiss nailed the $809.40 trifecta in the Californian Stakes and topped a field of 743 players to win the King of Hollywood Handicapping Contest on June 18-19.

Weiss, 75, won a total of $4,000 for his victory and qualified for the $500,000 Daily Racing Form/National Thoroughbred Racing Association Handicapping Championship on January 27-28, 2006, at Bally's Las Vegas.

The two-day tournament was free to enter. Players had a mythical $20 to wager in the win, place, show, exacta, quinella, trifecta, and superfecta pools on races 5 though 9 each day.

Weiss, who considers himself a very selective horseplayer, focused on the Californian, sensing that lukewarm favorites Choctaw Nation and Borrego were vulnerable. Weiss liked the 8-1 winner Lava Man and the 6-1 runner-up Anziyan Royalty. He keyed those two runners in $10 trifectas in the top two spots with 33-1 longshot Skukuza in third. The score returned him $8,094 on Saturday, good enough to earn the $1,000 prize as the overall leader after day one.

Weiss secured the win with a $913 hit on the second day, winning with a $20 straight exacta play in Hollywood's ninth race. He finished with a $9,007 bankroll from a total of $200 in mythical bets. Tim Downs, of Las Vegas, also cashed a $10 trifecta in the Californian, but added only $30 to his total on the second day and settled for second with $8,124. It was a long way back to Julio Godines in third, who finished with $5,210. Both Downs and Godines also qualified for the national finals.

Weiss, a retired executive from the apparel industry, says he spends four to five hours per night handicapping Southern California racing, sifting through his extensive records and using DRF past performances, along with Equiform data and Quirin-style pace and speed figures.

"I consider myself a professional horseplayer now that I'm retired," said Weiss, who plays the races two or three times per week from Hollywood Park's VIP room. "I like the intellectual challenge. My strategy is to win a little, lose a little, and sometimes win a lot."

Next January in Las Vegas, Weiss will be shooting for a lot - the highest payday in handicapping tournament history. In addition to the record $250,000 first prize in NHC VII, he becomes eligible for the $1 million bonus offered by Churchill Downs Inc. to anyone who wins one of its tracks' qualifying events and goes on to win the national finals.

River Downs: $25,000 on line

River Downs will host a rich two-day handicapping tournament on July 9 and 10 offering three DRF/NTRA qualifying spots and an estimated $25,000 first prize.

The entry fee of $340 includes a $40 real-money bankroll. Players will make $2 win, place, or show wagers on 10 races each day from River Downs, Belmont, Calder, or Monmouth Park. At least two bets each day must be on River Downs races. Players get to keep all pari-mutuel contest winnings

The contest is limited to 180 entries, with a maximum of two entries per person. Cash prizes will be paid down to 15th place.

To register, call (513) 232-8000 or go to www.riverdowns.com.

Calder: Handicapping Summit

Calder Race Course will offer three DRF/NTRA qualifying berths when it hosts its Handicapping Summit on Sunday, July 10. In addition to the estimated $10,000 first prize, the winner will be eligible for Churchill's $1 million bonus should he go on to win the national championship.

The entry fee is $250, and players may purchase up to four entries each. Players will be required to make mythical $2 across-the-board wagers on each of 10 designated Calder races. The contest is limited to 125 players, with cash prizes paid down to 15th place. To register, contact Brant Allen at (305) 474-5685.