06/01/2016 1:20PM

Wiener has a Memorial Day to remember


Brett Wiener is heading back to the National Handicapping Championship. Wiener, who was passed on the last day to finish second on the NHC Tour in 2014, has been focusing more on playing for cash over the past year and a half. But on Monday, Memorial Day, he double-punched his ticket to the 2017 NHC, earning a spot via the DRF Bets contest and another through a different online event.

Wiener was speeding through the cards Monday, spending only around five minutes a race – very different from his preferred approach of spending four hours or so on a card.

“I’ve been quick-capping my whole life, but I do better – especially with cash tournaments – if I spend more time and work my way back to forward so I know what I need later in the contest. With $2 mythical mandatory, if you’ve got to pick a horse, you’ve got to pick a horse. With a cash tournament, you’ve got to pick which races to be in.”

There is at least one precedent for Wiener’s accomplishment. Back in 2005, Paul Shurman won the Bradley contest in Connecticut for an NHC spot while simultaneously qualifying for his second spot online via Youbet. It was so long ago that the Daily Racing Form article noted that he played in the latter event “on a laptop via a wireless Internet connection.” Shurman was impressed with Wiener’s play. “It was an awesome day,” said the 2010 NHC Tour champ, “and it was impressive that he played the same picks in every tournament.”

Wiener’s explanation of his strategy that day was very simple: “If I only like a horse, I bet a horse,” he said.

With multiple tickets in a single contest, he changes things up. “I split them up where I’ll use the longer shot of the two I like on the lesser ticket usually,” he said, “though sometimes that leads to splitting your tickets perfectly.”

Splitting tickets – having nearly equal scores on two tickets, with neither total high enough to reach the money – is the bane of many a contest player, but Wiener is philosophical about it. “There’s nothing you can do about it,” he said. “If you play enough, you’ll get lucky one day where all the planets will align and the good ones will end up on one ticket.”

Wiener, who lived in Florida for many years, grew up a racing fan but believes that when it comes to handicapping, he’s better at dogs than horses. “I’m a supreme dog handicapper,” he said. “I went to Derby Lane [in St. Petersburg, Fla.] two years straight every night. We would camp out at the IRS window.”

His approach to dogs – which he translates to horses – is to use what he calls “positional” or “structural” handicapping. He looks at all the various angles, with an emphasis on post position and form cycle, and tries to envision exactly how a race will unfold. He gave examples from the greyhound world: “If the 7 breaks in and the 8 stays wide, the 8 is a winner; if the 2 has speed but the 3 has more speed, diving rail, the 2 is done,” he said.

The key is to run the race in your head before it happens on the track. With Thoroughbreds, you add the additional variable of the jockey. Wiener believes you can’t properly envision how a horse race will be run unless you really know your riders. “If you put Lionel Reyes on a speed horse at Gulfstream, you need to know that he likes to come from off the pace usually, and he may take that speed horse back,” he said. “Carlos Hernandez always wants to go to the lead. A new jockey can change a horse’s running style.”

Wiener thinks it isn’t an accident that he’s had a lot of contest success on holiday Mondays. Two years ago, he won a bunch of cash online and an NHC seat on Labor Day. “I don’t do as well on Saturdays usually because the tracks are groomed for the graded stakes and typically favor speed,” he said. “I do better when the tracks are raw and fair and outside closers have a chance and there are no graded stakes.”

Wiener, who plays every day, has cashed for six figures in each of the last two years. “The prize money adds up,” he said. “I bought my condo in Vegas from my two years of gambling winnings.”

Despite his two quick-fire NHC qualifications, Wiener still is not committing to another NHC Tour chase. “I’ll probably be at every tournament, but I never play for points, I play for money,” he said. “I’m not going to be the guy spending $100,000 to chase a $75,000 tour first prize. But I am looking to win tournaments, and if you win enough tournaments, you will win the tour.”

Perhaps the sting of being passed on the last day of the tour two years back sticks with Wiener. But based on his résumé, if he decides to start playing more online and go for the tour, he will be a major player.