By Noel Michaels
We are about three months into the 2018 NHC Tour schedule as the calendar flips to May and already more than 100 qualifying seats have been awarded for next year’s National Horseplayers Championship at Treasure Island Las Vegas. Congrats if you are one of the early qualifiers! If you’re not in yet, there’s still good news for you too. There are approximately 275 days left to go to NHC2019, and approximately 600 berths into the field still up for grabs all throughout the time from now until the main event on February 8-10, 2019.
The NHC Tour leader as of late April was Brett Wiener, a 51-year-old business owner from Clearwater, Fla. with a total of 12,866 Tour points accumulated in five online and one on-track tournament. It’s interesting to note that Wiener’s total has been accomplished without a top-2 finish so far, and as yet Wiener has not even officially qualified for NHC2019. I’m not sure, but my guess would be that tidbit would make him perhaps the latest NHC Tour points leader ever who was yet to be NHC-qualified at this stage of the game. The next eight-highest players currently on the NHC Tour Leaderboard are all already qualified.
It’s only a matter of time for Wiener to get into the NHC, however. He is already an eight-year NHC qualifier (2010, 2012-2018) who has double-qualified every year double-qualifying for the NHC has been available since 2014. He has racked-up career NHC and NHC Tour earnings of $42.280, which places him 99th on the all-time NHC money list. Wiener’s top finishes so far this year include a third-place finish on HorsePlayers.com on Feb. 17, and the 1,713 Tour points he earned for his high on-track finish so far in the Santa Anita Xpressbet tournament on April 21.
Sitting in second on the NHC Tour Leaderboard as of late April was Timothy Yohler, a longtime tournament player from Fishers, Ind. who has qualified for the NHC three-times, in 2005, 2016, and 2018. Yohler has been on a roll since late last year when he won the inaugural Caribbean Classic Handicapping Tournament at Gulfstream Park. So far in 2018, Yohler has racked-up 12,523 Tour points thanks to a sixth-place finish in the Keeneland Grade One Gamble on April 15, plus several good finishes online including a 2,649-point move in the NTRA free online contest on April 21.
Currently third on the NHC Tour with 12,405 points is another tournament veteran, Chris Podratz, a 51-year-old nursing administrator from Santa Clarita, Calif. Podratz is a seven-year NHC qualifier (2012-2018) who is coming off his best NHC finals finish in the 2018 main event where he finished 29th. His NHC career earnings of $32,660 place him 113th on the all-time NHC earnings list, and he will be looking to add to the that total in 2019 after qualifying once again this year with a third-place finish in the Keeneland Grade One Gamble on April 15. In fact, Podratz is already double-qualified for NHC2019 after having snared his first seat to the finals with a win on HorsePlayers.com back on Feb. 17.
All three top NHC Tour scorers as of April 25, Wiener, Yohler, and Podratz used big recent on-track point additions at Keeneland or Santa Anita to surge past the former NHC Tour leader Joe Johnson of San Antonio Tex. Johnson did remain in fourth-place on the Leaderboard with 11,759 and is also already double-qualified thanks to a big February and March. He earned his first qualifying berth in the First Chance/Last Chance tournament at Treasure Island (no Tour points) and then qualified again when finished second in on HorsePlayers.com on March 11. He also won an event on HorseTourneys.com on March 24.
The fact that Johnson dropped from first-to-fourth in one weekend only underscores how rapidly the NHC Tour Leaderboard changes at this time of the year. Many players still have yet to fill-out all of their six point-earning scores (maximum five online and at least one on-site), and many top players have yet to earn their first on-site points so far.
The updated NHC Tour points list can always be found at https://www.ntra.com/nhc2/leaders/. If you still have yet to qualify for the #NHC19, new opportunities are happening each and every weekend. Additionally, the top 50 NHC Tour point-scorers that are not qualified at the end of the year all will earn NHC qualifying berths via the NHC Tour. If you’re keeping score at home, that top 50 point cutoff, as of April 25, stands at a relatively modest 3,418 points.