A: She’s the hottest tournament player alive

By Noel Michaels

Holy Cow! The hottest horseplayer on the NHC Tour and in the tournament world at large is someone you may not already be familiar with. It is not

NHC Tour leader Timothy Yohler, or NHC Hall of Famer Paul Shurman, nor is it 16-time NHC qualifier Trey Stiles, or any of the numerous other “usual suspects” whose names we are used to seeing win tournaments on track and online.  Nope, the hottest handicapper in the land, in fact, happens to be a nurse from New York City who has only just now qualified for her first trip to the National Horseplayers Championship. It is Karen Carey.

Who is Karen Carey? Most recently, Carey was the winner of the $75 NHC Qualifier at Horseplayers.com on Friday, June 15. On that day, Carey topped a field of 430 entries to win one of the contest’s three available NHC berths, doing so by accumulating a big $148.20 tournament total based on mythical $2 win-and-place bets on 10 mandatory races from Belmont, Santa Anita, and Laurel. Her winning total came courtesy of five winners from the 10 races, including a 15-1 shot at Belmont and a 12-1 tally at Laurel. With the victory, Carey punched her ticket to her first-ever NHC Finals next February.

That $75 Qualifier win was just the tip of the iceberg for Karen Carey recently.  Even more impressive than Carey’s $75 Qualifier victory is her hot streak in tournaments at NYRA tracks – Aqueduct and Belmont.

Carey, 62, hails from Manhattan’s Upper West Side and now lives in Saratoga Springs. When not busy as a nurse, she evidently has been learning the key secret to success for handicapping New York racing. Her winning ways started on May 10 at Aqueduct when she won the Gotham Challenge, turning a $500 entry into a $5,985 bankroll to win an additional $5,000 first prize. In addition to the purse money, Carey also earned what turned out to be an even more valuable $10,000 entry into the recently-concluded Belmont Stakes Betting Challenge on June 9, where she parlayed her original $500 Gotham Day entry into a total of more than $100,000 in cash and prizes.

In the Belmont Stakes Betting Challenge, Carey returned to capture her second major NYRA title in three months by topping a field of 56 players. In the process, she turned her starting tournament bankroll of $7,500 into a winning total of $36,571. On top of the winning bankroll, Carey also took home first prize purse money of $60,000 PLUS qualifying berths into the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge [BCBC] as well as a free shot to repeat in the 2019 Belmont Stakes Betting Challenge.

And so, that means that in the span of two weekends (Belmont Challenge on June 9 and $75 Qualifier on June 16), Carey not only qualified for the NHC, but also earned nearly $100,000 in cash and earned qualifying berths into the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge and the Belmont Stakes Challenge in 2019.  Not a bad week of work.

Additionally, during that timeframe from the Gotham Challenge on March 10 through the $75 Qualifier online on June 15, including an eighth-place finish in Aqueduct’s Wood Memorial Day tournament, Carey rocketed up through the NHC Tour Leaderboard from a few hundred participation points a few months ago to a total of more than 12,000 points as of June 21. She now finds herself in the top 20 in the standings.

Carey has been a racing fan most of her life since visits to Monmouth Park with her dad. Her fervor for handicapping rose to another level, however, after she bought a house in Saratoga in 2008. More recently her focus as a horseplayer began to shift towards tournament play. Since then Carey has become an avid player on several online platforms.

After making her mark on the NHC Tour in 2017 by winning a $2,000 entry into the Battle of Saratoga Tournament in an online qualifier, she said at that point she’d planned to get more involved in tournaments in 2018. Needless to say, that plan has worked out.