Riley Drexler of Chicago Wins $161,212 in $451,780 Players Championship (Weekly Recap, April 6-10)

It’s hard to play more consistently well over a two-day period than Riley “The Glide” Drexler did last weekend in the second annual Players Championship.

On Saturday, when he finished in 7th place, Drexler, a resident of Chicago, recorded 5 wins and 2 places. His top win price was $24.80.

On Sunday, the 27-year-old sales rep for a carrot and fruit-beverage company put up 5 wins and one place (highest win price: $19.80), making him the only player to accumulate $100 or more on both days.

Drexler had one notable hot streak on Sunday, reeling off three straight winners over a half-hour stretch to thrust himself into top contention—and two plays later he made it four wins out of five plays.

So, somehow, Drexler managed to experience the “ups” but avoid the “downs” that seemingly affect even the best finishers of long, multi-day contests.

All of the above still doesn’t do full justice to Drexler’s consistency throughout the Players Championship. He never went more than three consecutive races without a collection. And perhaps even more amaziingly, he never went more than three consecutive races in the 60-race, All Optional Live contest without making a play. Stockpiling picks for the end of the day? Not this guy!

However aggressive it may have seemed, Drexler’s decision to shoot first and ask questions later actually turned out to be a prescient move. 

Despite the 4-wins-in-5-plays salvo, Drexler still found himself 60 cents behind Steven Meier with just four races to go. In fact, Drexler and Meier were almost like each other’s shadow throughout most of the competition. On Saturday, Drexler finished in 7th position, while Meier checked in 8th. On Sunday, when Drexler was making his move, Meier was moving too, nailing longshot Dot’s Dollar at Aqueduct and Empress Ellie to take the lead.

In that 4th-to-last race, however, the 7th at Santa Anita, Drexler used Lunatic, who ran second and paid $7.60 in the place hole. Drexler now held the lead by $7.00.

As the Twitter update noted, though, Drexler still had a bit of a problem. He was down to one pick left over the final three races. Meier had two. And Michael Solakis, who had just charged into 3rd by coming up with Santa Anita race 7 winner Suite Madam Blue at 13-1, had a play remaining in all three. 

Drexler opted to pass the next two races and hope for the best. In race 8, Meier and Solakis came out swinging, Meier fired with an 18-1 shot that came in 6th. Solakis played an 8-1 proposition that could do no better than 3rd. The two favorites in the race ran 1st and 2nd, So far, so good for Drexler.

In Santa Anita’s 9th, Meier surprised some by pulling the trigger on the last play at his disposal. Again, he was aggro to the max by going with a 15-1 shot in Let it Reign…who wound up running 9th of 11th. Meier had played a great tournament, but he was now out of contention for the top spot. 

For the second straight race, Solakis went with an 8-1 shot, and for the second time in a row, his horse ran 3rd, though this one, Silent Beauty, wound up getting disqualified to 4th (not that the DQ really mattered for contest purposes). The winner was the 5-2 second choice and the runner up was a 6-1 horse. Another excellent result for Drexler.

Amazingly, he had sat out two races and not only did he lose no ground on his two nearest pursuers, but he one of them had fallen completely by the wayside. One race to go.

At least this time, Drexler had a bullet to fire. With his $13.40 lead over Solakis, Drexler knew he didn’t have to worry about 8-5 favorite Barrister’s Ride. So he spent the play on 9-2 second choice She’s a Bit Sassy. Solakis went with a third consecutive 8-1 shot, Big Attraction. Time to sweat.

Saving picks for the the last three races can sometimes be an effective strategy—but not so much when those last three yield nothing higher that a 5-2 winner. Victory—and the $161,212—belonged to Drexler.

Riley Drexler (a big University of Wisconsin fan) celebrating his victory with Bucky Badger

Following one of the themes of the day, Meier lost no ground for having to sit out the finale and earned $64,485 for coming in second. Solakis went home far from empty handed, making $32,242 for his third-place effort.

There were also worthwhile day-money prizes paid to the four highest scorers on each individual day of the competition.

Thomas Blosser bagged $11,195 for leading at the end of Saturday. He had a late surge at the end provided by Power Surge, who blew up the tote in the 10th at Santa Anita, winning at 76-1. (Of the top three overall finishers, only Steven Meier had Power Surge.) If Blosser’s name seems familiar, it should be. He was the winner of the inaugural Flo-Cal Faceoff in 2020.

Blosser also collected $10,076 for finishing the two-day event in 9th place. So his total Players Championship earnings came to $21,271.

Tim Yohler led the Day-2-only standings with $150.20.

So he received the same $11,195 that Blosser got for winning Day 1, plus another $4,030 for finishing 13th overall.

Here’s a look at the overall Top 40 on the leaderboard:

As for Riley Drexler, we’ll get to know him a little better via a special profile appearing tomorrow in this space. 

Meanwhile, there are a bunch of other featured tourneys from last week to get you caught up on.

Michael Sussman counted Luca Draws the Ace ($41.20, $11.80) among the 4 winners that brought him a triumph worth $3,141 in Wednesday’s $5,000 Gtd. Cash tourney, which closed with a purse of $6,981.

Kevin Engelhard also liked Luca Draws the Ace.

That one plus two other winners got Engelhard a $3,500 entry to the April 23rd Keeneland Grade One Gamble.

On Thursday, John Schulist (5 wins, 2 places) closed out his day with three straight winners.

The winning trio earned Schulist  $3,919 in Thursday’s $6,000-certain Pick & Pray, which closed its doors with $8,709 in the kitty.

On Friday, the HT Tour competition was taken by Jim Trepinski.

The 4-win, 1-place effort brought Trepinski a return of $7,556 in our $15,000 Gtd. Pick & Pray, which ended up with a pot of $16,791.

As was the case with Jim Trepinski, the big horse for Daniel Fischer was Frankly My Dear.

The Gulfstream 11-1 winner was among 4 firsts and 1 second that landed Fischer a $3,500 Keeneland Grade One Gamble seat.

Newly minted NHC Hall of Famer Stanley Bavlish has an upcoming engagement at Monmouth Park.

That as a result of 5 wins and a place that also included Frankly My Dear. Bavlish’s entry will now be on the house for the June 4th Monmouth Pick Your Prize Challenge.

Over at HorsePlayers, the two highest scores on Friday got Todd Faro and James Aspenleiter seats to the 2023 NHC.

Each player booked 5 winners. Faro added two runners up and Aspenleiter one.

Four victors and one near-misses gave the decision to Tim Kindlon in Friday’s Breeders’ Cup Low Ratio Pick & Pray.

The heavy lifter for Kindlon was Old Homestead ($21.80, $13.20) in the 7th on the opening-day Keeneland card.

Who was the biggest money winner around here outside of the Players Championship? It was Saturday Big Bucks champ Michael Somich.

There were no true “bombs” for Somich this day, but he did have Infinite (426.00, $10.00) in the 11th at Keeneland among his three winners.

Evan Trommer (3 wins, 2 places) cashed in the final three races to secure his obligatory featured-tourney victory of the week in Saturday’s Monmouth Pick Your Prize qualifier.

This was a tight one. Trommer prevailed by just 20 cents over Michael “Free” Samples. And Louis “May Day” Melone was just 50 cents farther back in third.

Ron Ferrise whiffed on his first 8 Saturday plays, but that didn’t stop the 2017 BCBC runner up.

Of course, it always helps when you catch a 76-1 horse. “Captain” Frank Sorensen also had cap horse Power Surge in the 10th at Santa Anita, and he will join Ferrise in the Keeneland Grade One Gamble on April 23rd.

The high score of the day was posted over at HorsePlayers by Michael Koblenz (5 wins, 2 places) in the NHC Pick & Pray.

Finishing second was Michael Samples, and we hope that more than makes up for his tough beat in the Monmouth qualifier. Like Koblenz, Samples had Power Surge late. He also got a max $22.00 place payoff earlier in the day on a 70-1 shot. Obviously all systems are “go” for Samples when he spots a horse between 70-1 and 79-1!

There was no Power Surge for Patrick Casale at the end of Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge Pick & Pray, but he did have 12-1 winner Infinite.

Casale augmented Infinite with 4 other winners and 3 places—and he needed pretty much every bit of all that to hold off Robert Morgan, who did have Power Surge (#7).

Another day, another Keeneland Grade One Gamble seat for Ron Ferrise (3 wins, 3 places). 

Right on the heels of the previous day’s victory, Ferrise did it all over again on Sunday. Finishing second to also earn a $3,500 Keeneland spot was Turner West (2 wins, 2 places). For West, this was like the cherry on top of his Sunday sundae. West also won $20,151 for finishing 5th in the Players Championship…plus another $3,359 for having the 3rd highest score on Sunday in the “PC”.

Suite Madam Blue ($29.40, $14.40) was Charles Hogan’s hero on Sunday.

The 13-1 victor came in the final contest race, the 7th at Santa Anita, and it rewarded Hogan (4 wins, 2 places) with a $1,000 entry into the April 30 Lone Star Spring Betting Challenge.

Jeff Bussan had just two winners, but one of them was Kannon Fire ($32.00, $16.60) in the 9th at Aqueduct.

The dynamic duo of winners yielded a $2,000 Monmouth Pick Your Prize seat for Bussan.

On Sunday, we offered our first qualifier to the May 7th Kentucky Derby Challenge (playable not at Churchill Downs…but at Xpressbet…or Gulfstream…or Santa Anita).

Congratulations to Jerald Segall who left with the $3,000 entry thanks to 3 firsts and 5 seconds. On to the Derby!

In Sunday’s HT Tour event, Bob Schreiter was the only player to score in triple figures.

That meant a handy victory for Schreiter that was worth $10,040 in a $20,000 Guaranteed Pick & Pray that finished with a purse of $22,312. And put another $4,016 into Turner West’s bank account for finishing second.

With 4 wins and a place, Brian O’Kane pocketed $5,250 in Sunday’s $7,500 Big Bucks tourney.

The high-end game went off with a takeout to players of just 6.8%.

Sunday’s best 12-race score was on display over at HorsePlayers, courtesy of Ryan Mueller.

Mueller (5 wins, 1 place) had both Kannon Fire at Aqueduct and Suite Madam Blue in the contest finale to capture Sunday’s $125 NHC qualifier.

Matthew Ache (3W, 0P) was feeling good after coming in second. He got the other available NHC spot, and he, too, had 15-1 Kannon Fire and 13-1 Suite Madam Blue.

Kevan Strom (4 wins, 1 place) was victorious in Sunday’s Low Ratio Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge qualifier at HorsePlayers. 

Strom got up late with winners in the final two races.

So ended Players Championship week. Don’t forget to check back here tomorrow when we’ll learn more about Riley Drexler — and the weekend he’ll never forget.