11/04/2013 5:15PM

Breeders' Cup contest goes down to the wire

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Breeders' Cup Betting Challenge winner Peter Behr

Breeders' Cup Betting Challenge winner Peter Behr (center). Photo by Gary Gray.

You see it every day at the racetrack – horseplayers want to win, but what they really want is a score. On Saturday night, Peter Behr of London, Ontario, landed a score to remember when he parlayed a $110 buy in from www.BCQualify.com into $324,115 at the fifth annual Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge.

For the uninitiated, the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge, aka the BCBC, is one of the most important handicapping contests in the country. Players can either win their way in, like Behr did, or put up their $10,000 and compete. The way it works is simple. Of that $10,000 buy in, $2,500 goes into the prize pool. The rest is a live bankroll you can bet in the win, place, show, exacta, and trifecta pools on any of the races on the Friday and Saturday Breeders’ Cup cards. The highest final bankroll wins, and the winner gets $200,000.

The total prize pool is worthy of discussion because not only does 100 percent of it get paid back to the entrants, but $20,000 is added to the pot; plus the top 12 finishers receive seats to the National Handicapping Championship to be held early next year in Las Vegas. Those seats represent another estimated $60,000 or so in prizes and bring the total value to more than $500,000. As Breeders Cup Betting Challenge director Chris Bahr says, “It’s the best value you can find. Usually in horse racing, players have to worry about the takeout. In this tournament, there’s actually a take-in.”

At the end of the day Friday, it looked like Behr and the rest of the field were in deep water. Kevin McFarland, a 37-year old who won his way in to the BCBC with a victory in last summer’s Del Mar live bankroll tournament, had a commanding lead. The big race for him was the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, where Beholder finished first ahead of Close Hatches and Authenticity, with favored Royal Delta running out. After crushing the win, exacta, and trifecta, McFarland’s bankroll was up to $104,932. At that point, Behr was in 28th place with $12,063.

But Behr and the rest of the field were undaunted. Behr got back into the mix right away in the first Breeders’ Cup race on Day 2. Behr liked longshot Ria Antonia in the Juvenile Fillies. The race itself was an incredible sweat as Ria Antonia finished second under the wire, but She’s a Tiger had drifted over into her and Ria Antonia was moved up to first after a lengthy inquiry. Behr collected more than $96,000 on the win end alone and skyrocketed into first place with a bankroll of more than $120,000

McFarland didn’t go quietly, though, and by the time of the Classic, he had moved decisively back into first with $146,587. Behr sat in second at $128,115.

Typically in a live bankroll contest, one needs to have the winner of the last race to be crowned champion – but this was not the case this year. McFarland fired $26,850 and missed. Behr bet $4,000 and lost. Still, McFarland’s bet was large enough that he ended up dipping below Behr into second place, while Behr won it all with a final bankroll of $124,115.

“What was so amazing to me was that Behr started off by winning a $110 buy-in contest on BCQualify and parlayed that into nearly $325,000,” Bahr said.

In fact, four of the top 10 finishers qualified via BCQualify.com.

Participation numbers for the BCBC were up this year, from 138 players in 2012 to 182 in 2013.

“It’s the fastest-growing tournament in the country,” said Ken Kirchner, the tournament’s founder and administrator. “Uniformly, when I talk to players, they talk about the first-class amenities they receive as well as the chance to bet their bankrolls on the best horses in the country, the likes of Groupie Doll and Mucho Macho Man. It’s a horseplayer’s dream. As one of the guys said to me, ‘If this is heaven, I want to stay.’ ”

Peter Thomas Fornatale is the author of the forthcoming book, "The Winning Contest Player." His new blog for DRF.com will keep horseplayers updated on handicapping contests from around the country.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You can go ahead and censor and or edit , or just deny my comment if you so choose ,thats up to you,but that fact is, the reason tournaments / contests exist , is because no one can beat the races in the long run - but in a contest there is always a definite winner.
Ian GW More than 1 year ago
Be nice to hear about these contests or advertise em better
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
You are preaching to the choir -- that's why I'm here :) Three excellent places to look for contest opportunities are the DRF contest properties, NHCQualify.com, BCQualify.com and DRFPublicHandicapper.com. Check back frequently in this space (Mondays and Thursdays) for more contest news and information.
nancyalis More than 1 year ago
Congratulations to Peter. I look forward to reading your book!
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Thanks for the kind words.
Roger More than 1 year ago
Its definitely a great contest. Congrats to Peter Behr on his victory. Looking forward to the book Peter be well.....R
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Thanks, Roger. Your stuff is some of my favorite material in the book!
Carm More than 1 year ago
Can you possibly post the order of finish for the contest and money earned?
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Here is a link to a PDF with the final standings / winnings: https://www.breederscup.com/sites/default/files/pdf/bcbc-final-standings.pdf
Dennis More than 1 year ago
Peter- when is the book slated for release?
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
We don't have an exact pub date yet but the hope is that we will have books in time for the holidays. Keep checking in here for more information or follow me on twitter @loomsboldly. Thanks for asking!
Bruce Epstein More than 1 year ago
Sorry, but as a professional handicapper for over 25 years, and still doing it, the play on Rita was typical of tournments, just "going all in" on a long shot. After a review of Rita's pp's she was not playable at all. Typical of tournment play, just take a bomb with a good rider and pray. No way to make a steady income. However, congrats, as you did win a big score. But the science of handicapping was not involved here.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
I take the point that contest handicapping is different from everyday play -- it's a topic I cover extensively in the book, but I think it's inaccurate to say there was no skill in that pick. When I interview Peter later in the week in this space, I will ask him about this.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What I'm very interested to know is what was Mcfarlane thinking??. That was like a huge final jeopardy mistake. How could he just hand Behr the contest like that betting $26,000? , and whiff when the winner looked like the logical selection.Behr didn't have to do anything in fact lost his last bet!....appreciate if you can let me know if you find out , That should definitely go down as one of the don't s in your do's and don't column. thanks.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
It certainly seems an odd miscalculation from a guy who clearly knows his stuff. He has so much success in tournaments that I'm sure I'll be interviewing him sooner or later and I'll be certain to ask him what his thought process was.
Jerry B More than 1 year ago
BTW , Bruce ,I'm curious~ who did you think figured in that race?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excited about the book and the blog. Will I be able to read it for free (the blog) or have to pay?
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
I do believe the blog is outside the pay wall but there's a very simple way around the pay wall anyway -- just become a DRF Bets customer. . .or if you have to pay, hard to go wrong reading the likes of Dave Grening, Dave Litfin, Brad Free, etc. They'll make it worth your while.
DRFInsidePost More than 1 year ago
The blog will be free access.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Got his number put up and collected 96k... Yep, happens to me all the time!
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
As I say in the book, sure, it's better to be lucky than good but in contests we need to be both lucky AND good.
Albert More than 1 year ago
I had the time of my life in the contest last year, but didn't return because I am much more of a horizontal player. There are no bets for us in the format. It turned out that I made the right decision because I had the last 7 winners on Saturday. I hope they consider modifying things next year (wouldn't it be fun if the winner nailed the Pick 6?) Yikes.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
It's a tough call. If you allowed bets like the p4 and p6, the contest would change so dramatically that it would become something else. Doubles and P3s would make sense for sure, though there might be a technology issue. I can look into this as you are certainly not the only one who feels this way.
BeychokRacing More than 1 year ago
congrats to Peter. He sat with us at NHC 2012 and rooted me home. Good karma at that table it seems. The BCBC is horseplayer heaven for sure. It cannot get better than that.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
I plan on trying to interview Peter Behr later in the week, I'll make sure to say hi from you!
Bob More than 1 year ago
Whats the subject of your new book?
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
It's called The Winning Contest Player and it's all about handicapping contests. Due out before the end of the year.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
anybody know what mcfarlands play on beholder in day one was to take such a big lead? did he go all in?
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
I haven't heard but given what his score looked like after the race I wouldn't be surprised at all if risked a significant portion of his bankroll. If I ever interview him, I'll find out.
Paul Kirnos More than 1 year ago
I heard from his friend that he crushed the tri with beholder. According to his friend, his big move early in day 1 was going all in with rookie sensation in the 5th. Great tourney, hope to be back next year,
Christian Hellmers More than 1 year ago
So many stories to this incredible tournament. Pick 6 Boys in effect...
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Very cool to have a two-time in-the-money finisher offering the first comment on my blog. I hope you had a good time at the BCBC.
Joeaveragefan More than 1 year ago
Stories like this keep the hope alive for the rest of us contest players who haven't been so fortunate, yet!
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
That's why you should make a bet every day -- you might be walking around lucky and not even know it!
mikey More than 1 year ago
Just like a poker game.You have to make the right moves at the right time.A little luck is allways needed.Great job .
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
That's right. There are a lot of analogies to poker and a full discussion of the luck-to-skill ratio in my new book. I hope you pick up a copy (out later this year) and dig it.
Edwin Spaunhurst More than 1 year ago
there is a big difference between cash contests and play money
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
That much is certain. There are large portions of the book devoted to this topic. But I will say this: many of the traits one needs for success are the same regardless if we're talking about contests or everyday play. Thanks for taking the time to comment.