10/29/2014 12:44PM

Fornatale: BCBC winner McGoey not afraid to go big

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On Friday, the sixth edition of the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge begins at Santa Anita Park. Should Patrick McGoey, of Metairie, La., be victorious, he will have won half of them.

The BCBC is the most important live-bankroll horse-racing contest in existence. A purse of more $650,000 is expected, and 15 seats to the National Handicapping Championship – the richest handicapping contest in the world – are on the line.

For the BCBC, buy-in costs $10,000, $2,500 of which feeds the prize pool, the other $7,500 of which acts as a live bankroll. McGoey followed a similar strategy in each of his BCBC wins, playing conservatively throughout most of the two days of the contest and going all in late. In 2011, Drosselmeyer carried him to victory. In 2012, he made a double move: He went all in on Wise Dan in the Mile and then let it ride on Fort Larned in the Classic.

Last year, he stuck to the plan, and it almost worked again.

“I was in a lot better spot going into the last race last year than I was the two prior years,” McGoey said. “I had around $15,000. I was at around $20,000, but I got cute going into the Mile. Rather than just going all in on Wise Dan again, I got cute and tried to beat him. That didn’t work.”

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McGoey still had a chance. “In the Classic, I was all in on Declaration of War,” McGoey said. “The previous two years, with Drosselmeyer and Fort Larned, I thought I had no chance at the top of the stretch. Last year, I thought I was going to win again. And if he’d changed leads, I win for fun!”

Frank McGoey, Patrick’s brother, is the reason he got involved in horse racing. Even with two major title wins on his résumé, Patrick doesn’t consider himself in his brother’s league.

“My brother, Frank, has forgotten more about horses than I know,” Patrick McGoey said. “He does it for a living. I do it for fun.”

Frank McGoey finished ninth in the BCBC last year – thanks to Mucho Macho Man. But he didn’t risk his whole bankroll, much to his brother’s chagrin.

“I said, ‘What the heck? You’ve seen the formula two years in a row!’ ” Patrick McGoey said. “I guess he wanted to make sure to go home with some money.”

That idea – wanting to leave the BCBC with some bankroll – is a hindrance to playing this contest optimally. Patrick McGoey takes this thought a step further. “In this contest, 30 to 50 percent of the people can’t win,” he said. “They’re either not willing to put it all on the line, or they are going to lose it all before the last race.”

Last year’s contest – won by Peter Behr – was marked by very aggressive play. Second-place finisher Kevin McFarland saw his bankroll shoot up, come down, and shoot back up again. Behr’s final score was more than 16 times the initial bankroll – considerably higher than either of the years McGoey won. But he’s not intimidated in the least.

“Some people will try to be aggressive throughout the whole thing, but I think that can come back to haunt you,” McGoey said. “If you pick 30 percent winners in a day, that’s a good day. But if you’re betting every race aggressively, you’re not going to have a big bankroll at the end.”

Of course, the danger is that another player will pick his spots correctly and end up with a monster bankroll. McGoey’s approach accounts for that.

“I’m fine if other people are hitting big bets before the end,” he said. “Then I know what I need to get. I have an idea right now of who I might play in the Classic, but if someone else is riding high with $100,000 or $200,000, I might have to take a stab and use a longer-priced horse.”

In any case, the most successful player in BCBC history will stick to his game plan. As McGoey said, “When they’re going into the gate for that last race, I’ve got a rush, and I’m getting my money’s worth, regardless of how it turns out.”