10/29/2015 1:39PM

Fornatale: Bernier returns to BCBC for charity

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One of the great stories at last year’s Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge was Daily Racing Form’s own Matt Bernier. Bernier played in the event for charity and netted more than $61,000 for the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance by finishing sixth overall. This year, Bernier is back in the BCBC with a little twist: He will personally put up half the $10,000 for his BCBC entry, while DRF will put up the other half for him to play on behalf of the TAA once again.

“There were a lot of people last year who said, ‘Oh, it’s easy to play with someone else’s money,’ ” said Bernier. “But I felt like it was the complete opposite for me. Once I hit a couple of races and had some money in the bankroll, I said to myself, ‘I can’t be the boob who lost $40,000 for charity.’ ”

This year, knowing he has more of a personal stake, Bernier will be more in a position to take a shot.

“If I love something, I’m not going to be afraid to take a shot,” he said.

Bernier learned a lot last year in the BCBC, his first live-bankroll contest.

“You need to have a few opinions, and you need to be very flexible,” he said. “You can’t just have plan A and B. You need to have plan A, B, C, and D. You need to know what you’re going to do based on a number of possible situations.”

Just a couple weeks after last year’s BCBC, Bernier backed up his effort with a win in the Aqueduct contest, in which he won more than $40,000. Bernier has played in only a handful of online contests since his Aqueduct score, but the layoff doesn’t concern him.

“I’ll be coming in fresh, just like last year,” he said. “And then in two weeks, I’ll wheel right back and play at Aqueduct, looking to defend my crown.”

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Bernier sees positives and negatives to the scenario.

“On one hand, I would to have had a couple more goes in contests because it’s so tough to replicate that situation at the end of a contest, where you have to make all these split-second decisions, unless you’re actually playing in contests,” he said. “At the same time, these other players have been playing all year long, and I’ve been chomping at the bit, ready to go. Hopefully I won’t be too keen early, and I’ll have enough in the tank down the lane.”

The Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge – and Bernier’s attempt to win it – will be folded into the NBC coverage of the event, providing great exposure for both the contest and the TAA, a nonprofit organization specializing in fundraising for and accreditation of Thoroughbred rescue operations.

Bernier, who keeps a thank-you note from the TAA on the wall of his office, is optimistic about his chances.

“I’m excited and hopeful,” he said. “There are five places better I can do this year.”