10/08/2014 3:34PM

Fornatale: Cosato wins dramatic BCBC qualifier


Nick Cosato is the latest industry professional to find success in a live-bankroll contest at Santa Anita, the Autumn Handicapping Challenge. Cosato turned his initial bankroll of $3,000 into $12,808 over the weekend. In addition to that money, which he keeps, Cosato won a full $10,000 entry to the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge, an entry to the National Handicapping Challenge, and an additional $7,000 in cash.

Also winning their way to the NHC were Duke Matties and Gary Young. Matties won a full BCBC spot as well. The field size was limited – there were 41 entries total, possibly the result of high heat in the area and an unexpected freeway shutdown near Santa Anita. This led to great value for the other entrants as $52,000 worth of prizes was paid out despite only $41,000 being paid in to the prize pool.

Cosato is now the head of a small partnership called Slam Dunk Racing, but his initial success in racing came as a jockey agent. Asked which riders he worked with, Cosato quipped, “It would probably be quicker to tell you which jockeys I didn’t work with.” Some of his clients included Garrett Gomez, Victor Espinoza, Martin Garcia, Corey Nakatani, Michael Baze, and Joe Bravo.

Three and a half years ago, Cosato decided to leave the high-stress and long hours of being a jockey agent behind. This also opened up the possibility of his getting more involved in tournaments, “When I was a jockey’s agent, I couldn’t play in tournaments,” he said, “Because if I played, I would have had to play every one of my horses in every race.”

Instead, Cosato dipped a toe in the tournament world almost a decade ago by advising various friends. For the last few years he’s been able to enter contests and has participated in the NHC as a player or adviser twice and played in the BCBC 3 times.

Cosato owes a debt to a friend for alerting him to the contest at Santa Anita last weekend. “Tom Quigley" -- Santa Anita's players' concierge -- "is always on the ball and he told me about it," said Cosato. "I didn’t have an NHC spot yet and I wanted to play in the Breeders’ Cup tournament in my backyard, so it was very appealing,” he said. “I was running a horse Saturday anyway so I figured I’d give it a go.”

Under contest rules, a contestant with a horse in a race has two options – pass that race or play that horse. Cosato opted to pass, which worked out because his horse didn’t fire.

“The first day was just hanging around,” said Cosato, who was up around $1,500 after Saturday’s action. Sunday got off to a good start when he bet $1,000 on a short-priced winner. From there, he had a plan. “In my mind, I thought the last two races of the day were very good gambling races,” he said. “They were full fields and looked to have very good value.”

Cosato swung and missed in the penultimate race, but there was still one more chance. “I had heard a story that Don Warren thought that Acceptance was as good as [multiple Grade 1 winner] Acclamation,” Cosato said. “And I know that Don Warren does not give out accolades too easily. The works were good, the horse was 12-1 when I bet.”

Cosato bet $1,500 to win and place and figured he was in pretty good shape when Acceptance drew off to win by 13 lengths, even though he was bet all the way in to 5-1. But he still wasn’t sure if he’d won.

“[Longtime contest leader and old friend] Gary Young came into the Eddie Logan Suite with his chest sticking out,” Cosato narrated, “And he told me, ‘I think I won this. Unless somebody really bet that winner big.’ So I asked him, ‘How big is big?’ And when I told him what I’d bet he just said, ‘You jerk.’ ”

Cosato still wasn’t sure he had won because Duke Matties had also bet on Acceptance. As it turned out, Matties ended up second because he “only” bet $1,500 to win.

Cosato explained his somewhat unusual decision to make the place bet. “I wasn’t going to bet it all to win,” he said, “And I figured if the horse ran second I might still finish in the top three spots and get my spot in Vegas.”

The place money was the difference in end – just not for the reason he thought.