10/24/2014 11:26AM

Fornatale: Field for BCBC shaping up


The field is taking shape for the sixth running of the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge, to be held in conjunction with the two days of the Breeders’ Cup next Friday and Saturday at Santa Anita Park. While the final tally isn’t known – players can still pay the $10,000 buy-in and join the field – we have a pretty good idea of the numbers right now. It appears that right around 260 contestants will line up, 40 percent via straight buy-in, 30 percent of whom won their spots via BCQualify.com, and 30 percent of whom won their way in through a live tournament.

Of that $10,000, $7,500 goes to a live bankroll – players keep whatever is left of that at the end of the contest – and the other $2,500 goes into a prize pool. The purse projects to $650,000, all of which will be paid back as prize money. On top of that, 15 seats to the NHC will be awarded.

Players must make at least five $500 wagers on any race on the Santa Anita card on Friday up to the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. On Saturday, players must make at least five $900 bets on any race on the Santa Anita card up to the Breeders’ Cup Classic. You can bet up to your entire bankroll at any time. Available wagers are win, place, show, exacta, and trifecta.

Contest director Tim Schram is pleased with the quality of the field as well as the quantity. “We’ve got a good field,” he said, “The best tournament players in the country will be on hand. NHC champs like Michael Beychok, John Doyle, John Conte, and Jose Arias, they’ll all be playing. Prior BCBC champs David Wilkenfeld, Patrick McGoey, Bob Hansan, and Peter Behr will be there as well.”

Beychok and Conte are former cast members of the reality show “Horseplayers.” In fact, this year’s event has become a de facto “Horseplayers” reunion. Only Team Rotondo, who are two-thirds ineligible because Peter Rotondo Jr. is a Breeders’ Cup employee, will not be playing in the tournament.

A few metrics indicate how successful this tournament has been. In the first five years, the field grew by over 20 percent per year. This year the field will grow by more than 30 percent. The other number to look at is retention rate. Of the 182 players who played in the BCBC last year, 127 are returning. That’s an impressive 70 percent.

This year marks the debut of the BCBC simulcast “pilot program.” For the first time, contestants don’t necessarily need to be on hand live at the Breeders’ Cup to play in the BCBC. They can also play via simulcast at Keeneland in Kentucky or Aqueduct in New York. Approximately 10 percent of the field is taking advantage of this option. This comes in handy for a player like John Nichols, Churchill Downs’s head clocker. His work responsibilities won’t allow him to get to Santa Anita for the weekend, but he can get to Keeneland for Friday and Saturday afternoon. Another player benefitting from the pilot program is former BCBC champ David Wilkenfeld. He’ll be attempting to regain his crown from his own backyard at Aqueduct.

Tim Schram was surprised that many players have elected to travel for the contest – but not to Santa Anita. “I’ve got players coming from their homes in Carolina, Virginia, Massachusetts, and Washington state who are flying to Keeneland to play,” he said. “There’s not even a live meet, they just like Keeneland or they’ve had success there before or maybe they just don’t want to mess with the crowds.”

To register for the BCBC, go to https://www.breederscup.com/bcbc or contact Tim Schram at (859) 422-2658.