10/28/2015 1:58PM

Fornatale: Players to watch at the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge


The Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge is a unique contest – nowhere else do you see the wild betting that is regularly on display at the BCBC. “I expect it to be crazy as it always is,” said tournament director Tim Schram. “We’ve seen in the past that the aggressive players are the ones who win.”

With that in mind, let’s have a look at a few players to watch at this year’s BCBC.

Patrick McGoey is the only two-time winner of this event, and any shortlist should begin with him. This will be McGoey’s first trip to Keeneland. “I get to spend the weekend watching and betting on the best horses in the world,” he said. “Throw in competing against some great handicappers, in my favorite type of contest format. What’s not to be excited about?”

To the surprise of no one, McGoey will aim to win the BCBC with the same strategy he employed successfully twice. “I will be conservative on Friday and early Saturday, and look forward to going all in on the Classic,” he said. “The Classic this year has a great field of horses, including a Triple Crown winner and a Distaff winner. And I do not plan on betting on either of them. For me, that is as exciting as it gets.”

Kevin McFarland was second in the BCBC in 2013 and owns two wins in the Del Mar summer handicapping contest as well. “I'm confident and prepared,” McFarland said. “I'm ready to compete against the best handicappers in the game on the two best betting days of the year.”

McFarland defended his decision to bet himself out of first in the last race in 2013. "There was an aggressive field of players in behind me, and I thought the payouts were going to be huge because I knew the favorite, Game On Dude, was going to run off the board. Plus, it matters how you win. I didn't want to back in to the BCBC. I wanted to win it like Secretariat in the Belmont. "

One of the things that makes McFarland such a dangerous player is his attitude – win or go bust. “As usual, I will be playing to win. I'm more likely to finish at zero than finish fifth. To me, this tournament is the equivalent of the Masters to a professional golfer. It's the one I covet the most and look forward to every year. Hopefully I will be wearing a green jacket on Saturday night.”

:: Click here to purchase a copy of “The Winning Contest Player” by Peter Thomas Fornatale

Harry Fry has finished in the money in the last two BCBCs, and he has the home-field advantage working in his favor. “Keeneland is my home track, and I feel confident given my performances in live betting contests over the last two years,” he said.

The European runners are the key to his contest strategy, and he plans on focusing his money in the trifecta pools. As a fan, he’s most excited about the Classic. “I want to see American Pharoah go out as champ before becoming my neighbor,” he said.

Brett Wiener has emerged as a major player on the contest scene over the last few years. He won this year’s Saratoga tournament, and finished in the money earlier this season in one of the Santa Anita live-bankroll contests. He finished second on last year’s NHC Tour.

Wiener believes the best plan is the most obvious. “With the BCBC, no matter if you are playing win-place-show or exotics, the prices are usually so nice that all you have to do is pick winners. You get 10-1or more on some real nice horses, so the basic $300win-place is still going to produce a nice score.”

Chris Larmey has been on a roll of late, with a second at the recent Gulfstream Park live-bankroll contest and an online contest score last weekend. He’s also known as a contest players’ player – the kind who is admired and feared by his peers.

He believes selectivity and aggressiveness are the keys to success. “I want to avoid the trap of betting on every race,” he said. “I want to focus most of my wagers on my strongest opinions. I also plan to be aggressive. I am ‘in it to win it,’ which means I am trying to build my bankroll to something close to six figures by the end of the contest. That will require some good planning, good decision making, calculated risk taking, and lots of luck.”

Christian Hellmers, of “Horseplayers” fame, is another threat to win it all. Hellmers finished second to McGoey in each of his two wins. He also owns a 2014 Horse Player World Series victory and, earlier this year, he bested a field of more than 2,000 players on NHCQualify.com. Contacted for this piece, the typically loquacious Hellmers was uncharacteristically laconic. “I don't have much to say,” he said. "I'm on to the first race on Friday."