03/15/2015 9:05AM

Fornatale: Wells leads Santa Anita Betting Challenge


The Santa Anita Betting Challenge is halfway home. In the end, the tournament attracted 102 entries, meaning the total prize pool includes $40,000 in cash prizes (with $25,000 to the winner), eight seats to the National Handicapping Championship, two full $10,000 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge entries, and three $2,500 BCBC entry fees.

At the end of day one, Steven Wells is in first place with $5,416. Wells also receives a $5,000 betting voucher for being the first-day leader. Wells, who qualified for his $3,500 buy-in for $80 on DRFQualify.com, loves live-bankroll contests. He won a live-bank contest at Canterbury Park last year, and he’s in pole position heading into day two.

At the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge last November, Wells was out after four races, but he was undaunted returning to the scene of the crime.

“I felt real confident today,” he said. “There wasn’t anything that I really liked, but I picked my spots.”

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Wells had success in three races. In the fourth race, he had a $100 exacta that cashed to get him to around $4,000. He came right back in the fifth race to hit a $50 trifecta for another $1,500, and he bet $1,000 on Warren’s Veneda in the Grade 1 Santa Margarita. She paid $5, and his bet returned $2,500. Going into the last, he had an $866 lead, and he felt lucky to hang on for the Day 1 money.

Wells is feeling great heading into today.

“There are three races I really like,” he said. “And if it gets to the point where there really needs to be a big bet made to win, then that’s what I’ll do. That extra $25,000 makes the odds change in your favor.”

The other big story out of Day 1 is Canada’s Ray Arsenault, who sits in second and third with his two entries. Arsenault took a mixed approach coming into the tournament.

“I played one entry normally and played the second entry conservatively,” said Arsenault, “I wasn’t doing great on the first entry, but I made three show bets and hit them all on my other ticket to get it up to $2,700.”

In the nightcap, a one-mile turf race, Arensault loved Show Stealer.

“I had watched the replays of her last two races, and she was making moves,” he said, “Tom Proctor is a great trainer, and Gary Stevens was up, and I thought she’d do something today.”

On his conservative ticket, he bet $300 to win. On his other ticket, which was down under $1,000, he played Show Stealer in trifectas. When she won, he cashed both bets and ended up sitting pretty going into tomorrow.

As for his strategy going forward, Arsenault plans to stick with the plan from today.

“I’m going to try to keep the second-place one where it is and maybe move on it a bit, but on the other one, I’ll try to win the tournament with it,” he said. “I’ll go all in on that one if I see something I like.”

Here is a look at the standings heading into Day 2:

Rank Name Score
1 Steven Wells $5,416
2 Ray Arsenault $5,191
3 Ray Arsenault $4,475
4 Dan Kaplan $4,421
5 Mitch Roley $4,269
6 Tom Reynolds $4,185
7 Jose Arias $4,094
8 Ilan Cuelling $4,007.50
9 John Fisher $3,815
10 Thomas Arndt $3,630
11 Bryan Carney $3,500
12 Gwyn Houston $3,405
13 Dabid Guberman $3,305
14 Chris Podratz $3,268
15 Richard Sugimoto $3,259.50