10/30/2015 7:55PM

Fornatale: West leads BCBC Day 1 with $43,184.00

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Day 1 of the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge is in the books. Gary West, a prolific owner who has started five runners at the Breeders’ Cup over the years, is in first with $43,184.00. West’s big win came in Keeneland’s fifth race, the Fayette Stakes, won by Race Day.

The BCBC continues to grow at an impressive rate. Part of that growth can be attributed to the addition of simulcast sites to the contest. In addition to Keeneland, there were BCBC contestants at Belmont, Gulfstream, Santa Anita, and Del Mar. The latter location was where West was competing.

The second-place finisher on Day 1 was Don Beardsworth, with $18,694.00, playing from Santa Anita. Beardsworth is the playing partner of Dennis Decauwer. The two men finished second in the National Handicapping Championship in two consecutive years, 2008 and 2009. Last year, they had quite possibly the worst beat in BCBC history. Had Bayern come down in the Classic via disqualification, as many observers thought he should have, they would have had a $100 trifecta on the race and ended up with more than $300,000.

The third-place finisher was celebrity chef and horse owner Bobby Flay, whose total leapt to $17,604.20. Flay started the day well and scored again in the last race, the Marathon. Flay is one of several owners in the field, along with the likes of fourth-place finisher Jim Covello and Justin Zayat, who finished the day in 30th place with $10,250.50.

Zayat’s participation leads to an interesting question: What are the rules regarding owners with horses in the Breeders’ Cup? They are allowed to compete, and they can even play the races their horses are in. However, they can only use their horses in the win position. They aren’t allowed to bet place or show, and they can’t use their horses underneath in exactas or trifectas.

The contest is far from over. The field started with 321 players, and 275 of those have at least $4,000 heading into Day 2. Tomorrow’s rules require players to bet at least $900 in each of at least six races in the win, place, show, exacta, or trifecta pools. West’s opponents are sure to come out firing, and these are the best tournament players in the world. Some other notable names in the top 20 include 2011 NHC champion John Doyle, 2015 NHC second-place finisher Ken Jordan, and last year’s NHC Tour second, Brett Wiener.

Paul Shurman, one of the most respected of all tournament players, was amazed at the depth and quality of the field. “I can’t believe all the great players playing in this contest,” he said.

Asked if it might be the best field ever assembled for a handicapping tournament, Shurman replied, “It might. Who isn’t here?”

Day 1 leaderboard
1. Gary West, $43,184.00
2. Don Beardsworth, $18,694.00
3. Bobby Flay, $17,604.20
4. Jim Covello, $17,515.00
5. David Wolff, $17,512.50
6. Sean Nolan, $16,970.60
7. Gary Crampton, $16,512.50
8. John Doyle, $15,154.00
9. Tommy Massis, $14,991.25
10. Patrick Gianforte, $14,465.00
11. Kenneth Jordan, $14,280.00
12. Derek Dickson, $13,999.50
13. Donna Mariani, $13,475.00
14. Daniel Edwards, $13,381.00
15. Brett Wiener, $13,271.10
16. Neil Moomey, $13,200.00
17. Chuck Grubbs, $12,521.50
18. Paul Viskovich, $12,483.00
19. Greg Gass, $12,360.00
20. CJ Johnsen, $12,319.50