11/07/2013 5:51PM

Q&A with Breeders' Cup Betting Challenge winner; NHC seats up for grabs


Last weekend, Peter Behr won $324,114 at the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge. I got a chance to chat with him about his amazing run to the top.

Q. I know the key bet you made at the BCBC was on Ria Antonia. What was it you liked about her?

A. Ria Antonia turned out fortunately with a little help from the stewards. Two-year olds can jump up in form from race-to-race. And she had a number of signs where I thought she could jump way up. First of all, she had the best jockey in North America in Javier Castellano. Secondly, she was a relatively new purchase by Englehart. I know he’s a high-percentage [trainer] in New York. He had her for one start, then he put the blinkers on and she had two outstanding workouts since her last race. Granted, these are Breeders’ Cup horses and a lot of them had great workouts, but I thought at 30-1 she was a good play.

Did you make any big bets on Friday?

I hit a couple of things on Friday. There was nothing I really loved or I would have bet more. At the end of Day One my starting bankroll of $7,500 was up around $12,000 which put me somewhere in the middle of the pack going into day two. At that time the leader was way ahead of us with over $100,000.

Was that intimidating to see a guy so far out ahead of the field?

Like most of the players, I thought he was uncatchable. But having said that, I’ve played in a number of contests in the past where the first day leader has got a big lead and then at the end, he doesn’t win. My theory was, if somebody can hit so good on Day One, why can’t I do that tomorrow?

And sure enough, you were right there at the top after the Ria Antonia race.

I took the lead after the Ria Antonia race but with about three races left, he was back up to $148,000.

Okay, so what was your thought process going into the last race?

I tried to put myself in the leader’s shoes. He was about $18,000 ahead of me. So if I were him I would have either bet $17,999 or just sat. Because statistically speaking, we’re both going to probably lose in the last race. But I wanted to bet enough where if I was right, I could catch him. At the start of the day I liked two horses, Ria Antonia and Declaration of War. Truth be told, I thought Declaration of War was going to be much higher odds than he was. I figured he’d be 12-1 and he was only 6-1. But I figured if I bet $4,000 on him I would win the whole thing.

Hey, if Declaration of War had changed leads in the stretch you might have won through the front door. As it was, you got in through the back door. Explain what happened.

After the race, I was thrilled. Even to get second in a contest like that was great. My girlfriend Sharon and I were in the other room when the announcements started. Sharon says to me, “We should go in and see the winner get presented with the check.” So we go in there and the tournament director keeps waving at us to come up to the front. And I didn’t understand why. And finally, they announce me as the winner. [The leader had bet $26,850 in the Classic, dropping his final bankroll below Behr’s.] It was a complete shock, but it was a nice shock.

I understand you qualified through BCQualify.com. Do you play a lot online?

I often play at NHCQualify.com for the big one in January, which I’ve qualified for the last three years, but then I started playing on BCQualify. The buy-in is reasonable – $110. And these contests are a lot of fun. I played in four or five and eventually I won my way in to play at the Breeders’ Cup for the first time. I much prefer live-bankroll contests because they equate much more with how you play in a typical day at the track. On a regular day, you don’t bet the same amount on every horse and that’s what you have to do in most contests using hypothetical money. Here you can bet more on the ones you have a stronger feeling about than you do on the rest.

How did you get involved in handicapping contests?

Well, I made my first bet when I was 12 and I’m 62 now, so I’ve been doing this a long time. But the first contest I ever played in was a Standardbred contest way back in about 1990, in Cleveland at a track called Northfield. That was an interesting contest because it was for $100,000. And the guy who won it manipulated the odds and won. You could bet win, place, or show. And the pool at Northfield wasn’t big, so he and his buddy would pound longshots to show and then he’d bet the favorite [to show]. So you’d have a favorite win and pay $4.60 to win and $30 to show! They wouldn’t give him the money but he took them to court and got his $100,000.

What is your approach to handicapping?

Coming from a harness background, the first thing I like to look at is pace analysis. Then I also look at a couple of other things. There’s a software program I’ll look at and I always use Jim Clark’s In-Form Sheets, which often give me a different perspective than my other handicapping

Any final thoughts?

A friend of mine is a poker player and he likes to say, “It’s a great game but the lessons can be expensive.” I think that applies to horse racing as well.


NHC seats up for grabs on next three weekends

There is no easy way to qualify for the National Handicapping Championships in Las Vegas – when there is $1 million on the line to the winner, there are no shortcuts. But some ways of qualifying for the big dance that are definitely more convenient than others. Over the next three weekends -- Saturday, Nov. 9, Sunday, Nov. 17, and Saturday, Nov. 23 -- NHCQualify.com will be offering tournaments where as many as five players will be able to punch their tickets to Las Vegas from the comfort of their own homes.

In order to compete for the NHC seat, players must be members of the NHC Tour. Membership costs $50 for the year. Each one-day contest has a buy-in of $165 and will consist of twelve races from a variety of tracks around the country. Players must make mythical $2 win/place bets on each race, highest scores win. One NHC seat will be awarded for each 60 entrants, with the contest capped at 300 entries.

I asked NHCQualify administrator Ken Kirchner about the benefits of qualifying online.

"Nothing can replace the camaraderie and atmosphere of live tournaments," he said. "But players don’t always have the time to travel, and online qualifiers allow players to avoid travel expenses and play from home. Online, you can go about your normal activities to some extent. You can log in and play while watching football."

I also asked Kirchner how the races are chosen: “We look for diversity among the racetracks. We wouldn’t want to do a whole card from one place. We’d rather have three or four tracks, divided geographically, with the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest and West Coast all represented if possible. We also want to have a mix of races. Certainly if it’s a big Grade 1 weekend we want to have the best races we can, but we’re also looking to have full fields.”

The contest runs from 2:45 to 5:32 p.m. ET. This Saturday’s NHCQualify races are:

Aqueduct: 6, 7, 9
Churchill: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
Gulfstream:  6,8
Hollywood: 4, 5

For more information, check out www.NHCQualify.com

David G. More than 1 year ago
"There’s a software program I’ll look at and I always use Jim Clark’s In-Form Sheets" Who is Jim Clark, and what's the software that the article is referring to?
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
I have relayed your question to Mr. Jim Clark himself and hoping he will respond in this space at some point.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
I just received a private email from Jim Clark, which he asked me to share. "As founder and developer of the In-Form Handicapping System and the in-formsheets I am thrilled for Peter Behr's continued success at ‎the Breeders Cup Handicapping tournament. Our top choice, Ria Antonia was one of a number of high priced winners we selected at the Breeders Cup. There has been considerable interest in my handicapping tool and while the in-formsheets are not offered commercially at this time I am pleased to 'inform' you they are available by contacting me directly at the following email address: jimc [at ]coliowinery[dot]com "
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
I'm glad you liked it. One of the most important aspects of contest handicapping as opposed to everyday play is handicapping races as opposed to horses, that is, knowing when a bomb might come. The Juv Fillies had all the ingredients, especially when you factor in that much of the established form was from horses who were used to running on lasix and then had to run off it. Of course, I wasn't as clever as Mr. Behr, I backed Artemis Agrotera, so what do I know?
ghost2_ More than 1 year ago
The Ria Antonia pick is something I would not have predicted. Nice job to Behr for taking a chance on that one! It's interesting to read about what he was thinking during parts of the competition.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Would have liked to have seen some accounting of the two players who finished 1-2 in the last two BC Contests. Not a word of mention in either the wrap up article the other day or this one.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Good question. As I'm sure you know, there are space constraints so not every story can get told in the articles but I'm glad you asked. Christian Hellmers, who ran second in the past two BCBCs, didn't appear to have an entry in his own name. But an entry in the name of Georgia Hellmers (his mom?), was in second at the end of day one but ended up going for the win and finishing back in the pack. Patrick McGooey, two-time champion (and interview subject in my new book) ended up going for it and busting out as well, Good for him for teying to make it three in a row. Meanwhile, Patrick's brother, Frank, finished 9th overall with over $28,000, plus an NHC seat and a cash in the contest. So the McGoey clan run of success continues. Thanks for taking the time to comment.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Christian did definitely have an entry in his own name, it just wasn't listed on the standings I saw posted online.Turns out the final standings didn't include those who finished with zero, though. Not that he did anything wrong to zero out, I'm sure he was just going all out to try to get the in-the-money threepeat.
Ken Wiener More than 1 year ago
Very interesting article. Congrats to Mr. Behr. You have to love his Northfield story, although no doubt other competitors in that contest were not so amused by the wiseguy's antics.
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
Agreed, that was quite the tale! I'd love more background on the story if anyone else reading was there or knew anyone in track management at the time.
Ray Manley More than 1 year ago
Hello Pete, I recall a number of years ago a syndicate did essentially the same thing in trying to manipulate the show payoffs. Part of the group was at Pimlico and the other part in Vegas. They selected small 5 or 6 horse fields at Pimlico with stickout favorites. They pounded the show pools at Pimlico on the outsiders - and with the small pools it didn't take that much. They then made huge show bets in Vegas on the stickout favorite. If memory serves these guys were arrested. Hey, I thought they just figured a way to beat the system. They still had some risk involved. I think Vegas put a stop to these guys. Do you recall this story?
Peter Fornatale More than 1 year ago
I never heard that story but it doesn't surprise me. Part of contest success is fully understanding the rules as well as the risk/reward of any given contest. You give some of these sharpies an inch and they'll take a mile!
Mike Whitthorne More than 1 year ago
they did it with greyhounds back in the 80s also
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I remember the Vegas takedown but did not know that the players were arrested. I suppose even back then "Whatever happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas....'especially your money'"! it's almost like barring card counters from playing blackjack where you're not allowed to win by using your mental acuity.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pete-- Keep up your good work with giving us interesting stories with the human element of handicapping, and the different angles and insights of the game we all love--Thx--