11/07/2013 5:51PM

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

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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.

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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