10/31/2016 12:33PM

BCBC pot could hit seven figures

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There are a million reasons why this year’s Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge promises to be the biggest and best yet in the eighth running of the event. If the contest draws 400 entries this year as it’s expected to, the purse will swell to $1 million for the first time. That’s up from $805,000 last year.

“Once again the growth of the event has been even better than anticipated,” said contest director Tim Schram.

The Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge is the most important live-bankroll horse-racing contest in the world. In addition to the expected seven-figure purse, 15 seats to the National Handicapping Championship are on the line. All entry fees are paid back to players and the NHC seats are added to the pool on top of that, making the BCBC a positive-expectation situation for anyone already planning to bet $7,500 over the course of the two days.

Here’s how the tournament works: The buy-in costs $10,000, $2,500 of which feeds the prize pool, with the other $7,500 acting as a live bankroll. Contestants must make a minimum of five $600 bets Friday on Santa Anita’s card. On Saturday, a minimum of five $900 wagers must be made on races up to and including the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Permitted wagers are win, place, show, exacta, and trifecta. Players can bet up to their entire bankrolls at any time, and any money left over at the contest’s end remains the property of the player.

“It’s the best two days of racing anywhere and players have a great chance to win money even if they don’t end up in the prize pool,” said Schram.

The rules this year are very similar to previous years, but two important changes have been made. For the past two years, players have been able to participate in the BCBC via satellite locations. That’s the case once again with Aqueduct, Churchill Downs, and Gulfstream all hosting BCBC players. Players will also be able to play from home via Twinspires.com. “It’s great for parents and anyone who can’t make it to a physical location,” said Schram. “We’ll have people playing between heats at swim meets and on the sidelines at soccer games.”

Over 50 players are expected to play from home, including two-time BCBC champ Patrick McGoey. Schram is confident that the technology will work. “We’re not going to miss a beat,” he said. “Scoring the online players won’t be a problem. Players will have chat-room access to BCBC tournament officials at Santa Anita.”

In another change, two entries are allowed this year. So far 30 of the BCBC participants have two entries. Notably, Cheryl McIntyre won five entries to the contest as part of the prize pools of other tournaments throughout the year, but she will have to transfer three of them.

Some have speculated if players might try to combine entries under the new rules, getting an unfair advantage by “dutching” fields to lose the takeout, thus turning two or more regular entries into one super entry. Contest director Tim Schram will be on the lookout for anyone trying to manipulate the contest. “Protections are in place, as they have been in the past,” he said. “Our policy has always been to look closely at transferred entries and how wagering is working. We’re going to be watching things to make sure players with one entry aren’t at an unfair disadvantage.”

Four players this year will be playing for an additional $1 million bonus should they win the BCBC. Vic Stauffer, Hesham Ragab, Ed Robinson, and Christian Hellmers all won tournaments earlier this year with a BCBC bonus tie-in. The bonus was originated by Santa Anita and later adopted by Del Mar. Players with two entries will designate one to play for the bonus.

Speaking of bonuses, the overall BCBC winner will be eligible for an additional $3 million should he or she go on to win the National Handicapping Championship.

Last year 322 players competed in the BCBC. As of Monday, 350 entries were confirmed for this year, with another 50 or so expected based on late sign-ups in past years.

Entries come from three sources. Around 105 entries were won in BCQualify events run by DRF Tournaments. Approximately 80 were awarded through on-site contests which include BCBC seats as part of their prize pool. The remainder are purchased directly.

BCQualify players have done well in previous BCBCs, with Patrick McGoey, Peter Behr, and Bob Traynor all having won six-figure sums after qualifying for $100. This year, that narrative could get even richer, with a record sum of $300,000 in prize money alone going to the winner.

“Some of our players won in starting for as little as $21 in feeder contests,” said DRF Tournaments Director Ken Kirchner. “We think it’s a tremendous opportunity to be part of what I think is the best handicapping tournament of the year.”

The BCBC has proved to have a major positive impact on handle. Last year, the 222 onsite participants wagered $3,063,495 in contest handle at Keeneland. That number represented 15 percent of the total ontrack handle, and when you factor in bets made outside the contest (including all multi-race bets), and bets made by guests of the contest players, that number soars even higher. In 2014, 17 percent of the on-track handle came from what the BCBC players wagered just within the contest.

It’s not too late to sign up for the BCBC. Simply go to www.breederscup.com/bcbc to register and make a deposit. For any last minute questions, contact Tim Schram at (859) 422-2658

For full coverage of the BCBC, follow @loomsboldly and @DRFTournaments on Twitter and stay tuned to live.drf.com.