10/26/2012 3:42PM

Breeders' Cup Betting Challenge champ eyes another payday


Patrick McGoey doesn’t consider himself a big bettor, but emboldened by playing with house money, he made an exception at last year’s Breeders’ Cup.

In last year’s Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge at Churchill Downs, McGoey bet $7,000 to win on Drosselmeyer in the final race of the tournament, the BC Classic. When the 14-1 shot circled the field to win the race at $31.60, McGoey not only cashed his ticket for $110,600 but also won the $160,000 first-place prize in the field of 115 high-end tournament players.

[BREEDERS' CUP 2012: Race-by-race coverage, video, early odds]

In its fourth year, the Betting Challenge has the richest entry fee – $10,000 – of any handicapping tournament in the country. Of that $10,000, $7,500 is a player’s live bankroll and the remaining $2,500 goes to the prize pool. The Betting Challenge is similar to the World Series of Poker’s main event, which also costs $10,000 to enter, in that a player can win entry to the contest through a qualifying tourney for a lot less. McGoey, a partner in a commercial litigation firm in New Orleans, earned his seat in a $100 qualifier at BCqualify.com.

“Betting a few hundred on a race is usually a lot for me, and I’d rarely done that before the races earlier that weekend,” the 41-year-old McGoey said. “But it’s not often you have a get a chance in life for a quarter-of-a-million-dollar score. With the chance to win the tournament, I figured I was getting better than 60-1 on a 14-1 horse that I felt really had a shot. Of course, I still wouldn’t have made the bet if I didn’t think I was playing with house money.”

This year’s Betting Challenge will be held at Santa Anita on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 2-3, to coincide with the two days of Breeders’ Cup races. Using the win, place, show, exacta, and trifecta pools, the contestants have to make a minimum of five wagers of at least $600 on Friday’s races and then a minimum of five wagers of at least $900 on Saturday.

Players keep all their real-money winnings. There are no maximums and no caps on winnings. In addition to the top 10 finishers cashing, the top six earn berths in the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship, to be held at the Treasure Island Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas on Jan. 25-26, 2013. Complete rules for the Betting Challenge can be found here.

“People say, ‘Oh, my gosh, it’s $10,000,’” says Ken Kirchner, the coordinator of the event for Breeders’ Cup Limited. “But it’s really within the realm of possibility for a lot of people that bet $7,500 over the course of the Breeders’ Cup anyway. You get to keep all your winnings that you’d probably be betting anyway. You’re really then just paying $2,500 to have a shot at the prize pool.

“This is representative of how we play the game every day, but the bonus is you’re playing in a private room at one of the great sporting events in the world, and the quality of the racing and the value in all the pools make it such a great event.”

Kirchner said he’s expecting around 140 entrants next weekend – which would make the prize pool $350,000 – in the Regency Room in the Santa Anita clubhouse, and that the increase from last year’s 115 is mostly attributable to the 43 who qualified for as little as $100 in online tourneys, which is up from the 25 that earned their way in last year.

Last year, McGoey said he played conservatively at the start to make sure he had enough to play with on the races he liked more on the Saturday BC races.

“I didn’t have any strong opinions on the Friday races, so I mostly played the minimums and used place and show bets to conserve my bankroll,” he said.

The strategy worked as he built his account to around $12,500 midway through Saturday but saw his bankroll slip to $8,200 after losing photo finishes with Turallure in the BC Mile and Union Rags in the BC Juvenile. “I certainly didn’t plan on going all-in on the last race, but it just worked out that way,” he said.

McGoey said that at the end of the Betting Challenge his brother Frank decided to bow out and cash in his remaining bankroll, but he decided he was in for just $100 and figured he had to take a shot.

McGoey noted that Drosselmeyer had run second to Flat Out in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, and that his trainer, Bill Mott, had been hot.

“Flat Out was my top choice, but Drosselmeyer ran well against him in their last meeting and was going off at much higher odds,” he said. Bill Mott-trained horses had been running well all weekend, so I decided to go for it.”

In addition to the $7,000 win bet on Drosselmeyer, he bet the rest in exactas, but he didn’t use runner-up Game On Dude, whom Drosselmeyer ran down in deep stretch.

It was all or nothing. And he got all $270,600 worth.

McGoey will be back to defend his title, but will have to pay the full entry fee because he fell short in the qualifying events. McGoey is also representing his home state of Louisiana. After Michael Beychok won the $1 million prize at last year’s NHC XIII finals at Treasure Island, he made a big deal of the fact that Betting Challenge winner, McGoey, and the NHC champ both hailed from Cajun Country. McGoey said they had a mutual friend and he met Beychok before the finals started.

“I knew who he was right away from his LSU shirt,” McGoey said. “When I was out of contention, I was cheering for him. If you saw the video of when Michael won it, I was the guy yelling, ‘Who dat.’ ”

They’ll both be on hand next weekend trying to take the big money home to Cajun Country, where as married men they also know the other meaning of house money.

“Not only do I have to pay the $10,000 to enter this year,” said McGoey, “but this time it’s going to cost me a whole lot more because my wife wants to go, too.”