03/16/2015 8:11AM

Fornatale: Big hit in Santa Ana propels Wells in Santa Anita Betting Challenge


The more they asked, the more he gave. Steven Wells accomplished the improbable in the Santa Anita Betting Challenge, riding a relatively low first day score all the way to victory in the two-day event.

As the first place finisher, Wells collects $20,000, a seat to the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge, and a seat to the National Handicapping Championship for a total haul worth more than $50,000, including his final bankroll of $18,183 and his day one bonus of $5,000.  http://www.drf.com/blogs/fornatale-wells-leads-santa-anita-betting-challenge Wells qualified for the tournament by playing in an $80 event of DRFQualify.com.

Wells hit a trifecta in the fifth race to collect about $1,000. But in the same race, David Nance hit a $200 exacta to jump up to $14,000. Wells stuck to his game plan. Coming into the day, the three races he really liked on the card were the last three.

The key to victory was Hoop of Colour, the Graham Motion-trained 4-year old filly who won the Santa Ana, paying $26.80. Wells bet $1,000 to win. He was a big fan of her last race.

“She looked good there and luckily the Beyer came back low, an 80,” he said, “Right afterwards they announced that this was the race they were going to target if she was doing well. I know she’d worked with the other two Graham Motion fillies in the race quite a few times and done well. With a trainer like that, a Kentucky Derby winner, a multiple Breeders’ Cup winner, he knows what he’s doing.”

Wells followed up his big win by betting back $1,000 on Honey Ride in the eighth race. Honey Ride was a much- the-best winner who paid $5.40, allowing Wells to top up his leading total. Going into the last, Wells was in first by about $4,000, and he elected not to play the race. Outside the contest he was singled in the pick six to his top pick, Redheads Rule. The bet would have paid $14,000 had she won.

“It was an easy decision for me,” he said.

 Avenge ended up winning the race, killing Wells’s pick six dream, but he was still hopeful about the contest result.

“Afterwards, I was just waiting for the payoff to try to figure out what somebody might have done,” he said.

In the end, the drama was that there was no drama. No one connected in a major way and Wells’s $18,183 stood up. He was pleasantly surprised, simply because of how the math works out in handicapping contests.

“In the last race, I can understand how anyone could want to go all in because your odds are increased,” Wells explained, “With $20,000 to first place, 9-2 on Avenge becomes more like 15-1.”

Here is a look at the overall Top 15:






Steven Wells



David Nance



Bill Shurman



Christopher Yu



Brett Wiener



Gwyn Houston



Dan Kaplan



Kevin Geraghty



Ray Arsenault



Randy Scholz



Frank Scatoni



Tom Reynolds



Mark Feld



William Ortega



Pierre Poulin


The top two win full $10,000 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge seats, the top eight win seats to the National Handicapping Championship, the third through sixth finishers receive partial $2,500 buy-ins to the BCBC.