06/25/2016 8:56PM

Gabbay holds narrow lead in Santa Anita Gold Cup Betting Challenge


Nisan Gabbay, 39, a longtime horseplayer from Del Mar, Calif., is in the lead after the first day of the Santa Anita Gold Cup Betting Challenge with a bankroll of $16,700.50. Gabbay is one of the usual strong contingent of local players, as well as an all-star cast from around the country on hand to chase the new million-dollar bonus on offer for this tournament.

Any player who wins a Santa Anita contest is eligible for a $1 million bonus should he or she go on to win the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge, and an additional $1 million should he or she then go on to win the National Handicapping Championship.

Gabbay vaulted to the lead in the last contest race, the Gold Cup at Santa Anita.

“Win the Space was my strongest opinion of the day,” he said, noting that he caught the exacta in the Gold Cup itself. “I’ve been following him since last year based on the talent he showed racing against American Pharoah.”

The million-dollar bonus factored into his wagering strategy throughout the day.

 “The chance to win a million dollars definitely made me play more aggressively,” Gabbay added.

As the Day 1 leader, Gabbay also wins automatic entry into Santa Anita’s Autumn Handicapping Championship on Oct. 8-9.

Robert Traynor, winner of the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge, is second after Day 1 with $16,650, just $50 short of Gabbay’s total. He, too, hit in the Gold Cup, landing the second half of a $1,000 double, Lord Nelson to Melatonin. Traynor was also alive for $1,000 double to Hard Aces. Traynor’s second entry sits in seventh place with $7,400, giving him a big shot Sunday. As a former BCBC winner, the million-dollar bonus is of particular interest to Traynor.

“I’m a gambler,” he said. “Sometimes we win and sometimes we lose but the million dollars definitely makes things a lot more interesting.”


A total of 73 entries are competing in the Santa Anita Gold Cup Betting Challenge. The prize pool includes $67,500, three entries to the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge, and five entries to the National Handicapping Championship.

Buy-in for the Gold Cup Challenge was $4,500. Of that total, $1,500 went to the prize pool and the remaining $3,000 acts as a live bankroll over the two days. There is only one contest track: Santa Anita. Win, place, show, exacta and daily double wagers are permitted.  For Saturday, players were required to play at least four races at a minimum of $250 per race. A player-friendly rule change removed a minimum requirement on races for Sunday – a result of small fields. Players still must bet at least $3,000 total over the two-day event.  There are no maximums on wagering. Players can go “all-in” whenever they wish.

 Players were also able to win their way in to the Gold Cup contest through the new DRF Tournaments platform. When Traynor won more than $300,000 at the BCBC, he won his way in for only $100 in a BCQualify event. In addition to weekend qualifiers, DRF Tournaments also ran weekday tournament feeders for this contest, potentially allowing someone a chance to win north of $1 million for an initial buy-in of only $25.

Here is a look at the overall top 10:

Nisan Gabbay $16,700.50

Robert Traynor $16,650

Kevin Geraghty $9,916.00

Nick Mariani $9,090.00

Hesham Ragab $9,040.00

Florin Sima $7,670.00

Robert Traynor $7,400.00

Stephen Thompson $6,008.60

Louis Constan $5,970.00

Leo Vukmanovich $5,500