07/13/2016 1:46PM

Players band together to build Del Mar bonus


It’s safe to say that the term “game changer” is overused at this point. But it’s still the term that leaps to mind when it comes to the $1 million bonus that Santa Anita Park is offering to any player who can win one of its contests and go on to win the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge.

The idea was the brainchild of Santa Anita’s Nate Newby, one of the leading marketers in racing today. Newby was inspired by the $1 million bonus for any horse who wins Del Mar’s Pacific Classic, Santa Anita’s Awesome Again, and the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He thought to himself, “Why can’t we do the same type of thing for a horseplayer?”

Now, thanks to a small group of committed horseplayers, it’s possible that the Del Mar Handicapping Challenge on July 22-23 may join the million-dollar act. Del Mar was not able to sponsor the bonus for 2016. It’s prize pool had already been budgeted for and announced by the time Newby’s idea came to light, but Del Mar is working with players on an opt-in version of the bonus.

Essentially, players willing to put up $100 – which will fund the insurance policy that covers the bonus – will be eligible to win $1 million should they sweep the DMHC and the BCBC. Should the winner at Del Mar not be among the players to put up the $100, the highest finisher at Del Mar who opted in will be eligible for the bonus – not unlike a seat to the National Handicapping Championship if the overall winner was already double-qualified or wasn’t signed up for the NHC Tour.

Interested players should go to Tilt.com to help crowd-fund the bonus. The easiest way to get there is by the following link: http://tilt.tc/mj78?s=wb&u=kmcfarland3.

The idea has drawn the support of many horseplayers, but it’s been driven by three names in particular. They first came to prominence via a 1999 TVG spot where they were known as “The Pick 6 Boys,” but these days “The Pick 6 Men” might be a more appropriate moniker. They are Nisan Gabbay, Christian Hellmers, and Kevin McFarland, all active live-bankroll players in Southern California and beyond.

“When you add a million-dollar bonus, you add more drama, more sweating, more excitement, and a much bigger spotlight,” said McFarland, who finished second in the 2013 BCBC. “This can be an important step toward bringing new blood, new money, and new attention to the game.”

McFarland’s words ring true. The state of the handicapping-contest world is reminiscent of the poker world before the boom. Perhaps a player, maybe even one qualifying for low money at a site like DRF Tournaments, parlaying that entry into $1 million could be the racing world’s “Moneymaker moment.” (Chris Moneymaker used a qualifier to gain entry into and win the 2003 World Series of Poker main event, which many believe started the poker boom.)

Hellmers agreed that the addition of seven-figure prizes could elevate the game into the stratosphere. “I love that technology allows us to take horseplayer matters into our own hands to validate the demand for higher stakes,” said Hellmers, twice second in the BCBC and a familiar face from the “Horseplayers” television show. “If the gods allow all my hard work to win me the million, I plan on buying a horse and naming it after Nate Newby for coming up with this brilliant marketing concept.”

Players with questions about the bonus are encouraged to reach out to McFarland at kevinmcfarlandsd@yahoo.com.

Friday feeders

On Friday at DRF Tournaments, players have a chance to win into the Santa Anita Autumn Championship, and its potential million-dollar-plus payday, for just $21. No crowd-funding necessary. The top 10 percent of finishers will win a $190 entry in Sunday’s Santa Anita qualifier. This feeder, like all of Friday’s contests, will use the all-in format, where all picks must be in before the scheduled post time of the first race. So, while you’re sitting in traffic waiting to get to Del Mar on opening day, why not play in a contest?

There are also feeders for the July 24 NHCQualify event ($18), Saturday’s BCQualify contest ($21), and Saturday’s Battle of Saratoga qualifier ($12).

Credit-builder contests will also be on offer. Go to DRF Tournaments for more details.