Rules didn't help Breeders' Cup contest thanks to players that found edge
November 14, 2017 3:03 AM
by Jon Lindo
Good horseplayers look for an edge.
Whether it is private workout information, trip notes, equipment change, knowing how to properly structure a wager, or any of a myriad of factors, once they perceive an edge, good horseplayers get in and try to take fullest advantage of their position.
Such was the case in the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC) live money handicapping contest conducted over the two days of the 2017 event at Del Mar held Nov. 3-4. The rules of the Betting Challenge seemed simple. Buy-in fee was $2,500, with a $7,500 live money bankroll to be played over the two-day tournament.
Mandatory requirements were to play a minimum five races on the Del Mar card Friday Nov. 3 with a minimum $600 on each race ($3,000 total). On Saturday, play another minimum five races with a minimum total bet of $900 in those five races ($4,500 total). Players could go all in at any time and could play as many races over and above the minimum requirements as they wanted.
Well, several sharp horseplayers in the contest read the rules and noticed the penalty for missing any one of the mandatory race bets on Friday would be a deduction of 1,000 points from the player’s final total. The penalty for missing a mandatory race on Saturday was 2,000 points.
More important, those sharp horseplayers found that the penalty did not decrease their live money bankroll available to bet throughout the tournament.
It turns out BCBC tournament winner Nisan Gabbay did not play a single race on the Nov. 3 card, choosing to accept the total 5,000 point deduction from his final total in order to have the $3,000 live money available to play on Saturday. It paid off as Gabbay won the tournament with a $15,000 Exacta bet on the Breeders’ Cup Classic from winner Gun Runner to runner-up Collected.
The runner-up in the tournament – Ron Ferrise – also chose not to make a single wager on Friday. He was able to secure second place with one winning bet on a Daily Double on the Saturday card.
Is this strategy in the true spirit of why the Challenge was created? Absolutely not. Is it that difficult to find five playable races on the 10-race Friday card that encompassed full fields throughout the day, much less finding the same amount of plays on the 12-race Saturday card with even larger field sizes? Not at all.
There were also accusations of collusion regarding players with “partners” who may have tried to hit longshots in the tourney by using different longshots on different tickets.
The payoffs for the BCBC are being withheld until an investigation is completed, but these accusations will be very difficult to prove, especially since players were allowed to compete not only at Del Mar but online and at selected satellite wagering facilities.
Since BCBC players annually account for approximately 20% of the live on-track handle at the host Breeders’ Cup track, these players are an extremely important component to driving handle. It is because of their importance that some rules were created to increase the number of players in the field, including the rule that allowed more than a single entry per person (two max per person).
The search for increased handle appears to have hurt the credibility of the live money BCBC tournament.
Solutions need to be enacted quickly and accurately to insure all future players have an equal chance to win playing within the tournament guidelines. Rule changes that need to be enacted as soon as possible include:
• No more than one single entry per person. Sure it will decrease overall handle for the BCBC for now but lowering the risk of collusion is worth it.
• All players should be required to play in one location – the host track of the Breeders’ Cup. After all, the wager was constructed around the championship event. And players know where the Breeders’ Cup will be held before they sign up for qualifying events or directly buy into the tournament.
• The penalty for not making a mandatory wager should be the reduction of live money from the player’s wagering card equal to the value of the minimum bet. It should be just like losing a bet. Pure and simple.
• The penalty for missing more than one minimum mandatory wager should be disqualification from the tournament with the players wagering card disabled and any money earned to be added to the prize pool.
• Make it a requirement that only the player entered in the tournament is able to use his/her wagering card. Once again this works against collusion.
The BCBC is among the largest and most lucrative handicapping tournaments anywhere, but it will not continue to grow and prosper if credibility is lost. It is important the tournament directors take a proactive and stern stand toward making the tournament run in the spirit in which it was intended.
Play of the Week
Del Mar, Thursday, Race 2: Well Developed (4 post). Cleverly named gelding is out of a mare named Miss Thirtyfour D. He showed surprising tactical speed to beat Maidens Oct. 28 and his versatility is a big plus as he takes on a field of winners with plenty of early zip. He is on the upswing and can win right back.