BCBC: A Missed Hoppertunity

BCBC: A Missed Hoppertunity

Justin Nicholson

A couple of months ago, when I made the decision to enter the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge, I remember joking with Equestricon co-founders Katie and Dan about what we could do at Equestricon with the $300,000 expected first prize if I won it. We had a few minutes of letting our minds run wild and after we gave up on the idea of having our own private U2 concert during our Tuesday afternoon event activities, we went back to the real planning.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Equestricon 2017: the outlandish joke that we could win, well, almost became our reality. For a little bit of background, the BCBC requires a $10,000 buy-in of which $2,500 goes into the prize pool. The rest is your own money to bet and to win/lose as results dictate. The only real rule regarding your bankroll is that you have to play a minimum of five races on Friday at $600 per race and five races on Saturday at $900 per race. With those stipulations, if you were to play all of the minimum amounts and not cash a ticket, you would have spent your $7,500 exactly.

Anyway, I know for many tournament players, once the buy-in is in, the presumption is that the money is invested, much like buying into a poker tournament and watching your cash turn into plastic betting discs that no longer resemble real money. With that mindset, it’s easier to do the kinds of high risk/high reward betting that provide the best chance of hitting a big ticket and winning the contest. The consequence of that mentality is it’s a lot easier to bust out and come home with nothing. I went into BCBC with the theory that I wanted to give myself a chance to come out with at least some of the $7,500 I started with, so I played to try to hit bets. My first couple were win/show wagers and some exacta boxes, and I hit a few of them to get upto about $10,000. I got a little more brazen at that point and played higher stakes on some of my stronger opinions, and gave a good chunk back. Mostly, though, I was a racetrack’s favorite type of customer – I was placing pretty big bets and roughly breaking even. Great for handle and takeout, so you’re welcome Santa Anita.

Coming into the very last race, the Breeders’ Cup Classic, my bankroll was up from $7,500 to around $8,300 and I’d met all my minimums. I admit I had a moment or two of thinking to myself that I’d had a pretty respectable weekend and given that the race was obviously going to be a two-horse battle between Arrogate and California Chrome, there was no sense trying to make a play to win the tournament. Surely I couldn’t get enough of a price out of the race to win the contest (I figured I needed to get to about $75,000 or so to win). But then…I didn’t go through all of this not to even try. So, try I did – straight tri in fact. I played Arrogate over California Chrome over Hoppertunity. For $2,500. The most ridiculous bet I’ve ever made in my life, but because of the contest format I gave it a shot. Well, you probably know the ending, but Arrogate outdueled Chrome in the stretch, and what felt like about ten minutes later Hoppertunity and Keen Ice crossed the wire in a photo finish. While it seemed like the entire length of the stretch Hoppertunity had all the momentum on the outside and was going to blow right by, that’s not how it played out. Keen Ice held on. And just like the legions of fans that showed up to watch American Pharoah win the Travers, my dreams were shattered by Keen Ice.

From the payouts of the tri that came in, I figure it’s a fair estimate that my ticket would have paid around $100,000. The winning total in the tournament was $64,000, so unless someone else would have hit the race the way I would have with the third place finishers switched, there’s a good chance I would have won with the difference of a neck. I have to assume I’m not the only person with a story like this, but for my first year in the BCBC and knowing that joke we made when I entered, it felt a little like destiny was going to be on our side for a second there...and that we might be sipping champagne with Bono in a few months.

The bad beat story touched a nerve with avid horseplayer and EQCon co-founder Dan Tordjman

The bad beat story touched a nerve with avid horseplayer and EQCon co-founder Dan Tordjman

So it goes in racing. But hey, we live for the thrill that this sport and these animals provide, and I now have the bad beat story that every gambler loves to tell and everybody who knows him has to hear dozens of times. Sorry in advance to all of you when you hear this from me again.

And sorry fellow U2 fans.