By Noel Michaels

Weeks after the completion of the Breeders’ Cup, the final results of the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge [BCBC] are now official and a purse of $1,087,500 has been awarded. Avid tournament regular NISAN GABBAY, 40, of San Francisco, rallied late to win the two-day event, finishing with a giant score of 176,000 points based on his real-money final bankroll to top a field of 435 entrants.

The 2017 BCBC tournament was a wild high-stakes competition, as always, that featured a see-saw leaderboard and big-time betting that definitely was not for the faint-hearted. It may end up being remembered, however, for the drama that played out after the contest was over. A number of players in the tournament “claimed foul” at the results amid concerns that certain of the top finishers in the contest had colluded by combining their entries.

The subsequent inquiry into the matter by Breeders’ Cup Limited delayed the posting of the official results of the BCBC for more than a month, and resulted in the disqualification of two players, including the original ninth-place finisher, finding that the two players had combined their two entries – essentially allowing them to play a combined total of four entries.  Breeders’ Cup Limited ruled that “combining of four separate entries to create a larger bankroll to permit wagering on more horses in a single race was an unfair advantage over other participants playing either one or two entries.” That strategy, it was ruled, broke the BCBC Rule #13 stating, “Collusion of entries between horse players is prohibited, as is any attempt to manipulate the results of the Tournament.”

The BCBC tournament cost $10,000 to enter, with $2,500 going into the prize pool and the remaining $7,500 serving as a player’s live tournament bankroll. Contestants were able to bet any amount of their bankroll on win, place, show, exacta, and trifecta wagers on any of the races from Santa Anita on Friday and Saturday, with a minimum of five $600 bets on Friday and a minimum of five $900 bets on Saturday.

Players were penalized 1,000 tournament points (not their dollars) for each bet they missed on Friday, and were docked 2,000 points for each bet they missed on Saturday. This was a new rule for the BCBC in 2017. Previously the penalties for missing minimum wagers were much higher (5,000 points per race on Friday and disqualification on Saturday). Players took advantage of this leniency in the rule change, and this intentional passing of minimum wagers is what ended up leading to much of the controversy.

The winner, and several other players in the tournament, including eventual second-place finisher Ron Ferrise of Las Vegas, opted not to make any tournament bets on Friday, for which they were penalized only a total of 5,000 total points (1,000 points a race times the number of Friday bets they didn’t make, which was five).

Gabbay, whose entry was also part of the post-contest inquiry but found guilty of no wrongdoing, passed another three bets on Saturday for another 6,000 points worth of penalties. He then made his only two bets of the contest in the last two races of the Breeders’ Cup – the Turf and the Classic. Gabbay’s two wagers were enough to win him the tournament. He wagered $4,000 to win on Talismanic in the Turf to earn $60,400, and even with the aforementioned penalties imposed against him, Gabbay’s tournament total still stood at roughly 50,000 going into the last race of the contest.  Gabbay then turned over his bankroll in the Breeders’ Cup Classic by betting large straight exactas with Gun Runner over West Coast, Gunnevera, and Collected. He won the tournament thanks to a $15,000 straight exacta on Gun Runner over Collected.

The winning exacta ran-up Gabbay’s final BCBC tournament-winning bankroll to a final score of 176,000.  Gabbay’s real-money total from cashing his BCBC bets was even higher, and along with more than $300,000 in prize money for first place, he took home total earnings of nearly a half-million dollars.

Gabbay also became eligible for the NTRA’s $3 million bonus for any player that wins the BCBC and the National Horseplayers Championship back-to-back, in either order.

In its nine-year history, the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge tournament has grown to more than four times the original field of 100 players it attracted in its first year. It has become the preeminent live-money handicapping contest in existence – second only to the NHC in terms of prize money and prestige. To demonstrate the upward trajectory of the event, this year’s 435 entries was a new high-water mark. The 2016 BCBC at Santa Anita attracted 397 entries, and the 2015 event drew 322 entries.

Breeders’ Cup Limited hopes to keeps the positive trend of this tournament going into the future despite the rules hiccup for 2017.  Breeders’ Cup Limited is reviewing the official rules of the tournament for future years – particularly those pertaining to strengthening the minimum bet requirements – in order to encourage wagering throughout the two days of the Breeders’ Cup.

“The first priority will be to review the operation of the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge as well as the rules governing play,” stated Breeders’ Cup president and CEO Craig Fravel. “We expect to make changes that will set an example for the industry. We welcome input from horseplayers as part of those efforts.”

Fravel continued, “Breeders’ Cup Limited would like to thank all BCBC participants for their patience and cooperation in the delay of the official results, as well as for their part in making the Breeders’ Cup World Championships a success”

Extensive BCBC Qualifying Schedule Played a Big Part in Shaping the Field

Nearly half of the final field for the BCBC, approximately 200 players, qualified for their entries into the tournament based on wins or high finishes in feeder qualifying contests, which were held at racetracks and online wagering sites such as throughout the year. Those in the field included reigning NHC champion and Eclipse Award-winner as Horseplayer of the Year, RAY ARSENAULT.

Beyond Arsenault, the field for the BCBC featured a who’s who of top names in the handicapping tournament world, and many of those players had earned the maximum number of two BCBC qualifying berths in online tournaments during the year.

Players who had earned the maximum two qualifying spots in the 2017 BCBC field included top finishers from the 2016 BCBC like last year’s fourth-place finisher Blaise Brucato, and last year’s 11th-through 13-place finishers, Garrett Skiba, Paul Weizer, and Vic Stauffer, who many racing fans know from his career as a race caller. Stauffer followed up last year’s performance with another strong showing in 2017, finishing in the money again in 9th-place on the final leaderboard.

More 2017 BCBC double qualifiers were John Allunario, Jennifer Chenvert, Basil DeVito, Eric Israel, Phil Lam, Stephen McNatton, Ryan Mueller, Joe Pettit, James Riley, Robert Schneider, Robert Turner, David Watts, and Tony Zhou.

Other double qualifiers for the 2017 BCBC included 2014 BCBC champion Robert Traynor, and Roger Cettina, an eight-time NHC qualifier and two-time runner-up in 2013 and 2016, earning him $200,000 and $250,000 respectively. Also 2015 NHC Tour champion Jonathon Kinchen and 2017 NHC Tour first-half winner Nick Fazzolari qualified twice, as did Sally Goodall, who is tied for the all-time record in NHC appearances with 15, and James Henry, who has played in the NHC 10 total years and every year since 2009.

Also, you cannot rattle off qualifiers for this year’s BCBC without mentioning the two-time former champion of the event Patrick McGoey of New Orleans, who won the BCBC back-to-back in 2011 and 2012 – the latter year taking home $255,000 including the $170,000 first prize plus his winning bankroll of $85,000.

This year’s final winning score of 176,000 posted by Gabbay far outdid the final scores of other recent winners of the BCBC.

As mentioned, Patrick McGoey reached $85,000 in 2012, and that total was in the same ballpark as Robert Traynor, 54, of Oceanside, Calif, who won with $71,000 in 2014, and Tommy Massis, who won with a $90,682 total in 2015.  The 2013 BCBC was won by Peter Behr of London, Ontario, who scored $124,115, while in 2016, JOE APPELBAUM‘s final total of $64,000, all earned on his final wager of the tournament, was enough to give him the victory.


Place                                     Player                                                                   Score

1 Nisan Gabbay $176,000.00 + NHC
2 Ron Ferrise $142,697.50 + NHC
3 Edward Peters (double NHC) $97,200.00
4 Lisa Herrity $87,183.50 + NHC
5 Justin Mustari $84,610.00 + NHC
6 Eric Troelstra $70,253.50 + NHC
7 Michael Doheny $58,028.00 + NHC
8 Eric Israel (double NHC) $56,610.00
9 Vic Stauffer $51,000.00 + NHC
10 Edward Deicke $48,860.50 + NHC
11 Craig Bernick $47,725.80 + NHC
12 Paul Hughes $47,620.00 + NHC
13 Chuck Grubbs $47,400.30 + NHC
14 Matthew Miller $44,580.00 + NHC
15 Bryan Wagner $44,200.50 + NHC
16 Scott Johnson $44,133.80 + NHC
17 Ian Meyers $41,855.50 + NHC

BCBC Purse Structure (based on 400 entries)

1st Place – $300,000 6th Place – $50,000 11th Place – $20,000
2nd Place – $200,000 7th Place – $40,000 12th Place – $17,500
3rd Place – $110,000 8th Place – $35,000 13th Place – $15,000
4th Place – $75,000 9th Place – $30,000 14th Place – $12,500
5th Place – $60,000 10th Place – $25,000 15th Place – $10,000