Breeders’ Cup Investigating Betting Challenge Results Following Criticism

Posted on: November 11, 2017, 02:00h. 

Last updated on: November 10, 2017, 11:02h.

The Breeders’ Cup has delayed paying the winners in its annual Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge following allegations that the winner and at least one other player may have cooperated in ways that violate the rules of the tournament based around horse racing.

Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge
Gun Runner won the Breeders’ Cup Classic, but a tournament for bettors during the racing series has generated plenty of controversy. (Image: Jake Roth/USA TODAY Sports)

The Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC) is the largest live-money handicapping tournament in the world. This year’s tournament attracted more than 400 players, each of whom paid $10,000 in order to participate in the tournament.

Of that amount, $7,500 was used for betting, while $2,500 went towards the prize pool.

Each competitor is then required to make at least $600 in bets on five races during the Friday portion of the Breeders’ Cup, and wager at least $900 on five races during the Saturday card.

Players have the option of skipping races, but doing so comes with a penalty to their final score.

Letter Accuses Winner of Collusion

This year, the apparent winner was Nisan Gabbay. However, a group of players and other tournament handicappers wrote a letter to the Breeders’ Cup on Thursday alleging “multiple irregularities” in the results of the tournament.

The issues were related to collusion. The BCBC allows players to enter up to twice, but they are not allowed to collude with other bettors in order to improve their overall chances of winning. According to a letter from players, Gabbay did not make any Saturday bets until after his long-time partner Kevin McFarland has seen his bankroll drop to $1.

This may have been an attempt to avoid competing against McFarland, who could have earned a $1 million bonus had he won the tournament.

Gabbay would ultimately go on to make large winning wagers on the final two races of the day on Saturday to increase his bankroll to $176,000, enough to take home the top tournament prize of $300,000.

Accused Partners Brush Off Criticism

In comments made to the Daily Racing Forum, both Gabbay and McFarland acknowledge that they play tournaments and races together frequently, but denied any wrongdoing in their tournament play.

“I view it as a marriage, but not in the romantic sense,” Gabbay said. “It’s no different if you are a husband-and-wife team playing in a tournament. If one wins, then of course the other gets to share in it.”

“This is a joke,” McFarland said. “This is people who are sore losers.”

Questions were also raised about the 9th place finisher, Eric Moomey. While he had two entries in the tournament, the letter alleges that he also controlled two other entries under the name of Roger Ball, an associate of Moomey’s.

While cooperation among entries is technically against the rules of most betting tournaments, very rarely are such rules enforced against players, largely due to the difficulty of proving that bettors are actively working together. Some tournaments have even removed such rules because organizers feel they are unenforceable.

For their part, however, the Breeders’ Cup has vowed to investigate.

“Breeders’ Cup Limited and Del Mar Thoroughbred Club will take all actions necessary to ensure that the integrity of the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge is not compromised,” the Breeders’ Cup said in a statement.