BC with­holds con­test purse

Play­ers al­lege col­lu­sion in $1 mil­lion Bet­ting Chal­lenge

Daily Racing Form National Digital Edition - - News - By Matt He­garty Fol­low Matt He­garty on Twit­ter @DRFHe­garty

Breed­ers’ Cup has put off is­su­ing pay­ments in the live money hand­i­cap­ping tour­na­ment it held last week in con­junc­tion with its two-day event as it per­forms an in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the strate­gies used by sev­eral of the play­ers who earned prize money, the or­ga­ni­za­tion con­firmed Thurs­day.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the Breed­ers’ Cup Bet­ting Chal­lenge, which had a $1 mil­lion to­tal purse, is be­ing con­ducted in the wake of a cho­rus of crit­i­cism from some par­tic­i­pants in the tour­na­ment and other hand­i­cap­ping con­test play­ers who have al­leged that play­ers co­op­er­ated on en­tries in vi­o­la­tion of the tour­na­ment’s rules.

“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,” a state­ment from Breed­ers’ Cup read. The state­ment said that Breed­ers’ Cup would have no other com­ment “in fair­ness to all par­ties in­volved.”

The Breed­ers’ Cup Bet­ting Chal­lenge is the rich­est live money tour­na­ment in rac­ing, and this year the con­test had more than 400 par­tic­i­pants. Play­ers were re­quired to put up $10,000 to play in the tour­na­ment, with $7,500 used as the player’s bankroll, and the re­main­der go­ing into the prize pool. The rules re­quire bet­tors to make at least $600 in bets on five races on the Fri­day Breed­ers’ Cup card, and at least $900 in bets on five dif­fer­ent races on the Satur­day card. How­ever, those rules also al­low play­ers to skip races un­der a penalty to their fi­nal scores.

On Thurs­day, af­ter days of dis­cus­sions fo­cus­ing on the re­sults of the tour­na­ment, a group of play­ers who ei­ther played in the tour­na­ment or have ex­pe­ri­ence in hand­i­cap­ping tour­na­ments sent a let­ter to the Breed­ers’ Cup stat­ing that they be­lieved there were “mul­ti­ple ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties” at the tour­na­ment this year. The al­le­ga­tions cen­tered on the win­ner, Nisan Gab­bay, and the ninth­place fin­isher, Eric Moomey.

[Daily Rac­ing Form sev­ered its ties with the ad­min­is­tra­tors of Breed­ers’ Cup Bet­ting Chal­lenge and the Na­tional Horse­play­ers Cham­pi­onship Tour, which is af­fil­i­ated with the BCBC, and it has launched its own hand­i­cap­ping tour­na­ment op­er­a­tion.]

The let­ter raises con­cerns about a prac­tice that ap­pears to be rarely en­forced at tour­na­ments, which is play­ers co­op­er­at­ing on mul­ti­ple en­tries. Like many tour­na­ments, the BCBC al­lowed par­tic­i­pants to play two en­tries each, but a rule un­der a sec­tion called “Af­fi­davits” stated that “col­lu­sion of en­tries be­tween horse play­ers is pro­hib­ited.”

The let­ter drafted by the tour­na­ment play­ers states that, ac­cord­ing to data ob­tained from the tour­na­ment or­ga­niz­ers, Gab­bay did not make a wa­ger un­til the en­try from his long-time tour­na­ment part­ner, Kevin McFar­land, had been re­duced to $1 on Satur­day, the sec­ond day of the tour­na­ment, fol­low­ing the sev­enth race on the 11-race card. (McFar­land would have been el­i­gi­ble for a $1 mil­lion bonus had he won the BCBC.) The data ap­pears to show that Gab­bay made a los­ing bet on the ninth race Satur­day, the Ju­ve­nile, and that he then made win­ning wa­gers on both the Turf and the Clas­sic to vault to the win, with a bankroll of $176,000, worth $300,000.

McFar­land said Thurs­day that al­though he and Gab­bay hand­i­cap the races to­gether, they made their own plays dur­ing the tour­na­ment. McFar­land force­fully de­nied that the duo “col­luded” on their plays.

“I play the races with him all the time,” McFar­land said. “He’s my best friend since high school. But I have my own mind, and he has his own mind.” He added: “This is a joke. This is peo­ple who are sore losers.”

How­ever, McFar­land would not clearly state the pair’s fi­nan­cial re­la­tion­ship nor whether the two would share in the pro­ceeds from the tour­na­ment, al­though he did say that the two fre­quently share win­nings from tour­na­ments in which they play separate en­tries.

Moomey, who did not re­spond to a text mes­sage, had two en­tries in the tour­na­ment. The let­ter from the play­ers stated that they be­lieved that Moomey also had di­rected the picks for two other en­tries that were in the name of Roger Ball, whom the let­ter said is “a friend and as­so­ciate … with whom he has been known to go part­ners with in tour­na­ments.” Moomey’s ninth-place en­try had a to­tal bankroll of $53,377, with most of the to­tal earned in the sev­enth race on Fri­day, the Ju­ve­nile Turf, ac­cord­ing to the wa­ger­ing records. His other en­try and both of Ball’s en­tries went bust on the same race.

The let­ter was signed by Ray Arse­nault, Eric Bialek, Sean Boar­man, Char­lie Davis, Jackie Jenk­ins, Jonathon Kinchen, Dan Ko­valesky, Mike Mul­vi­hill, Garett Sk­iba, Brent Sumja, and Nick Tam­maro. All are vet­eran tour­na­ment play­ers.

Many tour­na­ment play­ers have tight re­la­tion­ships with other play­ers, in­clud­ing hus­bands and wives, broth­ers and sis­ters, and life­long friends. And the def­i­ni­tion of play­ers who are “part­ners” ap­pears to share a large num­ber of char­ac­ter­is­tics of play­ers who could also be de­fined as col­lud­ing, an ac­cu­sa­tion that is dif­fi­cult to prove with­out ex­ten­sive mon­i­tor­ing of play­ers’ be­hav­ior.

In ad­di­tion, ex­ec­u­tives with ex­pe­ri­ence in run­ning tour­na­ments said that it is widely known that many play­ers co­or­di­nate with other play­ers or run the picks for other en­tries that are not in their name, and that sin­gling out one or a hand­ful of play­ers for col­lu­sive be­hav­ior would open up a hor­net’s nest of ac­cu­sa­tions among reg­u­lar tour­na­ment par­tic­i­pants, some of whom have con­tentious re­la­tion­ships with other com­peti­tors.

Ken Kirch­ner, a for­mer wa­ger­ing con­sul­tant for the Breed­ers’ Cup who co-cre­ated the BCBC in 2009 and is now re­tired, said that nearly ev­ery ma­jor tour­na­ment leads to com­plaints from com­peti­tors of col­lu­sion by other play­ers. How­ever, he said that to his knowl­edge, not a sin­gle player has ever been dis­qual­i­fied from a tour­na­ment for vi­o­lat­ing a pro­hi­bi­tion on col­lu­sion.

“It’s a very dif­fi­cult thing to as­cer­tain,” Kirch­ner said. Kirch­ner also over­saw DRF’s tour­na­ment op­er­a­tions for sev­eral years as the com­pany’s se­nior vice pres­i­dent, DRF Tour­na­ments, af­ter his ten­ure at the Breed­ers’ Cup.

The pre­de­ces­sor of the Na­tional Horse­play­ers Cham­pi­onship Tour once had lan­guage pro­hibit­ing “col­lu­sion,” but the rule was re­moved more than a decade ago be­cause of­fi­cials re­al­ized that it was “to­tally un­en­force­able,” ac­cord­ing to one of the tour­na­ment ex­ec­u­tives.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion could have enor­mous fi­nan­cial im­pli­ca­tions due to the fact that the win­ner of the BCBC is el­i­gi­ble to win a $3 mil­lion bonus if he or she also goes on to win the Na­tional Horse­play­ers Cham­pi­onship in Jan­uary. Play­ers in the BCBC also ac­crue points to­ward yearly stand­ings in the NHC Tour, with the to­tal points leader win­ning $1 mil­lion. Moomey is cur­rently ranked fourth on the tour stand­ings.

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