Interview with 2011 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge Winner

Patrick McGoey, a commercial litigation attorney from New Orleans, parlayed a winning $100 entry into the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge into winnings of $270,600. McGoey had won his way into the $10,000 event by qualifying online back in May for only $100.

In its third year, the BC Betting Challenge saw 115 of the country’s best horseplayers face-off in a live money $10,000 buy-in betting tournament.

Patrick McGoey

Patrick (left) alongside his brother

McGoey won first place in a dramatic come-from-behind effort in the last race of the contest by wagering $7,000 to win on 14-1 longshot Drosselmeyer in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Drosselmeyer’s victory resulted in McGoey’s win bet returning an amazing $110,600. Combined with the first place winnings of $160,000, McGoey took home $270,600.

McGoey had earned his spot in the BC Betting Challenge on May 28 by defeating 90 other players in a $100 qualifying event for the Challenge at

His last-race heroics also earned him an automatic berth into the National Handicapping Championship (NHC) at Treasure Island in Las Vegas where over 500 qualifiers will be shooting for approximately $2 million in prizes.

We sat down with McGoey a few days after his memorable win.

 AGOS:  Patrick, congratulations on a tremendous accomplishment. You defeated 114 of the best handicappers in the country over the two biggest racing days of the year. What was your general philosophy going into the event?

McGoey: You know my basic philosophy for day one was to be conservative and just “hang in there” until day two. I wanted to have some money for the second day. I never planned on letting it all ride like it did on the final race.

 AGOS:  How did you catch the horse racing bug, and how long have been handicapping?

McGoey: I started about 10 years. My brother handicaps a lot and he kind of got me involved. I follow The Fair Grounds and Churchill Downs quite a bit, but I don’t play every day.

Around 2005 some buddies and I said, “wouldn’t it be fun to own a horse?” So a group of us bought a $30,000 claimer and then Katrina kit that summer and shut down the track. The horse ended up running at Louisiana Downs, so we had to drive about six hours to watch him race. But the horse did fairly well, so over the years we got up to six claiming horses.

But owning horses is what really got me into the sport.

AGOS:  How many tournaments a year do you typically play?

McGoey: I played three to four satellite tournaments trying to qualify for the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge. I played a few last year, trying to qualify for this as well as the NHC, but not many.

 AGOS:  Had you played in this tournament or similar money-bankroll tournaments before?

McGoey: I had not. This was my first time in the tournament and I had no experience in this type of contest.

 AGOS: Have you qualified for the National Handicapping Championship before now?

McGoey: This is a first. I had other things on my calendar the last week of January but I have cleared them out!

AGOS:  What handicapping tools did you utilize in ‘capping the Breeders’ Cup cards?

McGoey: I use the Daily Racing Form. Sometimes I will check stuff on Equibase but primarily DRF.

 AGOS: What type of wagers were you making in the two days leading up to the final race?

McGoey: I made some large $500 show bets on Friday which got me through some of the races. I wanted to get the mandatory bets out of the way and just “stay in the game.” I ended Friday with about $8,200.

 Then on Saturday I hit the first couple of races with win/place bets on the favorite along with $200 exactas that were fairly chalky. That got me up to about $12,500, but then I started to give it away after that.

I was on Shackelford and he looked strong turning for home but he got mowed down for the top spot. I lost Union Rags by a nose. I also had bets on Turralure who suffered a tough break getting nosed out at the wire in the Breeders’ Cup Mile.

My brother was in the contest as well. With about four races to go, he told me he was “bowing out. I am going to bet some Pick 3s and Pick 4s and I am disqualifying myself.”

 Well about a race or two before the Classic, I told him I was going all-in on Drosselmeyer. My brother just looked at me and said, “nah, don’t do that!”

 AGOS: When did you know that you were going to go all-in on Drosselmeyer in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and why?  Did you consider other types of wagers, such as exotics?

McGoey: I actually started thinking about this approach only about two races before the Classic.

I was on Flat Out [one of the favorites for the Classic] going into the day. I had bet on Royal Delta on Friday, and that filly closed from off the pace to win for trainer Bill Mott.  Birdrun ran big also, so I was thinking that Mott’s horses were doing really well. I started looking more at Drosselmeyer [also trained by Bill Mott] and noticed the huge improvement in his last race. He had run a big Beyer speed figure and had lost to my top choice, Flat Out, by only 2 1/2 lengths.

Flat Out was 7/2 and Drosselmeyer was 15/1, a big discrepancy in odds despite those horses running one-two in their last start.  Other horses were turning the tables on runners [who defeated them previously] over the weekend, so why not Drosselmeyer? The last time Mike Smith had ridden him, it was the Belmont Stakes and he had won. Good workouts, Mike Smith had ridden him well, and Bill Mott horses were hot, so I decided to take a shot.

Except for those first two races that were chalk, I wasn’t hitting exactas very well during most of the day, so I just decided why not a win bet on a live longshot. I said if I hit this, it could mean $300,000. How often do you get a shot at a $300,000 score? I thought Drosselmeyer should have been about 10-1, but I got about 40-1 on him [by betting him in the contest].

I loved the format of the tournament because you get to keep the money that you won. The guys in the lead late in the day had real money in the bank so I could understand why they wouldn’t take the type of risk I took.

I was sitting next to the guy who hit a huge exacta using Perfect Shirl on Friday so he vaulted to over $40,000. So for most of the tournament I wasn’t even in the same zip code as him.

AGOS: Why do you think you have chosen handicapping over other forms of gambling?

McGoey: I still do fantasy football and I have done some poker. Once I started doing more and more handicapping, the other forms of gambling didn’t interest me at all. The casinos are boring. You don’t get the same types of odds at the casino. The odds are so much better with the horses. For example, I don’t like betting 1/1 shots and in football that is the best case scenario.

It’s super exciting, too. I get a rush when the horses are going into the gate.

If you lose five or six races in a row, you can get it back in the next race. Whereas in a game like blackjack, it can take forever to get back to even.

AGOS: This website is devoted to improving the game of racing. What are the key areas that this industry should focus on in the coming years?

McGoey:  Focus on getting younger people involved. I was probably one of the youngest in the room.

It’s easy to pick a football game, given a 50% chance and everybody has a “gut” feeling about a game without doing any research, but handicapping the horses takes time.

I really think these tournaments are great and should be promoted more. The potential return you can get is excellent. You can play some of them from home online. You can put in picks early, go out and do things, and then come home and see how you did.  There are a lot of opportunities like that. It’s a flexible sport that doesn’t take all of your time.

The industry needs to focus on contests and getting younger people involved. A lot of younger people are just intimidated by both the sport and “The Form.” I learned how to read the form was I was pretty young. I got away from the sport in later years. Didn’t do it much at college or law school. But then when I came back to it, it was much easier for me to picks things up, compared to someone who didn’t have any prior exposure to the game.

AGOS: Yes, there is definitely an intimidation factor when it comes to horse racing.

McGoey: I took my wife and three girls, and then each brought a friend last year at The Fair Grounds. There was a horse with a name the girls liked. I bet the horse for all of them. She won, and I think I hooked every one of those kids!

I have a picture on my wall of The Fair Grounds with 50,000 people in attendance, many dressed to the tilt. Now you go to the track and you can shoot a cannon off in there. To think that is how the track used to be…you got to do something to get people back into the sport.

Online is definitely the best way to grow the sport. The access is so easy.

AGOS: Have you seen any overlap with the casino crowd and the racing fans at The Fair Grounds?

McGoey: To be honest with you, I haven’t even walked through the slot area. For one, I can’t stand slots. I’m sure it is helping their bottom line, but it is not generating more fans for racing.

You know what has been great is the Fair Grounds, like Churchill Downs, has experimented with night racing, and the place is packed on those nights. Tracks could have events like a jazz festival. Fair Grounds could use the facility more and hold a jazz festival inside the track. People would come. We know how to throw a party here in New Orleans. Most people simply can’t attend during the day.

Additional Notes from the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge

Christian Hellmers of Los Angeles California finished in second place behind McGoey, winning $121,700. Hellmers held the contest’s lead over the last four races until Drosselmeyer’s upset and McGoey’s last race theatrics. John Allunario won $78,480 by finishing third in the event. Allunario also qualified in a on October 1 in a $400 online event.

“The Betting Challenge has quickly become the ‘go to’ tournament for horseplayers throughout North America,” said Kenneth Kirchner, the tournament’s administrator for Breeders’ Cup. “The BCBC has grown by fifty percent in just three years and we are working to expand the opportunities for players to qualify at more racing facilities and sites for next year’s contest. I believe there is tremendous upside for this event in future years.”

For those who didn’t win their way in, the BC Betting Challenge requires a $10,000 buy-in per player, with $2,500 going towards the prize pool and $7,500 towards the player’s two-day betting bankroll. Total prize money was $315,000 with cash prizes to the top ten finishers.

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About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 19-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 of the NHC twice. A former executive with and a member of the NHC Players’ Committee, Rich is a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program and is founder of, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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