Handicappers who want to participate in the 2018 running of the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC) will have to conform to some new rules designed to avoid the kinds of controversy that marred last year’s contest.

Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge BCBC
The Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge is one of the largest handicapping contests in the sport of horse racing. (Image: Kelvin Kuo/USA Today)

This year’s Betting Challenge will take place Nov. 2-3 at Churchill Downs during the Breeders’ Cup races. The challenge is a contest that tests handicappers’ abilities to bet on a range of races across the event, with the bettors who come away with the best results sharing a $1 million purse.

Last year’s contest was the subject of controversy, after some participants claimed that multiple winners had colluded to game the system, in ways that violated Betting Challenge rules. After an extensive investigation, Breeders’ Cup officials disqualified a top 10 finisher, and shored up the letter of their law for 2018.

Minimum Bet Requirements 

Under the new rules, participants must bet at least $600 per race on a minimum of 10 of the 14 Breeders’ Cup World Championship races, including at least three Friday races and seven on Saturday. Players must wager a minimum of $7,500 in total.

While that’s very similar to how the contest was run last year, the consequences for failing to hit those guidelines have been stiffened significantly. Coming up just one race short will cost players 10,000 points in the standings, while missing two required wagers will result in immediate disqualification.

Perhaps most controversial last year was the role the collusion between teams of players impacted the results. The revised rules explicitly state that every player must make their own picks independently of other Betting Challenge contestants. If the Breeders’ Cup determines collusion occurred, all involved parties will be immediately disqualified.

“We believe that these new rules will strengthen the overall structure and integrity of the BCBC and provide a fun and highly competitive environment for all players,” Breeders’ Cup Director Craig Bernick said. “We look forward to working with board members and the player representatives to improve and enhance more aspects of the Breeders’ Cup wagering experience for our fan base.”

To help monitor the event, the Breeders’ Cup is planning to employ an integrity official, though they have yet to determine who that person will be. To help prevent collusion, the Breeders’ Cup will publish all tournament bets made by all participants in the Betting Challenge after the contest concludes.

Collusion Controversy

Cries of collusion in 2017 and subsequent controversy emanated from the contest winner Nisan Gabbay and 9th place finisher Eric Moomey.

Gabbay won the $300,000 first prize, but didn’t start making bets until the Saturday of the tournament, after long-time tournament partner Kevin McFarland saw his stake reduced to $1, eliminating himself from the competition. That prompted rule changes that strengthen penalties for missing bets on required races.

While Gabbay was not disqualified, Moomey was, after he was determined to have been colluding with Roger Ball. While each player is allowed to enter up to twice, coordination between players to allow for four or more entries to work together gives colluders an unfair advantage, Breeders’ Cup officials said in a statement.

The BCBC requires players to put up a $10,000 buy-in for each entry, $2,500 of which goes to the prize pool and $7,500 which is used to make wagers during the event.

The Breeders’ Cup World Championships are among the most prestigious horse races in the world. In the United States, only the “Triple Crown” races such as the Kentucky Derby attract more attention from the general public.