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McKay Smith and James Dickson discuss their strategies for the 2012 Breeders' Cup Betting Challenge in the video above. The contest featured a $170,000 winner's share that was won by Patrick McGoey, who earned a unique, repeat victory in the Breeders' Cup Betting Challenge.

By Mike Curry, America’s Best Racing

The odds of Patrick McGoey pulling out back-to-back improbable comeback victories over the same runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge were astronomical.

Winning Powerball, getting struck by lightning twice, pick just about any longest-of-longshot scenarios and McGoey more than likely has got you beat.

Two years in a row, McGoey stormed from way, way off the pace in the final Breeders’ Cup race to win the prestigious and lucrative Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge, and in both cases McGoey reeled in Christian Hellmers, former director of U.S. business development for British gaming company Betfair, for the comeback victory.

In 2011, McGoey bet $7,000 on 14.80-to-1 longshot Drosselmeyer in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). When Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith rallied Drosselmeyer from off the pace, McGoey collected $110,600 to vault Hellmers and take home the $160,000 first prize.


The Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge requires players to provide their own $7,500 bankroll for betting on the races and to contribute a $2,500 buy-in, which is used to make up the prize pool. There were a record 138 players in 2012, and with the card winding down McGoey was running out of time and money.

“Two races to go I was down to $3,300 and I wasn’t really thinking about repeating at that point, but then I bet $3,000 on Wise Dan [in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1)] and that got me up to $8,700,” said McGoey, 41. “Then I said to myself, ‘I’m in a better spot than I was last year. I only had $8,200 last year heading into the last race. I can win this thing.’ ”

In 2011, McGoey knew he needed to make up a ton of ground so he went with Drosselmeyer and his better odds over his top choice in the race, Flat Out. This time, McGoey was on the Fort Larned bandwagon from the start, and at 9.40-to-1 he got a nice price on his top selection.

Just as he did in 2011, McGoey plunked down $7,000 to win for his big Classic bet, and then in addition to the money on Fort Larned to win he sprinkled in a few other exacta bets as well.

“I had liked Fort Larned all weekend, so I knew I was going on him,” said McGoey, a commercial litigation attorney who practices in his hometown of New Orleans. “But if Fort Larned had been 5-1, I probably wouldn’t have gone with him. It just seems like when it comes to the Classic, I have a knack, or the luck, of getting the horse I need at the price I need.”

In a race where there appeared to be plenty of early speed, McGoey was thrilled to see Fort Larned take charge unchallenged from the start of the 1 ¼-mile Classic on a track that had been kind to front-running horses throughout the 2012 Breeders’ Cup. He felt pretty confident when Fort Larned opened up a commanding lead entering the stretch, but Mike Smith, who ushered home Drosselmeyer to give McGoey his 2011 victory, rallied Mucho Macho Man into contention to wipe the smile off McGoey’s face.

“When Fort Larned broke three [lengths] clear on the far turn, I couldn’t believe it. I told my buddy next to me, I said, ‘Stop the race! Stop the race!’ ” McGoey said. “You know, I won last year with Mike Smith on Drosselmeyer and I thought, ‘He won it for me last year, he’s gonna beat me this year.’ It just seems like whenever you have two horses battling down the stretch, the inside horse that has been doing the work the whole race never holds on. I was kind of getting resigned that Mike Smith was going to do it again, and when he held on I was just pumped.”

McGoey thought for sure he had won the contest again when Fort Larned prevailed, but he learned shortly thereafter that the final standings might be closer than anticipated for the $170,000 winner’s share.

“I bet the same amount as I did last year, I bet $7,000 to win, and then when I came back the rumor was five or six people had bet [Fort Larned]. Then, everybody started asking how much we bet. I said that I bet $7,000, one guy bet $5,000, and then the leader had bet $2,000. He was at $55,000, so that was going to get him up to $75,000.”

McGoey quickly realized that it was going to be very close and then remembered he also had played several exactas. Turns out, his win bet would not have been enough this time around. Instead, it was a $200 exacta on Fort Larned and Mucho Macho Man that pushed McGoey past Hellmers again.




Patrick McGoey



Christian Hellmers



Dustin Moore



Duke Matties



Wendy Long



Alicia Teresi



Alan Hoffman



Tommy Massis



Kevin McFarland



James Benes


*Total bankroll and price money, does not include contest prize winnings

“I picked up $12,000 on that and I won by, I think $11,000. The exacta definitely won it for me,” said McGoey, whose wife, Robin, traveled to Southern California with him for the 2012 contest.

McGoey was drawn to horse racing by his brother Frank, who has a passion for the sport. In 2005, he and a few friends bought a racehorse. One quickly turned into a half-dozen, and McGoey was hooked. He no longer owns racehorses, but said he is strongly considering getting back in the game.

“We don’t have any horses right now, but I’m ready to get back. I said that last year when I won, I said ‘We need to get back in the races.’ I’ve got a couple of buddies that want to do it but there’s always something else going on; we just need to do it.”

McGoey dabbled briefly in poker but the time commitment and late hours proved too demanding for the father of three — daughters ages 13, 10, and six. But his experience with poker and as a regular handicapper at Fair Grounds gave him an appreciation for the statistical improbability of his back-to-back comeback wins, the second of which netted a cool $255,341 when adding the winner’s share plus his Classic win and exacta payouts.

 “I jumped him two years in a row from the middle of nowhere. He was in the $50,000 range both times,” McGoey said with a hint of disbelief. “I don’t usually bet that big, but for some reason coming into that last race I don’t have a problem with it. I just fire away. My strategy is basically don’t lose my bankroll and take my shot at the end.”

Why not? Everybody loves a longshot.



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