Just as the big purses of the Breeders' Cup World Championships catch the attention of the owners of top horses, the big money available in the Breeders' Cup Betting Challenge attracts interest from top horseplayers.
This year's total prizes are expected to exceed $1 million with a first-place prize of $300,000. While entries continue to be accepted, contest director Tim Schram said they've already received more than last year's record 396 entries.
"Being able to offer $1 million certainly catches people's attention," Schram said.
Those players will be competing on-site at Del Mar, accounting for about 70% of entries, with another 25% of entries playing at advance-deposit wagering sites TwinSpires.com and XpressBet.com, and 5% at Churchill Downs and Gulfstream Park.
Schram said about half of this year's players will pay the $10,000 buy-in, while 25% qualified through on-track contests and 25% through online contests. Of that buy-in, $2,500 is committed to contest payouts and the other $7,500 is used in the live-money contest. Breeders' Cup does not take out any of the money committed to the contest.
On-site competitors will enjoy prime seating with a view of the paddock as well as a view of the stretch.
"A lot of these players would have wagered $10,000 or more on Breeders' Cup anyway, so they figure they might as well come out and enter the contest as well," said Schram, who noted that last year's contest players accounted for 17% of the on-track handle at Santa Anita Park.
Beyond this year's million-dollar purse, a number of players are eligible for lucrative bonuses, including January's National Horseplayers Championship winner Ray Arsenault who is eligible for the $3 million NHC Tour Bonus. Such a bonus would be the largest cash prize ever awarded in a handicapping contest, and it would be added to the expected $300,000 first prize.
"It's pretty thrilling," Arsenault said. "I'm going to take some pops at it. I've been looking at the races and I'm going to get back to studying here in a bit."