Yogi Berra's "it was deja vu all over again" was never truer than during the 2012 Breeders' Cup Betting Challenge at Santa Anita on Saturday. Defending champion Patrick McGoey staged another improbable last race comeback to defeat last year's second-place finisher Christian Hellmers to win the tournament and $255,341.
McGoey of New Orleans found himself in exactly the same position he was in 2011 -- trailing tourney leader Hellmers of Del Mar, California with one race to go. McGoey again bet his entire bankroll in the Breeders' Cup Classic and his winning wagers totaled more than $85,000 -- enough to secure the title.
The Breeders' Cup Betting Challenge is the country's largest live money handicapping contest. There were a record 138 players in the field which requires a $10,000 buy-in and featured $370,000 in prize money, with $170,000 to the winner. Players also keep their accumulated winnings from their wagering.
Hellmers had dominated the 2012 contest in similar fashion to 2011, building his bankroll to $75,000 heading into the second to last race of the day -- the Breeders' Cup Mile Turf. McGoey was down to $3,000 and he went all in on Wise Dan at 9-5, turning his bankroll from $3,000 to $8,700.
"Once Wise Dan hit the finish line, I felt like I was in a better spot than 2011, even though my bankroll was 10 percent of the first place leader," McGoey said. "Heading into the Classic I knew I needed a decent priced horse. Fort Larned's solid work and his effort two back in the Whitney, plus an overlay price of 9-1, made him my choice."
Still trailing by almost $60,000, McGoey's $7,000 win bet on Fort Larned in the Breeders' Cup Classic and $200 cold exacta with Mucho Macho Man (for second) netted $85,000 in winnings and enough to propel him over Hellmers on the very last race of the day for second year in a row.
Hellmers won $154,525 for his second place finish and Dustin Moore collected $102,400 for third place.
"Even though I bet $2,000 on the winner in the last race to cash another $18,000, I didn't know if that was enough in the battle of sharpest minds at the track," Hellmers acknowledged. "All this does is make me hungrier for next year."
"The odds of Patrick capturing lightning in a bottle for the second straight year were astronomical. It's like a team winning the Super Bowl and beating the same opponent twice on a last second Hail Mary pass with no time on the clock," said Ken Kirchner, administrator of the Breeders' Cup Betting Challenge. "All credit to Patrick, Christian and the participants. Once again Yogi was right -- it ain't over til it's over!"