Photo by Eclipse Sportswire.
There’s no race more famous than the Kentucky Derby.
Yet it terms of the two days that are nirvana for handicappers, nothing can match the spectacle of the Breeders’ Cup. So it comes as no surprise that the band of wagering brothers starring in “Horseplayers” would eventually arrive at Thoroughbred racing’s world championships.
This week’s edition of the Esquire Network reality show found the crew at sunny and picturesque Santa Anita for the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge, where they were giving away home turf advantage to the resident Zen Master of the bunch, Christian Hellmers.
Hellmers has been the star of the show, both in terms of his selecting winners and serving as the hub that propels the action. The native Californian has clearly gotten into the head of his castmates, as his controversial antics have knocked the others off stride and caused them to spend valuable time talking about the Wizard of Odd when they should be studying speed figures.
You have to hand it to Hellmers, who demonstrated in last week’s episode a main reason why he has outsmarted the others. Instead of spending time at a handicapping contest losing his shirt, he willingly discarded most of his clothing to hop in a swimming pool with two attractive ladies. The others spent their time looking at crusty and cranky John Conte. Advantage, Hellmers. Big time.
Now back home in California, Hellmers is determined to improve on a pair of runner-up finishes in the $10,000 buy-in contest while most of the other “Horseplayers” search for redemption and that elusive spot in the year-end $1.5 million National Thoroughbred Racing Association/Daily Racing Form National Handicapping Championship final in Las Vegas.
Hellmers quickly starts with the mind games, bringing along his mother, Georgia, and buying a second entry in her name.
Michael Beychok also has company, his brother, Ben, creating the possibility of a “Family Feud” before the episode.
Next, we return to Hellmers, who has a small pyramid and some magnets with him in the belief that they will “create the best uniform field so I can think as clearly as possible. And when you combine a pyramid with magnets it creates the optimal level of energy in this room, in this area.”
Gone, after that speech, is the previously mentioned notion that Hellmers is smarter than his handicapping rivals. He’s just whacky. Really whacky.
When the betting starts, we learn that someone has $53,000 in winnings and that puts Conte in catch-up mode. He tries a triple box in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and gets a slice of Meat Loaf. He connects on two out of three horses, which ain’t bad, but has him singing the blues over another loser.
Next we see someone with a fuzzed-out face, hug Hellmers and tell him how “we” made $50,000 on the race – which shows the gent knows how to handicap and has good taste as well. Who would want to be seen hugging Hellmers, right?
Fellow castmate Kevin Cox hears this, and tells the others in the show that Hellmers is involved in chicanery with another partner in the contest. All of this, though, had me hitting the rewind button on the DVR because Conte said before the Juvenile Turf that the leader had $53,000 and Cox made it seem like the leader made $50,000 in the Juvenile Turf.
Is there a time warp here?
Cox, Beychok, sans his brother, and Conte then commiserate about Hellmers abusing the rules by having numerous partners in the contest, but if they were smart they would just hide the Odd One’s pyramid and send him into Funky Town.
Next, Hellmers is told to bet on Goldencents in the BC Dirt Mile by one of the horse’s co-owners, Glenn Sorgenstein. Hellmers feels the horse is “overhyped,” but keys him in triples.
Cox, meanwhile, tries three longshots.
Goldencents does indeed win, but Hellmers misses out on the triple and Cox, the former New York City policeman, takes a collar with his trio of horses. Hellmers then heads down to the winner’s circle and the Ph. D. in Revisionist History tells another of the “overhyped” horse’s owners that he knew they “would get it eventually.”
Conte then gets some handicapping help from HRTV’s Michelle Yu, who has big edge over the tough-talking New Yorker because she can actually read past performances without the help of a gargantuan magnifying glass.
Hellmers hit his bet on his mom’s entry and collected nearly $40,000 to vault her in second behind a leader whose name was covered up, while we can only wonder if Yu needs contact lenses after hanging out with Conte.
Cox is in 28th place with about $13,000, while Team Rotondo members Peter Rotondo Sr. and pal Lee Davis were reduced to giving a fashion report.
After the races, the gang then plays poker and talks about Hellmers, once again playing into The Guru’s hands. Will they ever learn?
Day Two begins with Beychok sporting a bow tie, which seems lifted from sporty Peter Rotondo Jr.’s closet, while Conte bemoans picking winners but losing money because he bet triples and exactas. He vows to change his strategy, and bets $900 in triples on the first race of the day. Go figure.
This time, after ignoring his own strategy, Conte hits the triple, of course, and is back in the game. He then bets $500 to win on She’s a Tiger in the BC Juvenile Fillies, following the strategy he was supposed to follow in the race he won.
Cox then places a bet on a horse mysteriously mentioned as only No. 5 and has $1,000 spread across in win and trifecta bets.
We see She’s a Tiger beat No. 5 (who for the record is Ria Antonia) as Conte gloats and Cox gets bleeped. Cox doesn’t expect the stewards to disqualify Gary Stevens, who rode She’s a Tiger, but the bleep turns when She’s a Tiger is disqualified.
Though Ria Antonia is 32-1 and Cox poured $1,000 into the race, which conjures up visions of a huge payday, turns out he only had the triple for a buck. All told, he somehow wound up turning a 32-1 shot into a 4-1 shot and clearly is in need of a pyramid and magnets.
We see the leaderboard and Momma Hellmers has dropped to third with about $44,000, while the contestant with the covered up name (must be a shy person) is second with $105,000 and the new leader, Peter Behr, has $128,000.
The new leader apparently bet $3,000 to win on Ria Antonia. Cox said he gave Ria Antonio “a shot” to win, which seems to contradict his earlier optimism, but at least he turned a profit.
Hellmers chats with Behr, and then the focus turns to the last race of the day, the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Peter Rotondo Jr., who was shown in snippets during the episode doing his day job as the Breeders’ Cup vice president of media and entertainment, resurfaces to give out a triple to some friends.
Cox, with $13,000, debates between shooting for the moon and playing it safe and going home with his original $10,000 in his pocket.
Hellmers goes all-in with $20,000 to win on Palace Malice and a few thousand more on exactas.
Who won? Rotondo Jr., who wasn’t in the contest. He nailed the triple.
Cox didn’t come close and Hellmers flopped, too.
It’s sad to say, but sometimes magnets and pyramids are simply not enough.
Until next time …