by Alastair Bull
Retired computer store operator Mike Kappel has been a horseplayer for 48 years, but nothing has matched the thrill of qualifying for the Kentucky Derby Betting Championship.
Kappel, 69, of Belleville, Illinois, just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, earned his spot after finishing second in a qualifying tournament Feb. 19.
His prize: a $12,000 prize package guaranteeing him entry to the second Kentucky Derby Betting Championship, which otherwise would have cost him $12,000 to enter, and a competition seat at Churchill Downs for the Oaks and Derby May 5-6 if he wishes (he also has the option of competing online via TwinSpires.com).
Kappel began well the day he qualified for the KDBC, but fell back a little before changing his plan and placing a winning bet at Oaklawn Park. However, he fell back prior to the last race, a maiden claiming at Santa Anita Park, where he backed favorite Hook’ Em Kurt, who he decided was very likely to win.
“I saw I could not catch the competition leader, but I could make second depending on what the others above played, so I thought Hook ‘Em Kurt was my best chance to get second.
“Hook ‘Em Kurt won (rallying from well back to win by a nose), and I was thrilled.”
Kappel said he became interested in horse racing from the time his father took him to the track. He’s taken part in tournaments for 15 years, and said his biggest moment had been finishing first to qualify for the National Handicapping Championship at Kentucky Downs’ first all-turf contest – until now.
“My biggest win is the entry to the Kentucky Derby Betting Championship,” he said. “I look forward to competing.”
The Kentucky Derby Betting Championship runs on Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby day, May 5-6. Contestants put forward $12,000, of which $8,000 is their betting bankroll and $4,000 goes into the prize pool.
The prizemoney will depend on the number of entries. If there are 75 players entered, the winner receives $140,000, the runner-up $80,000, and the third-place finisher $30,000. All three, plus the fourth- and fifth-place finishers, also receive entry to the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge, which is worth $10,000.
All players get to keep their remaining bankroll at the end of the tournament.
(Coady Photography/Churchill Downs)