Racing Fan Coatney Rides Flightline to a Huge Tournament Win at the Breeders’ Cup

The favorite won the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic, and in so doing he helped an underdog win the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge.

Thanks to Flightline’s victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, plus some shrewd handicapping throughout the day, Drew Coatney, a 34-year-old racing fan who is relatively new to high-stakes wagering, became one of Breeders’ Cup weekend’s biggest winners. He beat a field of seasoned handicapping high rollers to win the $1,372,500 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge [BCBC], the official handicapping tournament hosted by horse racing’s world championships. Coatney turned a $10,000 investment into a final take-home payday of $548,000, of which $149,000 was mutuel winnings and nearly $300,000 was prize money.

Flightline’s victory came easy – however, it did not come easy for Coatney. He first had to grow his real money bankroll into a $100,000 mountain of money throughout the course of Breeders’ Cup weekend Friday and Saturday, Nov. 4-5 at Keeneland. After that Herculean task, he then had to have the nerve and conviction – and the belief in Flightline – to basically bet it all in the Classic in order to seal the tournament victory.

“It was really scary, I wanted to walk away with all or nothing,” said Coatney after the tournament. “I wanted $100,000 on Flightline. That was the plan.”

The BCBC offers deep-pocketed entrants a VIP experience at the Breeders’ Cup venue as well as a chance to win big money. It annually draws of field of big bettors and handicapping tournament aces from around the country who target these types of contests throughout the year. Coatney fits into neither one of those categories – he is neither a high roller, nor is he highly active on the tournament tour.

Coatney is a “fun story who was relatively late to horse racing,” according to host of the In the Money Podcast, Peter Fornatale. “He decided to go to the Breeders’ Cup this year with his wife Nancy, and they bought a BCBC seat with the idea of getting VIP treatment and taking a shot.”

Coatney credits Fornatale for getting him into horse racing. He watched the TV reality show “Horseplayers” on the Esquire Network in 2014 but had almost no prior exposure to the racing game prior to becoming a fan of Fornatale’s podcast, which he discovered while spending 2 ½ hours a day in his car commuting to work in the Chicago area.

“I went to Lone Star Park when I was in middle school once, loved it, but never went back. I moved to Michigan and never sniffed horse racing again,” Coatney said. “Later, I started working for a company where a guy held a ‘lunch and learn’ about handicapping at Arlington Park. Then I stumbled onto ‘Horseplayers’ and the podcast. The rest is history.”

Beyond just being a fan of the In the Money Podcast, Coatney had a vision for how In the Money could be transformed from a podcast into a sustainable and growing business. He contacted Fornatale out of the blue and broke the ice by sending him a case of craft beer. The business relationship grew from there, and Coatney eventually became the business manager for

“He started appearing on our shows and his confidence and handicapping skill increased, and he got better and better and started playing contests,” Fornatale said about Coatney. “In a lot of ways, the student has now become the teacher.”

The Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge is a real money handicapping challenge. Players are required to deposit $10,000, of which $7,500 is a players’ bankroll while the other $2,500 goes to the prize fund that gets returned to the top 20 finishers in the form of prize money. Entrants bet a minimum of $600 per race (no maximum) on at least three Breeders’ Cup races Friday and seven Breeders’ Cup races on Saturday, and permitted wager types are Win, Place, Show, Exacta, Trifecta, and Daily Double (excluding special doubles).

“It started with strategy and came down to numbers,” Coatney said. “Typically, this contest is won with $140,000-ish. I worked backward from there and tried to figure out how to make a $100,000 wager on a single horse.”

Coatney bet the minimum $1,800 on Friday and lost it, so he began Saturday with a $5,700 bankroll. He formulated a betting strategy to grow the $5,700 to $100,000 by focusing on overlapping $500 daily doubles. He passed the Filly and Mare Sprint and missed in the Turf Sprint, and always planned on passing the Longines Turf later in the day. His opinions were on the day’s middle Breeders’ Cup races from the Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile to the Maker’s Mark Filly and Mare Turf, to the Qatar Racing Sprint, to the FanDuel Mile Presented by PDJF, and finally to the Longines Distaff. Coatney weighted his bets to depend most on key horses like Tuesday, Modern Games, and Malathaat, and those horses all won. The resulting payoffs were enough to raise his bankroll to his pre-Classic goal of $100,000.

After sitting out the Turf, Coatney enjoyed a $30,000 lead in the tournament going into the last race. He knew that others in the field with remaining bankrolls would be gunning for him, so he stuck with his plan of betting it all on Flightline in the Classic.

“It’s not like we’re talking about betting $100,000 on a 7-1 shot. We’re talking about Flightline, not a maiden or a non-winner of two,” Coatney said.

Coatney said he said he spent about 15 minutes at the betting machine punching out 194 tickets of the maximum $500 denomination in order to arrive at his final bet of $97,185 on Flightline to win.

We all know how it ended. Flightline cruised to victory in the Classic as the 0.44-1 favorite. He paid $2.88 to win, and the payoff from Coatney’s bets raised his final contest-winning bankroll to $139,953 in cash.

Coatney’s final total gave him a comfortable margin of victory over runner up Jim Videtic, who bankrolled $124,636. Charles Thompson was third with $102,964. Dave Chenvert was fourth with $94,167, and track announcer Vic Stauffer finished fifth with $88,387.

The BCBC is a popular annual event that attracted a field of 549 entries in 2022. The majority of players participated from the Breeders’ Cup host site at Keeneland or played online at Xpressbet. Some others played at official satellite locations at Gulfstream Park, Monmouth Park, and Santa Anita Park.

Flightline wasn’t the only big winner leaving Keeneland on Breeders’ Cup Day. Coatney said he intended to buy a new house with his BCBC tournament winnings. Fornatale worried that Coatney’s big day would make him quit his job at – to which Coatney replied that there was no chance of that.