Joe Pettit, second after Day 1, took the lead early on Day 2 and did not relinquish it from there to win the $325,000 The BIG One at Laurel Park.
For his triumph, the 52-year-old owner of a Charleston, S.C., based hat company earned an National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) seat, a $10,000 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC) entry, a cash bonus of $6,500 and his final bankroll total of $2,343.80 — $90 ahead of runner up Karl Barth, the leader after Day 1.
It was the second lucrative tournament victory for Pettit within the last six weeks. Pettit won cash and prizes of approximately $71,000 in August by capturing the Saratoga Challenge.
“It was pretty thrilling,” Pettit said of today’s victory. “It was the opposite of my Saratoga win. There I hit a $1,300 straight exacta and a $300 win bet to win it. Here, the gentleman ahead of me [Karl Barth] was just $30 behind me so I had to sit on my hands for the second half of the day. Saratoga was offense; today was defense.”
Pettit had $2,225.80 at the end of Day 1. Much of that was due to a $160 win bet on High Mischief ($17.40 to win in the 6th at Gulfstream). That put Pettit just $133 behind Day 1 leader Barth.
Pettit assumed the lead for good after hitting a $40 win bet in the 2nd at Laurel on Cerulean Spring ($8.60) and, more importantly, a $20 exacta that paid $48.60 for a deuce.
Ahead of Barth by $30 going into the last race, Pettit loved 5-2 shot in the final contest race Colonel Canuck (Woodbine Race 11). But he only wagered $20 so as to stay ahead of Barth. Barth intended to make a much more sizable wager on Colonel Canuck but got shut out about two seconds after the gates sprang open. When Colonel Canuck won, it was a sweet victory for Pettit and a bitter pill for Barth.
In addition to today’s winnings, Pettit is now eligible for a $1 million bonus to win the NHC — an event he finished 44th in earlier this year after failing to make the final table when his 27-1 shot came in second by a nose on his final contest play.
“It’s very exciting to know that the $1 million bonus will be in play for me this year,” Pettit said.
This year’s renewal of The BIG One featured a new rule that limited contestants to wagering no more than $250 in any given race. The rule revision seemed to result in a much tighter, tenser, more competitive leader board, with at least 25 players within range of first place heading into the final contest race. In general, players seemed to feel like the wager-size limitation made for a “truer” competition.
“I liked the new format,” Pettit said. “In that last race, under the old rules, it would have been everyone just pushing everything in.”
All players at The BIG One kept their final bankroll totals. The top 10 received cash bonuses and BCBC entries. The top 10 finishers who were not already double-qualified to the NHC received NHC seats. Finishers 11-20 received their choice of a Horse Player World Series entry or $1,500 in cash.
The complete standings of the 57-player field (not including those who busted out completely) are as follows: