In 2019, The BIG One—a small-field, high-expectation tournament—will once again be hosted at Laurel Park on the third weekend of September. HorseTourneys qualifying package winners will once again earn not only a seat to play in a field that will number no more than 57, they will also receive a three-night hotel stay, a travel stipend, a welcome dinner and full amenities including buffets and open bar at Laurel.
For all of the similarities, however, there are several important differences to point out regarding the 2019 renewal.
For the first time, five seats (valued at $12,000 each) to the Pegasus World Cup Betting Championship at Gulfstream Park will be part of the prize pool along with 10 packages to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) and five Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC) entries. Also part of the prize pool will be five $1,500 entries to the Horse Player World Series though, if a player prefers, he or she may choose a $1,500 cash prize in lieu of an HPWS entry.
Here’s how the prizes will be handed out:
Each of the top 10 finishers will receive two prizes—an NHC seat and his or her choice of either a Pegasus entry or a BCBC entry. The higher you finish within the top 10, the more choice you are likely to have between a Pegasus or BCBC entry. Finish 10th and you would obviously have to take whichever one was left.
If one or more of the top 10 finishers are already double-qualified to the NHC, they will receive a $5,000 bonus into their HorseTourneys accounts in lieu of the NHC seat. But 10 NHC seats will be awarded no matter what…so if there are three double qualified players in the top 10, three of the NHC prizes would then fall to the 11th-, 12th- and 13th-place finishers.
Those who finish in the 11th through 15th positions will receive their choice of an HPWS entry or $1,500 in cash (deposited into your HorseTourneys account).
The format that decides that final order of finish is also among the changes for 2019.
After three-years as a live-bankroll, win-place-exacta event, The BIG One will be reverting in 2019 to its original format of mandatory $2.00 win and place plays (12 per day during each day of the two-day competition). Those 24 plays (totaling $96) will technically be live-money plays and run through the tote system (and players will keep their final bankroll totals), but the event will certainly “play” much more like traditional, mythical win-place tourneys.
Why the switch back to $2.00 win/place?
“A few years ago, high-end, live-bankroll tournaments were becoming more and more in vogue, and we felt like we were doing a good thing by following suit with The BIG One,” said HorseTourneys president McKay Smith. “However, the last couple of years saw the introduction of so many new live-bankroll tournaments that it seemed to me that the player who preferred the mythical format was now being suddenly underserved. Tournaments like the NHC and the HPWS were experiencing renewed enthusiasm whereas participation levels at many live-bankroll events—including The BIG One—were starting to show declines.”
An associated issue was that the starting live-bankroll stakes had to be funded from the prize pool. Last year, for example, $57,000 (57 players X $1,000) off the top of the prize pool had to go to the players’ starting bankroll and, after all of the tournament seats were paid for, that left just $17,000 for cash bonuses to the players. HorseTourneys wanted to beef up that amount significantly while still adequately compensating horsemen for the use of the signals involved with our contest tracks at The BIG One.
“Thanks in great part to the understanding and cooperation of Laurel Park, we were able to work out a deal that was fair and amenable to all and that allowed us to return to a $2.00 win/place format,” said Smith. “We think this is a better setup for this event, long-term.”
Thanks to the switch, HorseTourneys will now in 2019 be guaranteeing a cash bonus pool of at least $75,000 to the Top 10 finishers of The BIG One. That amount is in addition to the 10 guaranteed NHC seats, the five guaranteed Pegasus entries, the five guaranteed BCBC entries and the five guaranteed Horse Player World Series entries.
We didn’t stop there.
For the past couple of years, some players had told us that the cost of The BIG One direct qualifiers ($495) had precluded them from taking part. So this year, in an attempt to make the event more accessible, the entry fee for direct qualifiers will be reduced to $350, with one in 35 earning an all-inclusive package. Accordingly, the price of direct feeders has been dropped to $41 (one player will advance to the final qualifier per 10 entries), while Round 1 and Round 2 feeder buy-in fees have also been reduced to $19 (one winner per five) and $82 (also one per five), respectively.
Lower prices, more cash prizes and, for the first time, Pegasus World Cup entries. We hope it all adds up to a 2019 edition of The BIG One that—more than ever before—truly lives up to its name.