By Julie Sarno
Rancho Santa Fe resident Christian Hellmers is a leading character in “Horseplayers,” a reality show that will air on Esquire television. The first episode of the 10-show horse racing series is scheduled to air at 10 p.m., on Tuesday, Jan. 21. The show is about the high-stakes world of professional handicapping. “Handicapping” is the process of analyzing data and selecting horses to bet money on.
Interest in Hellmers as a candidate for the reality show began when he finished second in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge, known as the BCBC. The contest requires a $10,000 buy in. When he repeated in the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge at Santa Anita Park, Hellmers was signed to be on the reality television show. His second-place finish in 2012 earned him prize money of $154,525. Hellmers finished second to Patrick McGoey of New Orleans, who took home the winner’s share, $255,341. In 2013, he did not finish among the leaders.
“The producers liked that I was not like everyone else,” said Hellmers, who is the only California-based cast member on the reality show. In contrast to the other handicappers on the show, Hellmers is athletic and health conscious. He surfs and is a vegan.
The website promotional material says of the professional horse race handicappers: “The only thing bigger than the bets are the characters placing them . . . each episode follows a group of handicappers as they travel the country in search of instant riches – and compete for the title of America’s top handicapper.”
“The show is one-half lifestyle and the other half about the tournaments,” said Hellmers, who competed in handicapping contests at Santa Anita, a Los Angeles area-racetrack; Gulfstream Park in Florida; Fair Grounds in Louisiana; and Keeneland in Kentucky.
“The premise of the show is to try to make it into the National Handicapping Championship (NHC) in Las Vegas,” said Hellmers, who succeeded in earning two berths in the contest which features $1.5 million in total prize money.
Later this month, he will compete in the NHC, sponsored by Daily Racing Form, and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. The Las Vegas tournament has a $750,000 first prize and begins on Jan. 24. While the reality television show was being taped, Hellmers also enjoyed attending the major races for 3-year-old colts, the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes, known as the Triple Crown.
A Torrey Pines High School alumnus, Hellmers has had a passion for betting on horse racing since his teenage years. Hellmers grew up in Del Mar, where his mother, Georgia Hellmers, still lives. He fondly remembers going to the track with his late father during his teen years.
At 20, Hellmers and two friends — Nisan Gabbay and Kevin McFarland – won several tournaments and were known as the “Pick 6 Boys,” capturing the attention of the racing world when they were interviewed on television and won $15,000 that day. Hellmers went on to UCLA, graduating with a degree in civil and environmental engineering.
Now 36, Hellmers is an entrepreneur. Among other businesses, he founded thefirst10minutes.com, which specializes in personalized matchmaking. Hellmers acknowledges, “I make more money on horses than anything else. It is my primary source of income. It has taken me 10 years to really understand the nuances. The betting is just a decision. The best advice I can give to anyone is to not to bet the majority of races. There are a few golden eggs.”
Playing the tournaments is hard work, acknowledges Hellmers. “Trying to win 500 to 90o percent on the races in one or two days is not a game for shrinking violets. It is a game for people who believe in themselves. Most people do not want to play a game you win one out of five times.”
“My greatest gift is predicting the future outcome of horse races,” says Hellmers in the show’s promotional clip available at the website: https://tv.esquire.com/videos/70885-horseplayers-extended-first-look.
Produced by Go Go Luckey, the show was picked up by Esquire, which launched a television channel last September. The channel, which reaches more than 60 million households, is carried on Dish, Satellite TV and most cable networks. Locally, Time Warner features the Esquire network on channel 203 and HD is channel 859. For AT&T U-verse, channel 381 and channel 1380 HD. Cox cable carries Esquire on channel 368.