Did Jonathon Kinchen cheat at the NHC contest in Las Vegas

January 31, 2022

Cheating in horse racing exists in every aspect of the game

“Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely”

John Dalberg- Acton

It has been quite a few weeks in horse racing. I don’t think anyone involved in what used to be the Sport of Kings whose head does more than separate their ears could argue against that. Sadly, the brilliant performances by Life is Good, Regal Glory and Colonel Liam were overshadowed by shall we say other news in this old game of ours.

NYRA goes line by line through Bob Baffert’s life in what they claim was an attempt to preserve our sport’s integrity. It played more like a character assassination. They even tried to introduce a Saturday Night Live skit and social media comments as evidence. I thought a meme or gif would be next. I truly did. Did they order a copy of his High School yearbook? Ironically, on the heels of this hearing if you could call it that, and I wouldn’t, a NYRA telecast frontman comes under fire for a blatant disregard of contest rules at best. We’ll come back to that. Bob never had any violation in New York at any NYRA track. Integrity.

Wesley Ward had a positive test at Churchill Downs that everyone apparently knew about but nobody said anything about because, well we don’t really know why do we? We do know Wesley has had more positive tests than Bob Baffert but at last count he is allowed to collect Kentucky Derby points for his horses and run in the Derby. Bob Baffert, no, no points, no Kentucky Derby. Integrity.

There have reportedly been no positive tests at NYRA tracks in a while. Integrity.

We had a jockey, Mychel Sanchez betting on races he rode in, through TVG, and he bet against himself. If that wasn’t bad enough, he won some of the races he bet against himself. You just can’t make this up. Integrity.

We had a jockey openly, frankly and honestly talk about how riders will at times give each other room, and at times not and how those favors are returned. Integrity.

We had a jockey agent post winning wagers on social media betting on and also against his own jockeys. Integrity.

Like I said we have had an interesting few weeks in horse racing.

I have never held myself out to be a choirboy. I am who I am and what I am and the only thing in my horse racing career I regret is not having bet more on some select winners. I’ve never cheated or had an unfair advantage. I never asked a trainer friend or jockey friend if they liked their horse. I have been asked if I like their horse. Never the other way around. I don’t want to know and don’t care. One of the things I love about this game is the pari-mutual competition. I want to beat you and the sport on the square.

I have been around this sport my entire life. My mother may she rest in peace was at Belmont Park the day before I was born, and back not long after with me in a stroller. I could have been born there. I grew up playing and at times even dealing poker in after hours “Las Vegas Night” clubs in Brooklyn. I have seen all kinds of cheating.

I could tell you about the trainer who was under a 24/7 watch in New York and kept winning. He must be clean they said. We’re watching and testing they said. What they didn’t say and likely didn’t know was that word on the street was the trainer and his corrupt vets were tranquilizing other contenders in the races and they were running up the track. Nobody tested those horses and “the trainers” horses tested clean because they were.

To the question at hand. Did Jonathan Kinchen cheat in the NHC contest in Vegas? I’ll let you answer that. I think you should be able to.

Apparently after traveling to Vegas for the NHC contest Kinchen decided to head to Florida for the Pegasus. That in and of itself is not a big deal, and his own personal choice. It is however a blatant disregard of the rules of the contest he was playing in.

The rules in question are Rules 14 and 95.

Rule 14:

“must be present to win.” 

Rule 95:

“All wagers must be placed personally, and in person, by the contest player. To avoid being disqualified, no person shall, directly or indirectly, act as an intermediary, transmitter or agent in placing wagers for the contest player, unless prior authorization is given by NHC officials.”

The top 64 players in the NHC make it to the finals. It has been reported that Kinchen used another player to make his bets while he was in Florida. It has also been reported this other player was in the top 64 which if true means he was in the finals. If that is true player 65 has a legitimate claim of foul and there should have been a stewards inquiry. The NTRA was aware of Kinchen’s rule breaking prior to the contest ending. Integrity.

Kinchen apology:

There is little argument Kinchen broke a rule. In his apology he claims at the time he did not believe he was violating any tournament rules. He also says how clear the rules are. Maybe he didn’t read or know them. Maybe he did. He also goes on to say his traveling to Florida did not give him an unfair edge or advantage. I respectfully disagree. I also believe the reason these rules are in place is to prevent an edge or unfair advantage. If you are at Gulfstream Park live, while the people you are playing against are across the country in a hotel you have several advantages at your disposal. Kinchen is a television personality who has access to trainers and jockeys and routinely interviews them about their horses and chances. He can ask any of them anything. He can observe, overhear or hear anything live that is not broadcast on TV or the track feeds and is not known to other players. He can see horses in the paddock and on the track up close and live. What if a horse flipped in the paddock but wasn’t scratched, or threw their rider and ran off? To say being at Gulfstream Park in the flesh did not give you an unfair edge or advantage shows a total lack of knowledge about wagering, the sport, gambling and human nature. He may not have used his unfair advantage, but he unquestionably had one. By definition is having an unfair edge or advantage cheating? You tell me.

If things were only that simple.

Jonathon Kinchen was indeed involved in getting a rule change in the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge.

The following is from a Breeders’ Cup 2018 Press Release:

LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 22, 2018) – The Breeders’ Cup today announced rule changes for the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC), Thoroughbred racing’s biggest live money tournament, which will be held on November 2 & 3 at Churchill Downs and at participating simulcast and Advanced Deposit Wagering sites. The changes were developed in consultation with the Breeders’ Cup Wagering Committee which was created to provide tournament player input on the conduct of the BCBC and related matters. The Wagering Committee is co-chaired by Breeders’ Cup Directors Craig Bernick and Mike Rogers. Player representatives include Paul Matties, Joe Appelbaum, Jonathan Kinchen and Tom Quigley.

• Anti-Collusion Rules Reinforced: The revised rules provide further details on how collusion between players is defined and interpreted. Among other things, the new language clearly states that all players must make their final selection independently of every other player in the BCBC and that they are prohibited from coordinating their play with other players. If Breeders’ Cup or the host track determines, in their sole discretion, that collusion occurred, the participating player(s) will be disqualified. The BCBC will sanction an independent integrity official to assist in monitoring the tournament.
• Unprecedented Transparency: In an effort to provide complete transparency surrounding tournament play, following the conclusion of the BCBC, Breeders’ Cup will publish all tournament wagers made by players who participated in the BCBC.

“As one of the horseplayer representatives on the Breeders’ Cup Wagering Committee, I am encouraged by the positive changes made to the BCBC rules and believe they will result in a more competitive and transparent tournament,” said Paul Matties, a member of the wagering committee and winner of the 2016 NTRA National Horseplayers Championship.

The complete 2018 BCBC rules can be found at www.BreedersCup.com/BCBC/Rules.

There is a much better way to eliminate any collusion issues. Implement a better rule and allow teams and partners. What’s the difference, you can’t enforce the non collusion rule anyway.

Now to the transparency everybody says they want and according to the Breeders’ Cup Press Release Kinchen was involved in. Who was the top 64 player making Kinchen’s bets? Were they actually Kinchen’s bets or this apparent players? I don’t know, do you?

As a side note apparently Kinchen asked the NTRA to be allowed to play from his hotel room due to COVID concerns. He was given permission to do so but still flew to the Pegasus to “party with the stones” Jeff Spicoli. 😳

NTRA Statement

Las Vegas, Nevada, January 31, 2022: The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) issued the following statement after its first ever disqualification during the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) which took place this weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada.  “The NTRA disqualified a player from the 2022 NHC for violating the official rules. One of the violated rules states, “All wagers must be placed personally, and in-person, by the Contest Player.” The disqualified player was not present at Bally’s during the NHC tournament and his contest wagers were being submitted on-site by an intermediary without authorization. No authorization was given to the player to leave Bally’s or the State; he violated both. The rules of the NHC are clearly outlined and all participants are required to sign them prior to the tournament.” NTRA President and CEO Tom Rooney said, “The rules are clear that participants must be onsite to participate in the NHC. The NHC is the world’s most prestigious handicapping tournament. The integrity of the event is of paramount importance—not just to us but to the thousands of men and women who attempt to qualify and play each and every year. The NTRA will staunchly and steadfastly follow the rules and defend the integrity of this prestigious event and it’s participants.”

NTRA President and CEO Tom Rooney spoke about integrity in the sport and restoring it when he took office. Now we will get a chance to see if he actually meant it. NYRA talks a lot about integrity when it comes to Bob Baffert, now we’ll see if they mean it.

A lot of people do a lot of talking about cleaning up the sport and doing the right thing. Talk is cheap, always has been, always will be. They say it is about the horses and for some of us it is. For many it is always about the money.


Subsequent to publishing this article we were advised through a social media post that Jonathon Kinchen was a member of the NHC rules committee which would make his claim that he did not believe he was violating any tournament rules tougher to buy. Kinchen was also listed on the NTRA website as a mentor for tournaments. While his name and photo still appear on the mentor page, the link goes to a page that can’t be found. The NTRA mantra of “advocacy, integrity, and leadership” is being put to the test.

NTRA/NHC mentor program
Kinchen as a mentor for NTRA/NHC
Kinchen’s link

Photo: Giovannina Solevo Twitter Feed

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