To the dogs: Chestnut's absence leaves open field

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Joey Chestnut is usually a footlong favorite in the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, but the 16-time champion will not be participating this year, leaving a wide-open field with tighter betting odds than there have been in years.

Geoffrey Esper was an even-money favorite in the men’s competition at ESPN BET as of Thursday morning, followed closely by James Webb at +150. The men’s event will be held at noon ET (ESPN2).

Miki Sudo, who was a commanding favorite in the women’s competition at -750, became a 10-time champion by consuming 51 hot dogs in 10 minutes to set a world record for women.

Chestnut has eaten 1,214 hot dogs and buns in the contest since 2005, more than double the number ingested by any other competitor during that span. But Chestnut won’t be competing in the annual Fourth of July event at New York City’s Coney Island because of a dispute over his recent sponsorship deal with Impossible Foods, a competitor of Nathan’s Hot Dogs.

Patrick Jay, senior vice president and head of sportsbook for ESPN BET, said Chestnut would have been around a -2,500 favorite over the field, a price similar to what he has been in previous years.

Without Chestnut, Christian Cipollini, trading manager for BetMGM, said the men’s contest is wide open and “may draw more action from bettors with its competitive field.”

Esper finished second last year with 49.5 dogs and buns, 12.5 fewer than Chestnut. According to Jay, Esper stood out in qualifying events for the Nathan’s contest, with Webb and Patrick Bertoletti his closest challengers.

Webb had attracted the most early action from bettors at ESPN BET as of Wednesday, but the bulk of the bets will be placed in the hours leading up to the event.

Bertoletti, who is married to Sudo, was the third favorite at +850 at ESPN BET, followed by Nick Wehry at 12-1.

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