By John Pricci

When it comes to horse racing, Twitter is the social media of choice. It’s fast, informative and engaging, everything you want to stay connected to your vocation or avocation of choice.

Too often, however, issues arise too quickly, the message is under-informed and engagement quickly goes off the rails. And given that human nature is what it is, c’mon, who doesn’t love a good “fix” yarn every now and then?

That was the case on a rainy Wednesday in Oldsmar Tampa where Daniel Centeno, perennially 1-2 in the jockey standings every year, jumped off 11-10 favorite R Baby Driver with victory assured several jumps before the finish post.

From the pan shot, it was impossible to immediately say what happened. It could have been interpreted that either R Baby Driver swerved and Centeno performed an unintended flying dismount or something sinister had just happened.

In the moment, this too was my reaction.


Twitter blew up immediately. To paraphrase: “Centeno bailed off the favorite so that Goforthegusto, at 113-1, could win.” And it didn’t stop there. Tweets appeared claiming that a knowing bettor made a $35 late double wheel going into the card’s final race.

The sport’s general lack of transparency and cautionary overreach helped to inflame the situation. Horseplayers could, and should be, seeing red flags, especially those watching on TVG and might not have seen the Tampa Bay Downs’ Twitter update.

Wanting to learn more I went to two ADWs I frequent, my default Xpressbet and less frequented TVG.com. Neither had head-on replay video. Those for the seventh and ninth races were available, but not the one in between. This is not a good look.

Here’s a timeline of events from the moment Centeno did a premature Dettori jumps before reaching the winning post:

R Baby Driver was seen running off rider-less while bearing out but apparently going soundly. The official chart noted the horse walked off under his own power. One bullet dodged. Centeno’s condition was the urgency that remained.

The good news as reported by TVG via Tampa Bay’s twitter response was that Centeno walked back to the jock’s room unassisted, was alert, suffered leg contusions but no apparent broken bones.

Tampa Bay Downs has long had safety measures in place. In the room, Centeno was examined by a certified, senior EMT who administered a concussion protocol. The test indicated that the rider did not require hospitalization and was allowed to return home.

If Centeno were scheduled to ride in the finale, he would have been taken off that mount. The rule at Tampa is that any jockey who suffers a spill must be taken off his mount if he were scheduled to ride in the following race.

When it comes to racetrack accidents, especially gruesome scenes in which either a catastrophic breakdown occurs, a rider appears seriously injured, or both, racetracks show the replay up to the point that the incident occurs; a sensible public policy.

Wednesday’s incident was different. Unless Centeno or R Baby Driver were unable to walk off the track, there was no reason to eschew the head-on replay, which would have nipped uniformed innuendo in the bud and avoided inevitably trendy bad racing news.

After making inquiries, Tampa Bay official Margo Flynn contacted the TV department on Thursday, a dark day, and had the head-on view posted.

Racing’s overabundance of caution and natural tendency to keep things in house was the philosophy that may have influenced one Tampa steward to decide, not knowing the extent of Centeno’s condition, to err cautiously and that no head-on vantage would be broadcast.

The final element which led to twitter hysteria was the result of premature analysis by an observer that irregular betting patterns were in play. However, a subsequent review of betting patterns by the Thoroughbred Racing and Protective Bureau yielded no red flags.

Our empirical review of prices and payoffs, and a subsequent handicapping review, looked reasonable. Behind the 113-1 winner was a 69-1 runnerup followed by an 11-1 chance to show. From a pool of $69,849, a 50-Cent trifecta paid $51,724 to one ticket holder.

The late double, combining a $228.60 with a $3.80 winner paid $335 for $1. By comparison, a parlay would have returned $433. An underlay? Arguably, yes. But aren’t there something like three of four wise guy double probables every day at every track?

The lesson here for racing’s social mediators is that we need to be careful not to rush to judgment. Whether we are suspicious or trusting, the need to trust but verify is the proper tack.

BETS ‘N PIECES: Goforthegusto was an extreme overlay in a large field of bottom-level maidens. And anyone who watched Wednesday’s races over a tightly sealed, sloppy track witnessed one thing: a very strong bias favoring frontrunning speed.

I had looked at the eighth race because a Horse to Watch arrived via stable mail. I analyzed the race and didn’t like his chances. In fact, I thought the Georgina Baxter-trained, Daniel Centeno-ridden heavy favorite couldn’t lose.

I handicapped the finale for late double possibilities. Saratoga County had one run in a Gulfstream maiden allowances last year. He showed high speed, finished in the money, earned a layover Thoro-Graph figure and rated to be a cinch if fit. I bet a cold double.

Indeed, the payoff would have been small but the reward merit the risk. Of greater significance, there also was a chance to make a small score in eighth race verticals with the aid of a bias.

And so I looked for early speed: #2 Capable Man and #10 Goforthegusto figured to open daylight in the 7-furlong sprint, the outside horse owning a tactical wide-draw advantage. At the break, Capable Man showed nothing but Goforthegusto was able to shake loose.

Below are two small action wagers I made, hoping to score out. In addition to using Goforthegusto behind the winner came #1, a pick-up-late-pieces type, and #4, a well spotted Gulfstream ship-in. I used all four beneath R Baby Driver. You know the rest…


Xpressbet February 13, 2019 3:51 PM 750460 Race 8 Tampa Bay Downs $0.50 TR (PWHL) 8 / 2, 10 / 1, 2, 10 Bet $2 $0


3:53 Online Gaming Tampa Bay Downs R8 $0.50 Trifecta Key 8
1,2,4,10 $6.00 $0.00 $0.00 Resolved

I wound up minus a few dollars for the day but the analysis was good and I had a good chance to win a lot for a little. What more can a horseplayer ask?

BTW: I put #4 Falconer, the fifth place finisher, in my stable mail. Knocked off stride at the break, he rushed up wide down the backside, dropped over to the inside at the turn, and continued very gamely through the finish line.


©John Pricci.HorseRaceInsider.com,Feb 17,2019