HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, November 7 –Could it be that my psyche is so beat up from playing horses for a half century that after imbibing my second single malt, I accepted what happened in the 2021 Juvenile Turf as quasi inevitable?
Saw a Twitter image Saturday night of a $150 Late Pick 5 wager that spread in four races and singled Modern Games, a beat far worse than my win and superfecta refund, which would have made my day.
Refunds are hollow consolation for what happened in the Juvenile Turf and my immediate reaction is that the track should have figured out a way to make it right: Tell bettors to hold all tickets and that an explanation of some kind would be made the following day.
Many opined that Del Mar should have eaten the loss, honoring all tickets with proof of purchase. If there needed to be two sets of calculated payoffs, one with Modern Games and one without, resulting in a financial hit, so be it.
Del Mar would have been regarded heroes for doing the right thing. It would have been excellent public relations, proof that the fiscal health of players is at least as important as a stakeholder’s right to compete for purse money and enhanced residual value.
I admit to something else. I’m exhausted by fighting for the players after untoward incidents such as Saturday’s. It’s immensely frustrating when fans get a sense that things never will change for the good of the bettor.
And I resented when a veterinarian went on TV and told a national audience that “out of safety”… and ”we’re required…” and so forth. Either he had no command of the facts or flat-out lied:
Modern Games did not break through the gate; an assistant starter opened the stall so the horse could escape the clutches of harm’s way. His “run-off” from the gate was minimal as to be non-existent. He should have been examined and returned to the gate, per usual.
A bad call was amplified by a disingenuous explanation. The incident was not malicious and, as such, the horse was properly allowed to start. The problem is the horse won and “winning” bettors lost. Embracing alternate facts is one thing that sucks about this country right now.
The inescapable reality is that racing gets all its bad press from not following the rules it has, such as they are. This time they did, to the letter, and it’s a terrible rule that needs rewriting, immediately. The late scratch/post time favorite substitution was never popular.
Until a better alternative is found, the only fair measure is to declare the race an ALL race. I received a refund in the straight and vertical pools but horizontal players, who contribute in great measure to betting handle due to it life-changing promise, were screwed by a lazy rule.
At least this would be fair. Sure, a Pick 5 becomes a smaller return Pick 4, a Pick 4 a Pick 3, and so forth. This method has been in place forever when a horse is scratched in the second race of a Double wager or final leg of a Pick 3. Of course, a scratch in the first leg of a sequential wager nullifies all wagers and monies are refunded.
A few issues were horribly senseless here. Horizontal wagers are made well in advance. The California rule that allowed Modern Games to be a re-starter is because the late scratch was not the result of a malicious act.
Everyone is all for an overabundance of caution when it comes to the health and safety of animals and their riders and erring on the side of caution, on balance, saves all bettors potential millions of dollars over time.
But this was an official error, a huge mistake in a glaring spotlight.
“No, no, no, he was never touched,” said winning rider William Buick of the Albahr incident post-race. “He was checked but he was never touched, so there was no need to [examine] him…
“The vet team wanted to know what happened and I told them what happened and then the guy that opened my gate, thankfully, he exactly told them what he did and what happened there…
“[The stall handler] meant well and tried to do the right thing, but he opened the front gate without anyone being ready for it. Obviously, my horse does what he’s taught to do, and he jumps out. Fortunately, he got my message to be pulled up…
“So, you know they had all the information that was correct and I just don’t know whether there was a bit of confusion, a bit of panic back there…
“There was really no need for what happened to happen… They came around to do the right thing and let the horse run, because that was the only fair outcome. He was not harmed in any way at all. ”
Breeders’ Cup races are subject to CHRB rules, including Rule 1974 B:
“If a horse is removed from the wagering pool due to a totalizator error, or due to any other error, and neither the trainer nor the owner is at fault, the horse shall start in the race as a non-wagering interest for the purse only and shall be disregarded for pari-mutuel purposes.”
I agree with Buick that the officials did come around to do right thing for the stakeholders. But this is an easy fix, a few thoughtful keystrokes inserted into the California Horse Racing Board rule book–and in rule books in every jurisdiction. Racing need not wait on HISA for this.
For horseplayers, Buick’s summary is at best tone deaf. Then again, as members of the lowest rung on racing’s totem pole, they have gotten used to that.