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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


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.

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11 Responses

  1. John,
    I thought you might be able to shed some light on my particular situation with my Pick 4 and 5 tickets that I mentioned in yesterdays post. I have contacted both Del Mar and my wagering site and neither have addressed it. As I mentioned I had the 1,2,and 3 in the final leg both 1 and 2 are scratched, I already have the next favorite on the ticket. So am I given the next two shortest odds entries behind the 3 or what. If I was given the next two, at 7-1 Tiz the Bomb I believe would have qualified not sure of the final odds on all entries.
    Nobody has been willing to address this (not surprising and kind of figures).
    Just wondering what The Horse Racing Rules are!
    Certainly understand if you don’t want to address this, just thought you might have some insight.

    1. There is nothing in the CHRB rule on this, so you know they have cover. Expect no action to be taken. The rule as written needs changes but where do the sub-qualifiers end? A might unwieldy. An ALL race is the most equitably fair solution in my view…

    2. That error should have been eaten by the track and all multi race wagers to the 1 should have been paid out at the will pay prices after the 2 horse is removed. You have to eat that mistake. Why is the owner protected there with getting to run for purse money but the bettor isn’t?

      It’s this simple; the people who lost Multi race wagers there by having the 1 were ripped off. I hope lawsuits abound. Especially nice touch having a baffert horse kick off that late double.

      Why couldn’t Dunbar Road find one more inch? That one is going to hurt for a long time.

      Interfering jockey note: after Irad Ortiz took the Shoemaker Award for best BC weekend riding performance – for the 4th consecutive year – he got on a plane and rode 3 winners at Belmont yesterday to take the Belmont riding title by 1 over Jose. We have an all time great riding in his prime. The next generation was gifted its own Angel Cordero.

    3. Mike, Rules vary from state to state. Personally I think that sub-sets of 2nd favorites, third favorites etc., too unwieldy and would confuse rank and file players. Still think the most equitable solution is making it an ALL race. That’s the fairest, in my view…

  2. John,
    The game can just wear you out. Once,I would like to see the bettor not get the short end of the stick. A Ca. horseman,I think his name is said think of the horse and gate man. All of us do not want to see a horse or anyone hurt,but bettors have every right to complain,especially when it happens in CA. where anything goes is encouraged

    1. Depends on where in California, Aaron. SA has some of the most player-friendly policies in the game. The track is not responsble for the actions of the CHRB or how the stewards adjudicate foul claims and such…

      1. Have to accept your expertise on the matter, even though it does seem that Ca. racing is a haven for a trainers with reputations that are less than stellar.I guess that stuff goes on in every jurisdiction. I sometimes look at Fla. racing and some of the trainer patterns are thru the roof. NY seems to be the most normal on the trainer front. It might be because, the trainers know what they can and cannot do. Stay safe. Be well

        1. Aaron, If you expect I would vigorously disagree with your summation, you would be disappointed…

          1. Take a look on Equibase at the stats for trainer Kevin S. Patterson. Why is the greatest trainer of all time wasting his skills down at Charles Town when he could be making 10x more per race at the NYRA circuit?

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