Most horseplayers remember the Breeder’s Cup Pick-6 scandal from 2002 in which a programmer at Autotote, Chris Harn, along with two friends, figured out the flaw in Autotote’s system to be the sole winner of a $2.57 million Pick-6.
Once I saw the structure of the ticket – 1 X 1 X 1 X 1 X ALL X ALL – I immediately thought something was fishy. I talked to a number of other horseplayers and there was unanimity. No way this was a bet any experienced horseplayer would make.
I happened to be friends with a high ranking executive at Autotote and I talked with him on the Sunday after the BC. At that time he gave me the company line and guaranteed me that the system was 100% foolproof and secure. I told him to start looking because someone had pulled a fast one.
Now I don’t know how much I had to do with pushing the investigation that ultimately revealed the scheme, but it pointed to an important lesson. Most horseplayers might not understand exactly how the software works, but they can spot a canard eight furlongs away.
On Thursday December 8 Gulfstream’s 20 cent Rainbow 6 was hit for $71,145.66. The Rainbow 6 is only paid out when there is a single unique ticket sold with all six winners. On days when there is no unique ticket, 70% of that day’s pool goes back to those bettors holding tickets with the most winners while 30% is carried over. The structure of the ticket that hit the bet was five singles to an all in the last leg
and was bought through TVG for $2.40. Was it deja vu all over again?
The horseplayer reaction was a little different this time. Some players noted there are syndicates that buy a large number of small tickets, and perhaps this was one of those. Other players noted that at least two of the horses in the first five legs were suspicious as singles – Bionsway went off at 11-1 and Latent Princess was almost 10-1. Only one of the horses, Policy Portfolio, was a short priced favorite. The other two singles were 5-1and 3-1. The big separator came in the last race when 42-1 Maria and Beto won.
Given that we had seen a similar situation in the not too distant past, it was fully on TVG or Gulfstream Park to immediately investigate and report to the public. If the play was generated by computer and was part of hundreds of separate tickets, this should show up pretty quickly. Since the ticket was purchased at TVG there should be a history of how many tickets were played, as well as whether this player regularly played such tickets.
Based on anecdotal evidence, and given the changes made by Autotote after the 2002 scandal, the weight of horseplayer opinion is that there is no scandal. But still, given the unusual construction of the bet, the betting public needs an explanation. Even if TVG or investigators up the line were sure there were no shenanigans, the chatter on the ticket went on for a week afterward, far too long in my opinion. When something smells, even slightly, it is the responsibility of racing to immediately address the issue.
Racing cannot afford to let instances where there is a wisp of smoke spiral into out of control speculation. The integrity of the sport is under attack from a variety of fronts, and the last thing racing needs is a message that says, fool us once, shame on you, fool us twice – well who cares. Many horseplayers believe they are treated with disdain by the industry, mainly because there is never serious pushback from bettors when there is a scandal. A little grumbling, and the hard core go right back to playing.
I hope there is nothing to the Gulfstream Park Rainbow 6 payout, but the longer we don’t get a definitive answer, with clear evidence, the worse it is for racing.