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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Get With the Program, Snagged in Ontario

A few week ago I wrote about a problem on Super Sunday at Chester Downs where the program information in Trackmaster and the On-track program was incorrect due to timing issues. In one case, Chester Downs turned off a switch which would have forced the program to print 'Line to Be Announced' when a horse was 'in to go' in another race. In this case, Chester reported via their track television broadcast that the horse raced in another race. While the information about the additional race was less than complete, at least it was announced. In another case, a horse raced at Freehold the day before but due to differences in the draw schedule between Freehold and Chester Downs, the Chester programs were printed before the horse was entered at Freehold. In this situation, it was not caught in time and the horse was barred from wagering.

Well, apparently it has happened again. This time at Pocono Downs. On this past Saturday in the fourteenth race, the Trackmaster program indicated the #4 horse was Rusty's All In. Well, it turns out that Rusty's All In was the #8 horse in the fourth race and the horse racing in the fourteenth race was actually Clear Vision. However, if you look at the Trackmaster program's fourth race, it showed the #8 horse as being Wambam Sam!

So to recap:
  • In the fourth race at Pocono Downs the Trackmaster program listed the #8 horse as Wambam Sam when in fact it was Rusty's All In.

  • In the fourteenth race at Pocono Downs, the Trackmaster program listed the #4 horse as Rusty's All In when in fact it was Clear Vision.

How the Pennsylvania Harness Racing Commission allowed Clear Vision or Rusty's All In to race without being barred in the wagering is beyond me. Last year, the Jugette had only one division so someone who is not well versed in the way the Jug and Jugette is conducted put the same program numbers on the horses in the second heat (post positions and betting numbers were redrawn after the first heat) in the simulcast program offered at NJ racetracks. As a result, the NJRC would not permit wagering on the second heat even though this error was discovered before the first race was run that day due to the confusion it would cause. In this case, the NJRC protected the bettors.

Memo to the PHRC (and Pocono Downs). Welcome to the 21st century. You know, the one where a significant, if not majority, amount of your wagering handle comes from either simulcast or ADW wagering. If you want people to wager on your product you better make sure you protect the interests of the fan/gambler off-track as well as on-track. Even if the program was correct on-track or they were able to rectify the situation at Pocono, there was no way you could properly rectify the situation for those wagering at simulcast sites around the country as well as from home. Yes, errors happen. The important thing is when errors occur that you address them correctly. To use a phrase racing commissions like to use, this borders on "Conduct Detrimental to Horse Racing".

Other than the failure of not barring wagering on these horses, I am not as much concerned as to where fault lies; just that it doesn't happen again. Being Trackmaster's racing products are as important as the regular racing program, steps need to be implemented to ensure the accuracy of the information in that the basic program information is identical between the on-track and off-track programs. If an error is discovered with the Trackmaster program, there needs to be a way to promptly correct and disseminate this information to those that purchased their products; at no charge.

In other news, last night the first disqualification under the new Ontario urging rules took place at Mohawk. Trevor Ritchie, driving down the stretch switched the lines to one hand and then whipped the horse, admittedly not aggressively. The Ontario rule mandates if a driver takes the lines into one hand for any reason other than an equipment adjustment and proceeds to whip the horse (it doesn't matter how hard or soft) the horse must be disqualified and placed last, no ifs and/or buts. As a result, the horse he drove was disqualified from first and placed last; not only causing people who bet on his horse to lose their bet, but cost the owner their share of the purse money and denied the horse the opportunity to compete in next week's final.

Well, most of those taking the time to comment are screaming. I can understand the debate and disagreement over the merits of the rule. The one thing I can't understand is that most people don't put any blame on Trevor Ritchie. This rule change was well publicized, with training sessions and a grace period with warnings. You may not like the rule, but right now it is the rule. The undeniable fact is if Ritchie drove with one hand in each line through the race or at least did not whip the horse when he was driving one handed there would not have been a disqualification. He should not get a free pass in this situation.

It is unfortunate that this occurred in such a high profile situation but if something good came out of this, I will be surprised if any other drivers will forget to drive two handed after this.


JLB said...

Pocono Downs has also disallowed a winning pick 7 ticket wagered in Canada because the denomination of the bet made in Canada (I believe 10 cents per bet) was less than the minimum accepted at the track, which is $ 1.00. This has led the "winners" to rightfully wonder why their bets were admitted into the Pocono pools in the first place. Pocono has announced that it had previously sent e-mails establishing its minimum wager policy to the track in question (Hippodrome de Quebec, I think), but if I held a winning ticket, I would be extremely upset.

Pacingguy said...

I am aware of the Pick 7 fiasco but have not commented because I don't know where the mistake actually occured.

For those that are unaware of what happened, let me try to briefly explain. Pocono Downs has a Pick 7 wager. According to Pocono Downs, the Pick 7 has a $2 minimum. Attractions Hippiques had been accepting wagers in denominations of a $1 and it has been accepted into the Pocono pools without any questions. Sure enough somone in Quebec hit the Pick 7 with a $1 base price. Pocono Downs refused to pay off saying it is a $2 wager. Attractions Hippiques has paid off the bet out of their own pocket and stopped taking the Pocono signal and has filed a complaint with regulators in Canada and Pennsylvania.

My quess is there was a misunderstanding. Probably when told there was a $2 minimum, Attractions Hippiques thought they meant the total of the wager had to be at least $2. Otherwise, you could not be one $1 combination, but as long as you bet a total of $2 or more it was OK. Pocono Downs meant the base price was $2 for each wager.

As unfair as it was not to pay the winners, paying off is unfair to those that play at Pocono Downs or elsewhere under the $2 minimum. Let's say I have $10 to play with. If at Pocono Downs I could only play 5 combinations. If I was able to play a $1 base ticket, I could have covered 10 combinations.

What should happpen is they should find out where the mistake was made and when it is determined who made the error (one of the tracks or their tote company) they should make good on the ticket out of their own pocket.

Degenerate Blogger said...

Totally agree Pacingguy, the bettor did nothing wrong and should be made whole.....period! Pocono made the mistake of making the Pick 7 wager a $2 dollar minimum in the first place. It should be 50 cents or lower imo.

Back to the subject at hand, if you watched the race, there was no reason for Trevor to put the lines in one hand and Trevor hardly moved. It was just a total brain freeze on Trevor's part. I would have expected one of the M drivers to get snagged first for the rules violation, not a WEG regular. The rule is what it is and they ruled appropriately. The bettor is left holding the bag just like a driver getting DQ'ed for other brain freeze violations like coming out without clearance. Like the new rules or not, the horses don't seem to mind the new rule.

Last night at Yonkers, I watched Jordan Stratton go completely overboard with the whip on a beaten horse that was done racing and had second clearly. I cringed when I saw it happen and understand why the new rules were put in place and I'm a grizzled vet. Let's see if he pays the price for his brain freeze.