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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Shooting Ourselves in the Foot

On Monday, May 10, the eighth race at Northfield Park was won by Redzilla at 56-1. The second place finisher was Laser Bay at 17-1 with Air Louie third at 11-1. Extravagant Manner (8-5), Scoremania (3-1), and Chip Chip Tabu (2-1) all finished out of the money. The2- 8 Exacta paid $586.80 with the 2-8-7 Trifecta paying $956.80. You can see the complete chart here.

While the Exacta payoff seems to be normal, there is no doubt the Trifecta, with a pool reported to be in excess of $46,000, payoff was too low; so low that regulars were suspecting chicanery at work. Was the fix in? Perhaps it was a case of expert handicapping? It was neither.

The favorite, Extravagant Manner broke at the top of the stretch before the race started. After watching the replay, I noticed there were ten seconds between the break and the time the race went off. During those ten seconds, gate callers moved in. It is reported at Harrington Raceway, gate callers purchased three $10 wagers boxing the field in the triple and at Philadelphia Park, three $1 boxes of the field were purchased during this period. Supposedly, similar tickets were purchased at other sites. Hence, in light of this information, the pay-off seems to be legitimate.

Of course, this information may have come too late for some gamblers. Some horseplayers may have already sworn off Northfield Park, if not harness racing all together, when they saw a pay-off which seemed suspicious. They may never hear about the gate crashers taking advantage of an early break well before the start of the race. As far as they are concerned, if they were lucky to have that Trifecta selected, they were screwed. In fact, most of those playing Northfield Park, with the exception of the gate crashers were likely shaking their head in disgust.

It is bad enough we don’t refund wagers on a horse which breaks ten seconds before a race starts, but we are shooting ourselves in the foot by letting people continue to wager when in effect, the race is already underway (if you can’t get a refund on a horse which breaks before the start, the race has, in fact, begun). While these situations occur infrequently, these are the races gamblers remember.

I know a lot of the big gamblers bet in the last minutes and they are the ones which fuel the handle but rest assured, they are not happy with unusually low payoffs either. We can’t have two sets of rules; either the race has begun or not. Harness racing needs to once and for all come up with a set point when wagering stops, and until wagering stops, people should be getting refunds on horses which break stride beforehand.. If we are not going to do that, we are telling the casual player that there are two sets of rules for playing the horses and they may as well stay home for the rules they play by are for pigeons.

And we wonder why we can’t attract new players?

1 comment:

Scott Jeffreys said...

The situation where large wagers (based on breakers) are made between the time the field is in the hands of the starter and the go-command is issued can be easily remedied.

Once the starting car rolls, lock the wagering windows. You'll lose the last 30 seconds of wagering but you gain credibility.

Handle vs. integrity : which path do you think will be followed?