Nearly ten months after the unsatisfactory outcome of Modern Games winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf as a “purse money only” runner, another confusing and frustrating incident involving an error left a sour taste amongst multi-race bettors.
On Tuesday, September 6th at Mountaineer Park, pre-race changes were announced for the card that included the scratching of #5 Holly Roller in the night’s third race.
According to Equibase’s website which tracked the changes, Holly Roller was reported as scratched with the sport’s official data provider at 6:19 P.M.
The first race at Mountaineer was scheduled for 7:00 P.M., and it also started the early pick four, covering the first four race winners that night. More than $35,000 was staked on the pick four by the time the pools closed at approximately 7:01, when the first race jumped.
There was just one problem – Holly Roller was not supposed to be scratched for the third race.
According to Joe Moore, Executive Director of the West Virginia Racing Commission, in the normal course of their duties the stewards at Mountaineer Park relayed a third race scratch of #6 The Good Flower to the track’s clerk of scales.
Following normal procedure, the clerk then reported scratches to the mutuels department, which triggers updates to all downstream wagering recipients.
Moore told the Thoroughbred Idea Foundation (TIF) the clerk erroneously recorded the scratching as #5 Holly Roller and not #6 The Good Flower. The error cascaded through all betting platforms and to Equibase.
The public was not made fully aware that Holly Roller was going to run in the third race until several minutes after the first race was run, an occurrence which rightly angered some customers whose pick four bets were already locked-in.
Equibase’s website reported the corrected scratch at 7:07 P.M. An image of the Equibase website reflecting the changes from September 6 is published below.
Holly Roller was sent postward as the 9-5 second choice and finished second.
“Had the horse won,” Moore said, “Mountaineer Park was prepared to pay on ‘all’ given the mistaken scratch and the inability of customers to use that horse in their bets.”
“To avoid a recurrence, we have updated protocols in the reporting of scratches between officials to include the use of the name of the horse while also introducing some additional checks. Our goal is to make sure this does not happen again.”
PROTECTING CUSTOMERS BETTER
While Holly Roller did not win the race, her presence in the field is discouraging for pick four bettors, the vast majority of which believed the filly was not running in the sequence.
“There is almost no way any horseplayer would expect a horse that was scratched 40 minutes prior to the close of betting, and remained scratched at the close of betting, could actually be unscratched later, run and impact a race in any way,” said Patrick Cummings, TIF’s Executive Director.
“The fairest outcome here would have been for the race to be treated as an ‘all-win’ for that leg of the pick four.
“While the race played-out harmlessly and the favorite won, decisions on how a multi-race bet will be paid out should be clear in advance to all customers. This incident highlights the fact that is not always the case. A horse that practically no one could use on their tickets ran in the race and had the chance to impact the final result.”
West Virginia generally adopts the Model Rules of Racing as maintained by the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI), which includes a series of wagering rules.
“There have been numerous examples in the last year that suggest rules need to be revisited and updated to better protect customers,” said Cummings.