California Horse Racing Board member Steve Beneto said, “To Hell with the bettors,” a couple of weeks ago. Golden Gate and its jockeys put this attitude into practice in a big way on Sunday.
The pity is, this happened at the tail end of the most glorious non-Breeders’ Cup weekend in memory, the Belmont Stakes Festival.
Instead of everyone feeling upbeat about the game, the latest screwing of the customers is the topic among those who follow and participate in racing most avidly.
You can only abuse people so long before they get disgusted and walk away. Indeed, there are already calls for a boycott of California racing as a result of this.
MIAMI, June 16, 2016--Golden Gate had a jackpot of almost $2 million Sunday in its version of the Rainbow 6. Because it was closing day, the pool had to be distributed without the “single winner” qualifier. As usually happens, this attracted enormous participation of more than $4 million from bettors nationwide.
In the midst of the wager, the jockeys decided the turf course was unsafe and they refused to ride the 10th and 12th races on the grass. This was after they had already ridden three races on the turf, including the 8th race, which was part of the jackpot sequence.
There was no change in the weather or description of the “firm” course. Maybe a new listing needs to be created, “chopped up.”
If there was a potential problem, the riders should have informed management after one of the earlier grass races, before the Rainbow 6 began. They were not oblivious to the extraordinary action taking place Sunday.
The jockeys’ decision necessitated making the 10th and 12th races “all’s.” The Rainbow 6 became a pick 4, which resulted in a tiny payout of $146.16 per winning 50-cent ticket.
The whales and syndicates, which invested tens of thousands, were royally shafted. So were smaller players who pooled resources to cover more combinations.
This abomination could have a carryover effect—excuse the term--on all such mandatory payoff pools. A reluctance to jump in with both fists might develop out of fear of an encore wherever the bet is offered.
There is shared culpability here. Golden Gate, as painful as it might have been, should have announced a total refund when it learned two of the final three races would have to be all’s. Management could not have been unaware that the turf course was problematic.
With the huge pool anticipated, no turf races should have been scheduled. They were, of course, because grass races draw bigger fields, which translates to more combinations having to be covered.
The jockeys involved have to receive sanctions. They were aware of what was at stake. The course couldn’t have been that bad. They rode it three times earlier in the day without incident. Nevertheless, they made a decision that gave the entire sport a black eye with repercussions still to be felt.
The CHRB should issue fines and/or suspensions as the least of the consequences. The chances of this happening are, of course, nil. As Beneto said, “To Hell with the bettors.”
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