Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Seven Figure DQ

Yesterday in the last race at Gulfstream, a bettor had one horse to win the jackpot Rainbow six.  The horse was disqualified, and one person got a bad beat of epic proportions.

I am not here to argue the call was bad, or good. There's enough opinion out there on that (in my timeline, the call being a bad one beats the people who think it was good by a decent margin), but it's not the point.

Bettors have been arguing for years that the system for inquiries, judging and its consistency have been a pox on racing's house. Whether it's been suspect and completely inconsistent calls on herding, to lack of transparency, to the Kentucky Breeders Cup stewards watching a football game on one of their monitors, this lack of professionalism and seemingly arbitrary standards has been griped about.

Although the industry likes to say "it's just those HANA whiners" or a bunch of complainers who lost a bet, that would be wrong. People who are complaining have a right to complain, and most of what they want should've been a staple in this industry for a hundred years or more.

The way inquiries are handled is insulting; to everyone, from participants to horse owners, to bettors.

Although it's folly to compare everything by saying "look at Hong Kong" because it's one jurisdiction with only a couple of tracks and few racedays, well........ look at Hong Kong.

From the HK Racing Post:
  • “The Eliot Ness-like Kim Kelly and his team of racetrack law enforcers ruthlessly cross-examine the riders of good things beaten, or bad things ridden cold, and painstakingly investigate replays from myriad angles like it's the Zapruder film. The level of detail is welcome - and the incident reports are another example of "world's best practice" for the Jockey Club.”
Judges are judged as well, they must update their skills, and the rules themselves are constantly monitored to ensure they are working properly. It’s above board and it’s professional.

In the US and Canada there's over ten billion bet on racing. Ten billion with a "b". The way that money is watched over by racing for its customer base would never be allowed in any other business.

How hard is it to set standards, how hard is it to establish some form of consistency, how difficult is it to do what Hong Kong does and explain it to bettors like they are what they are - someone with a huge stake in the outcome?

Monopolies like horse racing was for generations allowed it to stagnate on many levels. Because of that, we as customers hear: "that's the way we do things in racing", constantly, whenever any issue comes up. Well, the way racing does things - many, many things - are wrong and bad for its business.

An airline executive said something recently I found apropos, "customers don't expect you to be perfect, but they do expect you to fix things when they go wrong". Racing has had fifty or more years to establish a transparent, open, respectful and accurate system when it comes to inquiries. Like with most issues like this, customers got tired of waiting and headed for the exits.  Who can blame them?

Related: Today's Update.


kyle said...

Sad to say, I don't think it's possible in The US to instill responsibility, transparency and regimes of excellence in systems heavily influenced by politics. It used to be one could live with the capriciousness of stewards. The bad calls were likely to even out in the long run. The calls are never going to even out for this bettor - or thousands of others in this age of super-exotics. We need to cut The Gordian Knot. Either no more dqs for betting purposes or turn the dqs into dead heats. We can't continue to trust these guys with this kind of power.

Walt Gekko said...

I did get to see the head-on replay of the stretch run when this happened (on TwinSpires, it's on the main replay feed following the race itself during the inquiry). It was a ticky-tack call, but nonetheless actually was the correct call and unfortunate that someone lost a $2 million Pick six because of that.

I seriously doubt the stewards realized how their decision would be looked at. Had the DQ not happened, I suspect there would be those who would have claimed the stewards did that because they didn't want the controversy of denying someone $2 million as well, especially since technically the DQ was correct.

Stillriledup said...

My general feeling is that DQs should be made on a basis of "if there is ANY way you can leave the winner stand, you do so. I feel that judges essentially look for ways to dq horses as opposed to look for ways to leave them up.

In this particular incident, it did appear that the runner up caused much of his own problems by being rank or green and lugging in behind the leader, to me, that seemed to give off the illusion that the leader came far out, but the runner up was just focused and staying in a straight line.

Stillriledup said...

sorry, typo, i meant to say the runner up was NOT focused.

the stockbroker said...

The one thing that could/should be done more often and isn't would be for a horse that does cause an issue but not enough to alter the result should allow the result to stand but still give jock days, it seems the stews act as if to punish a jock for an infraction they must DQ to give days, punish the jock NOT the fan/bettor as often as possible

Anonymous said...

In the 1980 Preakness the stews were brutally criticized for leaving Codex up in much the same situation. In both races the lead horse came off the turn in about 3 horse position and while not clear packed a closing horse out about about 3 more positions. The difference being that in that race Codex drew off from Genuine Risk and won by 5 easy lengths. In the 12 race at GP yesterday the 13 was closing and only lost by a neck. Hard to argue that having to steady and change course (twice!) could not have cost the horse the win. But most people wanted Genuine Risk (the filly Derby winner) to win the triple crown and were outraged that Codex was not taken down, just like sympathy for the Pick 6 bettor who lost the pool is driving the criticism of this DQ.(cross posted at

Unknown said...

Just pay it the way it runs, all these owners want to appeal anyway, so take it to the appeal stage right off the bat

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