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Are rule changes in order for Pick-4’s and 6’s?

April 20, 2018

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In the wake of the Miso Fast snafu at Pompano, something should be done to protect bettors.

by Brett Sturman

One persisting issue in multiple race bets such as the Pick-4 or Pick-6, is what occurs in the event of a late scratch in one of the sequenced races.

Simplified, the rule is that in the event of a scratch in one of the races, tickets that had the scratched horse would then assume whichever horse goes off as the race favorite. While generally accepted, it doesn’t exclude the rule from controversial scenarios from time to time.

This past Sunday at Pompano Park featured one those such instances. Social media reaction to the occurrence can be found in Buzzworthy on page 4.

In summary, prior to the final leg of the Pick-6 and the third leg of the Pick-4, there was a late scratch to what would have been a 1-5 prohibitive favorite, Miso Fast. Deteriorating weather conditions, which started a couple races earlier, is what led to the decision to scratch the horse, and the late decision wreaked havoc for bettors.

By rules, money on all Pick-4 and Pick-6 tickets on Miso Fast had to default to the eventual race favorite, which in this case was lukewarm favorite Dee’s Rocketman. Herein lies the most common argument against bettors inheriting the post time favorite – if people wanted that horse to begin with, they would have already had the horse on their tickets. The post time favorite rule forces a horse on a bettor that he didn’t want in the first place.-

Of course, late scratches are inevitable and this type of scenario plays out every day at tracks across the country, but what made this situation unique was how much of a favorite the scratched horse was. An overwhelming amount of money was likely “singled” to Miso Fast (meaning bettors bet only that horse and no others in this race because he would have been that close to a sure thing), and money was then transferred to a far less desirable horse who would have never been bet in the same accordance.

Predictably, the race favorite could only finish third. What ensued was a single Pick-6 ticket paying over $18,000 to a bettor that was astute enough to have Miso Fast on his ticket along with the actual race winner. The high payoff was a result in part to all money on Miso Fast being dumped to the post time favorite, and then the post time favorite losing with the combined money of both horses going down with it.

This incident reminded me of a race from Yonkers a few years ago where an even more egregious consequence of this rule played out.

In a Yonkers Trot elimination, Nuncio, one of the greats of our generation, raced while being a “late barred from wagering.” He was still able to race, but all Pick-4 tickets on Nuncio ended up going to a hapless other horse who ended up as the post time favorite in the wagering, but who broke and finished last.

Yonkers was not required to take any action as far as making amends to bettors under the rules, but to their credit because of the degree of the injustice that had occurred, the track offered refunds days later to anyone who still had tickets with Nuncio.

With all of this said, does a better solution exist? The rule to replace a late scratch with the eventual race favorite might seem to be the most practical option, but it isn’t always fair to the bettor, as we have seen.

The rule to replace a scratch with the post time favorite has never made much sense and it certainly isn’t fan friendly. In any other single race exotic, all combinations involved the scratched horse are refunded.

I could think of other alternatives such as giving bettors an option for action or no action on their bet if a horse somewhere along the way is scratched, but there’s too many drawbacks to that option from both the bettor and the racetrack.

Instead, what about the option of treating a scratched horse just like a scratched horse would be treated in the case of single race wagers such as an exacta or a trifecta?

In these instances, all combinations involving the scratched horse are refunded. For example, if you had a 4-horse $1 exacta box which would cost $12 and one of those horses was scratched, the bet would still be live using the other three remaining horses. The bet is then reduced to a 3-horse box now costing $6, and regardless of the outcome the bettor has a $6 refund coming back to him, while still having a chance to win the bet as well.

The only wrinkle in this alternative is what if the scratched horse is the only horse that you used in a race? In this case, the only option would be to refund the entire bet. The same thing would happen if you did a 2-horse exacta box and one of those horses was scratched. You can’t physically win with only one horse, so the entire cost of the bet is refunded. The problem in a Pick-6 is imagine that you have won the first five legs with only the final one remaining. Would you really be content with the entire wager being refunded at that point with no chance to cash even though the first five legs were hit?
Perhaps an additional option could exist where if a bettor is selecting only a single horse in any given race, that they be given the option beforehand to include an “alternative” in the event of a late scratch. But now we’re into the logistics of an antiquated tote system and maybe it’s not even possible for such logic to be programmed into a wager.

There remains no ideal solution at this time, but forcing players into a horse they didn’t originally want doesn’t seem like the best one.

Levy and Matchmaker finals picks

What a difference a couple of weeks makes.

After the third of the five preliminary legs, Dr. J Hanover couldn’t lose and Keystone Velocity seemed left for dead. Now two weeks later, Keystone Velocity has gotten his groove back and is suddenly the morning line favorite in his attempt for back-to-back Levy’s. Doing so would be the first time a horse has accomplished the feat since Foiled Again way back in 2009 and 2010. But will he be able to do it?

Now age 10, it took last year’s older pacing horse of the year to find his better form, but Keystone Velocity is coming back into his own at the right time for trainer Allard. On the outside looking in two weeks ago, he raced well to finish second two back, and then tripped out last week to secure his first win of the series. From post 3 on Saturday and speed to his inside he’s likely to get away a few spots from the top and take his chances coming from off the pace; he’s certainly a horse that’s proved he can win that way and I’d imagine he’ll be primed for a big drive with all the money on the line.

There’s plenty of question marks to go around for many of the others in this race. I mentioned here two weeks ago that while you can’t knock an unbeaten horse in the series, that Dr. J Hanover had things all his own way throughout his first few races. I honestly thought he simply wasn’t anything near his best last week following the prior week off, and now I must be inclined to let him beat me if he can.

The biggest wildcard in here could be Western Fame. He put it all together for two weeks in a row but then wasn’t as strong again last week; a bit of puzzling horse. But he does have the rail and I wouldn’t be surprised if Mark Mac tries to take no prisoners from this spot; you just can’t count out Takter horses in situations such as this one.

Bit Of A Legend N was the top points getter through the first five preliminary legs and accomplished it while landing outside posts; for that he deserves tremendous credit. Landing post 7 in the finals almost doesn’t seem fair, but remember he sprung the big upset from an outside post in last year’s Gerrity at Saratoga. Any live flow aids his chances and you obviously can’t question his talent or form; likely to offer an enticing price.

Levy Picks: 1-3-7-2

On the female side, Shartin N made things interesting for the final coming off a less than inspiring race last week. Returning from taking the fourth leg off, she broke at the start last week. She recovered into the first turn but was then taken wide in the stretch the first time around before breaking again. You’d have to assume that Jim King will make the necessary adjustments and she’ll be fine, but should she falter again it would leave the door wide open.

Lady Shadow has seen the excuses pile up of late but that was a pretty game speed try last week. She’d still need the race to break her way, but if it does, she’s still good enough to capitalize on it.

Sell A Bit N has won the bookend legs of this series including last week from the rail; guaranteed to be up close on Saturday while starting from post 2. Dudesalady couldn’t have picked a better time for Saunders to win her first race of the series. That was an impressive first over effort into solid fractions to prevail; can be included at a price. Lakeisha Hall will go into this as the series high point getter but was only fair last week as the beaten favorite. Twinkle has the misfortune of landing post 7.

Picks: 1-6-4-2

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