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Mar 08, 2010

American Turf Club Lead

By: Joe Girardi

            On Saturday February 27th, 2010, the weather here in New York resulted in the cancellation of racing at Aqueduct racetrack and left the best alternative for betting that day at Gulfstream Park. I usually play Gulfstream Park to some degree when Aqueduct is racing but on this day, no Aqueduct and Santa Anita also cancelled because their “all weather” track couldn’t handle the rain they got in Southern California yet again.

            The day started off in good order but as the racing card moved forward I caught few bets and was up a few dollars heading into the late races. The start of the pick four was race seven and six horses went postward. The slight favorite in the race was MATCHLESS ORINDA who I singled in the pick four and also needed to close out a nice pick three play. However, after leading for most of the mile race through moderate splits wasn’t able to kick away and had to settle for the place spot. With three races left and up money for the day I took a shot into the late pick three.

            The 8th race, the Grade II Davona Dale Stakes for three year old fillies looked like a two horse race on paper. BICKERSONS the slight favorite was coming off a big win four weeks earlier but showed she couldn’t get the mile distance tiring at the top of the lane and finishing fourth. AMEN HALLELUJAH, the second choice at 2-1, was able to challenge the lead of BICKERSONS after the quarter mile mark and took over into the lane drawing away for an easy 6 and ¼ length win. We are still alive after one leg.

            The 9th race on the card was the Grade III The Very One Stakes run at 1 and 3/8th’s miles over the turf course. Heading into the race the weather was still good. With about 10 minutes to post the skies opened up and it began to rain, they moved the turf course condition to good but they ran the race over the turf. Ironically the winner of the race was CHANGING SKIES who got up to win late at 4-1. Watching the race I was rooting for CHANGING SKIES to win but also kept a close eye on the turf course as the last race and final leg of the pick three was also on the turf. The turf course looked fine there didn’t seem like there were big clods of turf coming up so I figured there would not be any problems.

            The 10th race, a maiden claimer on the turf was ready to go and the gate as I was told was even on the turf course. With about 5 minutes to post I turned on the channel to see what the odds were, how many minutes etc. The horses were in the paddock walking around. The decision unbelievably was made to run the race on the dirt. Now, I say unbelievably for one reason, obviously I wouldn’t want the horses to run over the turf if the jockeys, management, felt it wasn’t safe. However, unlike NYRA which actually got this right, makes the races that are taken off the turf and all race if that race is among multi race wagers. However, the rules in Florida do not apply. So the four horses I was alive with, one scratched after the move to the dirt. I had a $5 consolation to get back $120, that was the one I had for the least amount of money. I stood to collect upwards of $1000 with all the horses, the only problem was they were all turf horses. One horse ran third, the other ran fourth and one was next to last never lifting a hoof. The winner of the race had one conventional dirt start and was second, he wins at 4-1. The pick three pays $376 for $1. It would have been nice to know that this race would be on the dirt because obviously that horse was a must use. When playing the pick three the last thing on my mind would be a switch in surface and unfortunately I guess I assumed that the rules would actually protect the public instead of harming them. We all know what happens when you assume.

            Not only did I only cash for $120 not even getting my money back for the bet, I HAD NO CHANCE to win the race with my other horses who didn’t want to run on the dirt. With the cancellations of both Aqueduct and Santa Anita the money bet into Gulfstream Park was even that much more. The pick three ending with the race switching to the dirt was $167,048, the double into that race, $129,277, the pick six was $26,845 and the pick four had the largest pool $353,233. That’s a total of the pools of $676,403 of money bet into the last race with the “assumption” that it would be run over the turf.

            There was an article in the Wednesday March 3rd, 2010 copy of the racing form where track president Ken Dunn explained what transpired in the frenetic minutes leading up to the decision. Basically he said that they wouldn’t want the jockeys to ride over a course that was unsafe and he did say “From a management standpoint we recognized this was not going to be a pleasant situation for anybody because of the multi-leg bets.” Yet they ran the race anyway, instead of canceling the race which would have been unfair to the owners and trainers and others that prepared for the race according to Dunn. Well let’s see you took $676,403 under false pretenses but instead of canceling the race entirely, how about this idea that no one could come up with I guess— run the race for purse only. This way the bettors don’t get hurt and the owners and trainers can run if they want to run. But of course once again the public gets the short end of the stick but the industry as a whole can’t understand why they are hurting. This is a prime example of the big problems the industry faces. Different jurisdictions have different rules regarding wagering, medication, etc. I know Gulfstream is probably more worried about the poker rooms or the mall or whatever else they have going on.  The betting public should always be the first priority but believe me it probably never will. Good luck betting on Gulfstream especially if there is a storm in the area.

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