Kirchner: Open Letter To Breeders’ Cup, Del Mar And CHRB In Wake Of Juvenile Turf Imbroglio

On Sunday, Nov. 7, Breeders’ Cup Limited announced record pari-mutuel wagering handle for this year’s two-day World Championships. Total commingled betting from 19 countries was almost $183 million.  Breeders’ Cup, the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club and bettors in the U.S. and around the world should be congratulated for an outstanding two days of racing and wagering.

There were a number of other “firsts” this weekend.  Japan had their first (and second) Breeders’ Cup winners; Godolphin became the first owner/breeder of three winners in a single year; English trainer Charles Appleby won three races and internationally based horses won five races; trainer Christophe Clement added to his resume with a first BC win by Pizza Bianca and Kenny McPeek graciously “won” his first Championships race.  These “firsts” represented the best attributes of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships.

Another, more ominous “first” occurred this weekend, one that reflected a complete failure by officials at the Breeders’ Cup, Del Mar and the California Horse Racing Board.  The pari-mutuel wagering scratch of Modern Games in Friday’s Juvenile Turf race affected over $15 million in wagers from hundreds of thousands of bettors.  A thorough examination of how and why it occurred is necessary, and the incident should not be ignored or swept under the rug.

So far, the official response from the CHRB raises far more questions than it answers about the scratch.  A full report detailing the decision-making process surrounding Modern Games is crucial for the integrity of the Championships and for the racing industry.

There is ample precedent for such examinations, as Breeders’ Cup, racetracks and state racing authorities have previously worked together on similar reviews.  For example, events surrounding Go For Wand, Life At Ten, the Autotote BC “Fix 6,” backstretch security, pre-race examinations, and out-of-competition testing have all been part of joint reviews.  These examinations have led to new industry standards and protocols that have resulted in a better, safer and more secure sport.

Just a few of the many questions about Friday’s incident:

  • Did an on-track veterinarian authorize the scratch of Modern Games with or without a physical or visual examination?
  • Did the stewards ask any questions of the vet making the call for the scratch?
  • Did the stewards observe the assistant starter unlock the gate for Modern Games?
  • How and to whom was the scratch of Modern Games relayed to the Mutuel Department and Tote room?
  • Less than 2 minutes after the initial scratch, why were the pari-mutuel pools for Modern Games re-opened and then kept open for seven minutes?
  • Was there any discussion of leaving the pari-mutuel pools open and reinstating Modern Games as a betting interest?
  • How was it decided that Modern Games should run for purse money only and who took part in that discussion?

These questions, along with the over $15 million in wagers on that race, make it evident that a complete review is needed to determine what occurred and to protect the betting public in the future.

Next year’s implementation of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) will force the racing industry to face federal oversight of all its activities.  Thus far, the discussion around HISA has been centered on medication policies, drug testing standards and racetrack safety concerns. But the racing industry would be foolish to believe that its wagering problems won’t become subject to national scrutiny and the HISA Board would be remiss in their duties if they ignore wagering issues.

Sports betting is now legal in 27 states, and with Florida and New York sitting on go, horse racing is confronting a very formidable new challenge and one that has a much younger and participatory fanbase.  Current federal law prevents sports betting across state lines, but it permits horse racing to commingle interstate wagers. Does racing believe that this federal exemption will stay under the radar once HISA is implemented?  Issues involving interstate wagering were already part of the Jason Servis and Jorge Navarro cases.  Further, with wagering from 19 other countries into the Breeders’ Cup common pools, international considerations must be part of the discussions.

Look, we’re horseplayers.  We face bad beats every day on the track and at the betting windows.  We know that there are a 1,000 ways to lose a wager.  It’s now 1,001 ways!  Thus far for most horseplayers, we keep coming back.  The challenge of sports betting presents an attractive alternative for many racing fans, especially after incidents like the fiasco surrounding the pari-mutuel scratch of Modern Games.

I feel that for horseplayers, the $15 million in payouts in the Juvenile Turf race and our annual $11 billion of wagering handle plainly establish grounds that bettors deserve an unbiased and fair examination leading to a full public report on this matter.  The goal shouldn’t be to assign blame but to explain.  Then set policies in place to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

Kenneth Kirchner has been a racing industry executive for 30 years, including eight years as executive director of the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission and 20 years managing domestic and international wagering operations for Breeders’ Cup. He is a former vice president for National Thoroughbred Racing Association and Breeders’ Cup.

The post Kirchner: Open Letter To Breeders’ Cup, Del Mar And CHRB In Wake Of Juvenile Turf Imbroglio appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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