08/06/2011 12:05PM

Big Bet at Monmouth

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I was at Monmouth Park yesterday (Friday) to tape a couple of videos for this website, so I stuck around for most of the card because I especially enjoy that track. I’m glad I stayed (even though I lost), because I saw something in one of the late races that was, well, weird.

Moments after the prices were posted for the ninth race, a buzz shot through the stands the likes of which made you wonder if The Boss himself was plugging in in the winner’s circle. What really happened was Youland opened up as the 1-9 favorite (there are no such things as a 1-9 favorites; it’s just that old fashioned tote boards like the one at Monmouth can’t display 1-10) for the 10th race, thanks to a $10,000 win bet.

Friday’s 10th race at Monmouth was a weak optional $15,000 claiming/non-winners of two races other than allowance affair for New Jersey bred fillies and mares going a mile. Now, if Youland figured to be a strong favorite in this race, then the $10,000 plunge to win on her might not have raised as many eyebrows. But she didn’t. The favorite in this nine-horse field figured to be Raiders Fan, who was coming off a decisive win for a $16,000 tag at Parx Racing on the turf, which is a good indication of how soft this dirt race really was.

As for Youland, she figured to be closer to one of the longest shots on the board. In fact, she was pegged as the third-longest shot in the morning line at 10-1, which seemed about right considering her record. Youland had made three starts this year, finishing seventh of 11 on a fast track in the first of them, beaten more than eight lengths at 54-1; then was beaten more than 20 lengths at 20-1 when seventh and last in the mud; and then last time out finished third of four at almost 13-1 on a good track in an off the turfer, beaten more than 11 lengths. Youland had not won in 10 starts dating back more than a year, and when she won that race, she was 23-1.

And it wasn’t like Youland was taking a massive class drop. She ran, unsuccessfully, as noted, at a similar level in three of her last five starts. Early in her career, she ran for a lower tag than the $15,000 she was in for Friday. Yet, there she was, sitting up there on the tote board first at 1-9, and then at 1-5, and then for the longest time at less than even money.

That’s not all. To add to the mystery, with about three minutes to post, well after the horses came on the track for their pre-race warm-ups, came the announcement that there would be a change of jockey on Youland. Clearly, her scheduled jockey, Jose Valdivia Jr., didn’t want to ride her, and apparently there wasn’t sufficient grounds to scratch her, so Paco Lopez picked up the mount.

By the time the dust settled and the gate finally opened, Raiders Fan was indeed bet down to favoritism at 8-5. But Youland held in to be second choice at 7-2, below a handful of horses who figured to be bet over her, in some cases well below.

The race itself was almost anti-climatic. Youland was in good early striking position, made a brief little move on the far turn like she might make some noise, but chucked it soon after and finished sixth. Raiders Fan never ran a jump and finished eighth. A 29-1 shot named Miss Tallahassee won by open lengths. A 21-1 shot just lost the place to the 4-1 third choice, with a 20-1 shot and a 43-1 shot finishing fourth and fifth.

This was all very reminiscent of the old days when a big bet in the opening flash on an improbable horse like Youland almost always represented layoff money from a bookmaker who just didn’t want to hold the bet and assume the risk. But who today bets horses with bookmakers when it is so easy to get down on anything anywhere via legal means? In the meantime, I have a call in to Monmouth Park, and if they have any pertinent information on this, I’ll update it here.

2:56 - John Heims, director of media relations at Monmouth, informed that the track's mutuel department is "99% sure" that the big win bet on Youland came from the Las Vegas Hilton.

ozzie More than 1 year ago
You are obviously an intelligent man, a fine handicapper and good at betting the races. Could there have been a conspiracy? Absolutely. Remember this!!!!!! NO NBA REF WOULD EVER BET ANY COLLEGE OR PRO GAME. Not a married govenor or President would cheat on their wife. Theorists like you and I are ocassionally correct. Bush intentionally sent General Powell to LIE TO THE UNITED NATIONS ABOUT SADDAM. Did any SAR Steward have any connection to a person who cashed one of the pick 6 tickets on Saturday. I would eagerly await the results of a thorough investigation of that scenario cuz more than the barn waste stinks sometimes on Saturday. Ozzie
mp909 More than 1 year ago
Mike: We noticed the same oddity as we were live to 3 of the horses in the pick 5 (didn't have the winner). It would be interesting to know if the bet was cancelled just prior to post. At certain tracks my friends and I have noticed a trend where inexplicably low odds come up on mediocre horses, only to go way up just prior to post. Our theory is that someone is making large (for the small pool size) early wagers in hopes that others will follow their lead on the "live" horse. Then just prior to the race they cancel their bets and wager on their choice all along, but get better odds because of the players who follow their deception.
Curt V. More than 1 year ago
Mike, Nice story coming from you. Butts:I'm afraid you're opening up the flood gates. Every red-boarding story is about to unfurl. I can see it now........ "I know a guy............."...............!!
flat-out-bust&broken More than 1 year ago
Interesting story - I have seen some familiar activity, shall we say, having been in the trenches since '87, I saw the exact same thing happen at GGF around 1990, I believe it was, also, $10k on a "hopeless" longshot. This story had a twist, however. The horse in question was about 7/2 as they neared the post when the bettor lost his nerve and cancelled his wager. The horse climbed back up to 20-1 or thereabouts. He proceeded to lay close and WIN with a steady advance during the stretch. There's very little I haven't seen at the racetrack when it comes to intrigue - it's nice to know that such oddities still exist, because that's what makes this game more than simply "interesting" - every element of human nature is on display from the good to the bad to the ugly. I was up all night trying to go through the p-4 sequence, and I became enamored with Trix In The City as I looked at all the company lines of each entrant as well as replays. There was much to like about this animal, I won't bore you with the details, but my main thoughts about the race were along these lines as I tried to guage the strength of the favorites: first, all the entrants had a little something to prove in this race, but the 4yos entered, particularly, figured to get backed in a manner that failed to respect all the questions that remained about their overall form as "4yos". There's a long list of excellent "classy" 3yos who failed to get faster at 4yo and up, who have burned inordinate sums of money in the process. I'm leery of taking a low price on such horses, and this is the time of year when we'll be seeing more and more of them. I was somewhat reluctant to be TOO harsh on Tapitsfly, given that the 2 highest beyers of her life came in the last 3 races of her form, but she still wasn't winning any of those, they were merely "competitive", not dominant. I'm not any more surprised that she ran 2nd than if she had run off the board. Bottom line - she was an underlay - just like the English bred making her 2nd US-start. I liked the outside mare who was trying to win this race again but her pre-race antics (not to mention the hard-to-believe favortism) caused me to throw her out completely. I was left with Trix and Dynaslew and Trix got the easy lead - I knew it was over when I heard Tom call out the half-mile fraction. My problems started before the race, however, as I ran out of time filling out tickets because I had slept until the 5th race to try and get a couple hours of sleep. Big mistake. I woke up very groggy and was never able to shake the cobwebs out of my head long enough to re-capture my thought-process for all the legs. None of it mattered, at the end of the day, when my "key" horse ran 2nd in the Whitney. Even though my first or second selections had won every race of the P-6 sequence leading up to the Whitney, and I didn't have the ticket punched, I still had a caveman P-4 that was "live" to my best bet, and the best horse in the Whitney, Flat Out, with 6 runners in the final leg. Even after the Whitney, Flat Out did nothing to diminish my sense of him as the best handicap horse in the US, at a distance of ground. This race was run like all the jockeys had participated in a web-conference to determine the pace; because the majority of horses were speed or pressers, they concluded that the most democratic thing to do was to restrain their mounts early and turn it into a 3-furlong sprint amongst the speeds and the pressers, screw the few closers (who were curiously absent from this web-conference). 49 AND CHANGE! In a Grade I LOADED with SPEED. With any pace, at all, I mean literally "any at-all", Flat Out wins this hands-down. Did the jockeys collude to keep the pace slow, giving the majority of them the best chance, while hampering the majority? Only DeTocqueville knows for sure, but the "tyranny of the majority" just cost me a very nice P-4. I hate democracy.