01/27/2011 6:57PM

Surprise jackpot

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Five-horse fields are not the right cup of tea for most bettors.

The racing card Thursday at Santa Anita opened with a five-horse field.

Betting value? There was none, probably.

Schuylkill Punch was odds-on in the $40,000 maiden-claiming sprint.

It was a good race to pass.

The Santa Anita press box windows were open on the blue-sky, summer-like day. It was 78 degrees and relatively quiet as the horses neared the gate for the first race of the week.

A handicapper looked up from his laptop and eyed the infield tote board. He noticed something odd.

Schuylkill Punch (No. 6) had more than $100,000 bet on him to show. The entire show pool (total bet on all five runners) was only a few thousand higher.

“Show plunge!” he shouted and raced to the betting window.

“Five dollars to show numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4,” the man said. No. 5 already had scratched. It was a $20 bet, with a maximum loss of just under $10. Two had to hit the board.

When the horses broke from the gate, Schuylkill Punch (No. 6) had $115,200 wagered on him to show, from a total show pool of $123,713.

The worst-case scenario was the favorite would finish somewhere one-two-three. Two of the other four would run in, two would run out.

You see, when the “phantom plunger” bets, it is practically mandatory to play against. Usually, the favorite hits the board. A $2.10 show payoff on Schuylkill Punch would mean a profit of 5 cents per dollar for the plunger. Really swell.

But every so often, the favorite blows.

A pace duel unfolded. Schuylkill Punch, the favorite, battled head-and-head. Turning for home, he was in trouble. The favorite's pace rival began to pull away.

Schuylkill Punch began to back up. Two others rallied outside.

Four horses hit the wire together, and from between horses it looked like the favorite was out.

The official sign came down – the favorite finished fourth!

The $2 show payoffs were $40.60, $29 and $22.20.

The $5 show payoffs were $101.50, $72.50 and $55.50.

Total return for $20 wagered was $229.50.

Betting value is usually minimal in five-horse fields on sleepy weekdays at Santa Anita.

But you never know when something weird might happen.

Nancy More than 1 year ago
When an overlay on a show bet is the best California has to offer, that says it all. Heaven forbid having a few full fields and pick-six carryovers to play. Incredibly, there have been only two pick six carryovers in almost eight weeks in Southern California! So much for Santa Anita's best marketing tool. Does the CHRB have a back-up plan other than raising the takeout every time business predictably nosedives? Time to dissolve the CHRB if this is the best they can do.
Bill Tran More than 1 year ago
The same scenario occurred in the second race as well. When I saw another $85,000 go into the show pool for LunchTime Diva, I bet to show on the 1 and 2 and made a 9-1 profit as the favorite again ran out of the money. Is the first time that you have seen this happen on two consecutive races?
Stringmail More than 1 year ago
I thought this story would suggest looking to another venue to play since the field size is so pathetic in So Cal these days ... I would be interested in knowing the ROI of those bridge jump "chasers." We never hear of the successful jumps only those splashes as they are newsworthy. Granted all it takes in 1 miss out of 20 for the jumper to fail but all it takes is 1 missed opportunity from the chasers to keep the ROI negative in the chase. If the chaser is just playing show based on the opportunity that arises with no semblance of handicapping, Zenyatta left his bankroll shallow while Schuylkill Punch left him flush. In other words, similar to the jumper, the chaser has to pick his spots.
Vince More than 1 year ago
My gosh! Is this what things have come to at the once majestic Santa Anita? Sitting around waiting for some bridge-jumper to blow a 100K show bet so we can collect outrageous show prices? What a pity. I haven't made show bets since I was sneaking into the track as a teenager with coins I dug out from under the cushions of my grandfather's couch. I'm sure Bob Baffert is grinning from ear to ear as he enters front-running winner after front-running winner on the new "1:06 Freeway." Meanwhile, bettors are left with watching the tote board and hoping for some off-the-wall phenomenon to take place so we can cash something other than a $3 win ticket. Santa Anita ... from The Great Race Place to Turf Paradise, West. And, it only took a few years of wrong-headed management to do it.
early More than 1 year ago
Nice hit! Hope you let it ride with the same bet in the five-horse second race.