02/24/2014 5:17PM

Andrew Beyer: No pot of gold at end of this Rainbow Six

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – When a bettor was disqualified out of a $1.66 million win in the final race at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, horseplayers across the country felt his pain – and his anger.

The bettor, whose identity and location are unknown, suffered a cruel fate in the Rainbow 6, Gulfstream’s devilish version of the pick six. The wager pays out a jackpot only when a single ticket contains all six winners. (If nobody holds a unique winning ticket, part of the day’s betting pool goes into the jackpot.) The wager has been as elusive as ever this winter, with the jackpot growing to seven figures and setting the stage for Saturday’s drama and controversy.

After hitting the first five winners, the unlucky bettor would hold the sole perfect ticket if the 15-1 shot Collinito won the finale. You can only imagine the person’s emotions when jockey Luis Saez sent his mount to the lead and opened an advantage of more than six lengths before another longshot, Strategy Keeper, launched a rally outside him in the stretch. With the challenge looming, Collinito failed to keep a straight path. He drifted to the right and slightly impeded his rival, though he never made contact. He pulled ahead with about a half-length of daylight between him and his pursuer, then went to the right again and into Strategy Keeper’s path.

Strategy Keeper dropped back, surged late and lost by a neck. The “Inquiry” light went on the tote board. The losing jockey claimed foul. Track president Tim Ritvo observed the proceedings and said, presciently, “Either way this is a disaster.”

With so many players chasing a potential life-changing payoff, Gulfstream profits every day the jackpot remains in play. On Saturday, betting on the Rainbow 6 exceeded $550,000. The disqualification kept the jackpot alive – there were eight perfect tickets that included Strategy Keeper – and many horseplayers concluded this was the most sinister conspiracy since the Kennedy assassination. The blogosphere erupted with outrage.

Among the comments at the Pace Advantage chat room:

“Highway robbery in broad daylight. The integrity of the game sinks to new levels.”

“I’ve watched the replay about 90 times now. Absolutely horrible call. This stinks to high heaven.”

“I saw nothing that would have warranted that [disqualification]. I’d be committing some kind of crime tonight had that been my ticket.”

Horseplayers are sensitive about disqualifications because all of us have been the victims of bad ones and costly ones. Stewards are maddeningly inconsistent. They’ll treat identical-looking infractions differently from one day to another. They’ll regularly overreact to an infraction in the stretch while they ignore a mugging committed in the backstretch. They’ll often disqualify a horse who drifts into the path of a rival while he is well in front and clearly on his way to a victory. In my cynical view, stewards are most likely to make a DQ for an infraction that occurs in the stretch run and doesn’t affect the outcome of the race. Yet despite their many failings, most stewards view themselves as being beyond criticism or questioning. The Gulfstream stewards would not answer questions about the Collinito DQ and issued only a two-sentence statement that left various questions unanswered:

“A horse must maintain a straight path down the lane so as not to impede, interfere or intimidate another horse. [Collinito] did not maintain a straight path and was not clear and put the other horse on his heels, forcing the jockey to stop riding twice and possibly costing him a position.”

Of course, horses don’t maintain straight paths like trains on a track. There is always bumping and swerving during the course of a stretch run, and if stewards made a DQ for every incident of “intimidation,” the sport would be in chaos. What if Collinito had gone on to win by three lengths? Would he still have been disqualified? Stewards rarely say what the rules really are.

In Saturday’s 12th race, the case for the disqualification was cemented by the fact that, after his encounters with Collinito, Strategy Keeper dropped back and then finished so powerfully. Chuck Streva, who calls the official charts for Equibase, wrote in the footnotes that Strategy Keeper was “bothered” by Collinito, using one of his mildest descriptions of trouble. Streva said: “If the horse had not come on so strong at the end, I don’t know if there would have been a DQ. But did the trouble cost him a neck? There’s no doubt. So I thought the disqualification was a no-brainer.”

It might not have been a no-brainer, but the DQ was warranted. There was no conspiracy to keep the Rainbow 6 jackpot alive. The stewards got it right. But this surely is small consolation to the bettor who missed the score of a lifetime. Nor will it inspire or bolster the betting public, which knows that stewards are apt to get the next one wrong.

© 2014 The Washington Post

mikey More than 1 year ago
What a joke today 3/6.With a 60% chance of rain they leave the p5/6 on the turf.Their was 5 of 10 scratches early in the last race.Gulfstream will go to anything they have to do to let this go on forever.With nobody to answer to these crooks just want to keep the money to the last day of the meet.Where is the interest on this money going.Maybe to get more young girls for the execs to smile at.
John Robinson More than 1 year ago
I saw this race, I have in my 30+ yrs of watching horse racing, and this was the WORST DQ ever...you could DQ half the winning horses based on this decsion...the Stewards are CORRUPT..The guy should seek legal action, like when the Seminoles claim a slot machine was broken after it gives a person a Million $$$ payout
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
Fine and suspend the jockey, deduct the purse, but keep the order of finish the same.
Richard More than 1 year ago
Welcome to my church !
racetrackandy More than 1 year ago
Is it true that 2 of the Gulfstream Stewards are employed by Gulfstream Park?
Bobby Yasinow More than 1 year ago
I have no skin in this game, but this was a lousy DQ. They never touchedd in the stretch. If you view the head-on replay, the #13 came over at the start and bumped the winner!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Absolutely terrifying to be taken down by the stewards. It is one of the most difficult things to do, is to win a horse race. Then out of the clear blue skies there is some stewards inquiry. Stewards only rule is never to be consistent. I have been taken down numerous times and never put up once. That is over a fifty year sampling. One of the worst was the Pletcher horse taken down in the Cigar mile. They put Tagg up, the only way he could win a race
Randall More than 1 year ago
Here's an idea do away with dirt and poly and race only on the grass in this country and see what happens.
Eric Singer More than 1 year ago
I didn't see the race and the link is not here. The standard of costing a horse a better placing is a tricky business. Relatively minor interference could potentially cause a change in the outcome. One thing I did want to say to the gambler whose ticket turned from gold to dust - Hey brother/sister I am so sorry this happened to you. I have had some winning tickets DQ'd over the years and nothing in anywhere near the neighborhood of more than a rock and a half. Take heart in your excellent handicapping; if you can hit that bet a regular pick six should be a piece of cake. Much respect and good cheer.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Huh? Do what?
Hail No More than 1 year ago
Eric's post is a breath of fresh air. His post exemplifies class, dignity and sportsmanship, We're all horseplayers, we can all feel the pain for this particular horseplayer, but I can't imagine being DQued for over a Rock and a half. (love that phrase) I thought it was sincere and a lot better than a lot of the mitching and boaning that often occurs on these threads..
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
this horse was correctly disqualified he cost the second horse the race.just look at the head on and you will clearly see what happened .I've seen plenty of bad calls this was not one of them.now having said that im not a fan of this bet its ridiculous to have a bet not pay out to the winners and only to the lone ticket.im also not a fan of the bad ridding we see on a daily basis and the intimidation jockeys use to dissuade other horses,the rules should be enforced to the letter if you take another horses path in the stretch you come down.if you cut a horse off around the turn you come down if you force a horse inside you on to the rail you should come down.every one seems to like rough ridding until somebody dies or becomes a paraplegic .i believe a lot of incidents could be avoided with a little civility on the track.
Juan DE La Cruz More than 1 year ago
I agree if there was a very clear contact. In this particular case none. I would compare this case in a basketball like a player "fishing" for a foul and he got it.
gus stewart More than 1 year ago
. Here is how this decision was made in my view.... Being a steward for that many years is probably to long as life politicians etc. They have been making judgement calls and some of the calls they make are not by the book. So in the past if you are a Jockey that was an aggressive rider ( Cordero Pincay) in an inquiry with a Shoemaker Mccarron those decisions were not always made by the rule book that was the way it was. Mr Brumfeild may be an honest guy and he and the others may have gone exactly by the rules in a step by step understanding and justify their decision in this case, but over the many races that would be under some kind of common sense interpretation as this race would be, run at any track over the last 10 years as they will usually do.... In this case they found a way to again justify a bad decision. Declaring starters or non starters in Calif or the example of jockeys bias or even trainers and owners bias it has to be consistent and most stewards who have been doing this for along time cannot be objective as a younger steward would be who hasn't gone through the examples of what I alluded too
Randall More than 1 year ago
Well said. Although the act of horse racing is relative to yesterday's the way we wager on those races has change drastically.