12/01/2008 1:00AM

Contest halted by Churchill


A major technical snafu led to Churchill Downs canceling its online handicapping contest known as the "Biggest Vegas Qualifier Ever" in progress on Saturday.

More than 500 online players paid $250 apiece to enter the 15-race contest conducted through the Churchill-owned twinspires.com, but many were unable to make their selections in a timely fashion because of a computer-software glitch, according to Churchill officials.

Fifteen berths in the Jan. 23-24 National Handicapping Championship finals in Las Vegas were among the prizes at stake in the contest, for which a new date had not yet been finalized, Churchill's vice president for racing communications, John Asher, said Monday.

Asher said immediate refunds of the entry fee were made to all players, and that consolation payoffs were made to the top 20 players "at the time the problem arose" and to the top 20 "at the time the contest was canceled." He added that e-mails apologizing for and explaining the problem have been sent out to all contestants.