10/22/2013 4:16PM

Kentucky approves pick six for Churchill Downs fall meet

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LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission on Tuesday approved a new pick six bet that is expected to be launched at the upcoming Churchill Downs meet, but it did so only after several commissioners raised pointed concerns about a potential quirk in how a portion of the pool will be paid out.

The new pick six, which Churchill is calling the “Single Six Jackpot,” will have a 50-cent minimum and be offered every day during Churchill’s fall meet, which begins on Oct. 27. Each day, 80 percent of the net pool of the pick six will be paid out to the bettor or bettors who select the most winners, while the remaining 20 percent of the pool will be paid out only in the case of a single winning ticket. If there is no single winning ticket, the 20 percent carries over.

The Churchill pick six is modeled on the Rainbow Six, a bet that debuted at Gulfstream last year that has generated intense interest from some horseplayers due to the size of its carryovers and 10-cent minimum. The Rainbow Six uses 40 percent of its net pool for the single-ticket payoff, compared with Churchill’s 20 percent.

While Churchill has enthusiastically embraced the concept, two commissioners who are avid horseplayers -- Burr Travis, a Cincinnati-area attorney, and Frank Jones Jr., a Louisville businessman – expressed dissatisfaction with Churchill for failing to address a remote possibility in which a horseplayer would be denied the full carryover payout if a scratch in one of the races turns a single winning ticket into two winning tickets.

That situation could arise if the bettor had used two or more horses, including the favorite, in a single leg, with one or more of the selected horses being scratched after the pick six sequence has started. In that case, the bettor receives the post-time favorite in the race for each scratch. If the favorite wins the leg, then the bettor would have two winning wagers, and the jackpot would carry over, even if the wager the bettor originally placed would have been the single winning ticket if the scratch had not occurred.

Travis and Jones had raised the same concern at the commission’s September meeting and asked Churchill to address the situation before the Tuesday meeting. Since then, Churchill officials said, the track has developed a series of notifications that will be distributed to its simulcast outlets and that will appear at the track and at the website of its account-wagering company, twinspires.com, they said. The notifications will clearly explain the rules for the payout of the bet, the officials told the commission.

Kevin Flanery, Churchill’s president, said after the meeting that the track had considered “eight to 10 different versions” of the rules regarding payouts when asked if the track had contemplated adding a specific exception to the rule to address the rare but plausible situation outlined by Travis and Jones.

“We felt this was the best way to handle it, and we’ll monitor what happens during the meet and make changes if we need to,” Flanery said.

Robert Beck, the commission’s chairman, had to ask three times whether there was a motion to approve the bet’s rules as written. Travis eventually offered the motion, and he voted to approve it, along with the rest of the commission.

Dates for 2014 approved

Also at the meeting, the commission unanimously approved live racing dates for 2014 that are nearly identical to the racing dates of 2013, including a September meet at Churchill. The dates were agreed to after Kentucky Downs had requested a sixth racing date for next September but dropped the request because of a conflict with Churchill.

“We are okay with it, but I just want to go on the record with the industry that we would like to run more days,” said Corey Johnsen, Kentucky Down’s president and a member of the partnership that owns the track.

Flanery told the commission that Churchill objected to the additional date because of a “matter of horse inventory.” Tracks are struggling to maintain full fields of races due to precipitous drops in the foal crop over the past five years and a reluctance of many tracks to cut racing dates from their schedules due to opposition from horsemen.

Commission curious about Turfway's ties to Caesar's Entertainment

At the end of the meeting, Travis asked Chip Bach, the general manager of Turfway Park, whether he had had any discussions with the track’s majority owner, Caesars Entertainment, since it was disclosed on Friday that Suffolk Downs in East Boston had asked Caesars to drop out of its bid for a casino. Suffolk officials said that they made the request after investigators for the state’s gambling commission indicated that they were unlikely to grant a license to the company.

Bach said he had only recently been made aware of the situation in Massachusetts but that he intended to follow up on the news.

Susan Speckert, the commission’s legal counsel, told the commission that she had placed calls to Turfway’s legal counsel and Caesar’s compliance officer seeking information about the situation. Like all racetrack companies in the state, Caesar’s holds a Kentucky racetrack license.