11/30/2017 1:14PM

Large show bet at Portland Meadows draws scrutiny


The Oregon Racing Commission is conducting a probe into a race on Monday at Portland Meadows in which more than $9,000 in bets were placed on a 74-1 first-time starter to show, racing officials in the state confirmed this week.

The horse, Seismic Belle, finished last in the seven-horse maiden-claiming race, which was won by the 4-5 favorite. The massive show betting on the horse triggered relatively large payouts on the top three finishers, with the winner paying $6.80 to show, the second-place finisher paying $18.20, and the third-place finisher paying $13.

According to officials who are conducting the probe, $9,298 in show wagers on Seismic Belle were placed through the parimutuel system in Brazil about a minute before the race began. The total show pool of $12,024 was higher than the win pool of $10,331, and four times larger than the place pool of $3,087.

The circumstances surrounding the bet has all the hallmarks of a bettor or group of bettors attempting to drive up parimutuel payouts in order to cash show bets on other horses in the race at bookmakers that pay track prices. If that was the case, the bettor or bettors would have needed to place slightly more than $4,000 in show bets on the favorite to make a profit on the race, under a simplistic calculation that assumes the plan targeted the favorite.

The scheme is slightly more difficult to pull off than it sounds. Most bookmakers place limits on the amount a customer can bet on a race, especially at small tracks like Portland Meadows, and so the bettor or bettors behind the scheme would likely have had to spread the show bets among a sizable number of accounts. In addition, many bookmakers will refuse to pay off on bets in which there is an obvious manipulation of a parimutuel pool.

For players who bet the Portland Meadows race through the parimutuel system, the scheme didn’t have any negative consequences. In fact, a player who was monitoring the pools had time to place show bets on the favorite and other horses in the race after the large show wager on Seismic Belle was placed, and those winning bets paid off at far higher prices than if the Seismic Belle bet was not in the pool.

While the scheme smells funny, there’s nothing outwardly illegal about it, provided no trainers or jockeys conspired to keep a horse from finishing in the money. Seismic Belle had no obvious credentials going into the race, with two relatively slow workouts in the weeks prior to her first start. Her trainer, Dennis Hurley, has two wins from 112 starts this year, with $26,260 in earnings. The chart comment for her performance in the race was “no bid.”

An official with knowledge of the probe said that investigators are operating under the assumption that the bet was placed to drive up parimutuel payouts, most likely by bettors operating out of Central America or South America and placing wagers with bookmakers located in those regions.