Updated on 09/16/2011 8:39AM

Letters to the Editor


Complacency made system ripe for abuse

It does not surprise me in the least that the current pick six scandal embroiling the Breeders' Cup and the racing industry as a whole is taking place. The complacent management at tracks that account for 80 percent of the race betting in the United States found that it was in their best interest to take a blind-eye approach to looking into a big payoff, because an investigation would be detrimental to their interests. In addition, big payoffs offer big publicity, as these astronomic numbers give hope to big and small players alike trying to reap a big payoff.

I work with computers every day. I am well aware of security breaches that have taken place within corporate America and the federal government that never were brought to the attention of the public. The fact that pick six wagers made at a location outside of the host track allow for the transmission of the supporting data four races into the bet is a situation that is ripe for abuse. Horseplayers across the United States are suspecting that what took place on Breeders' Cup Day is not the first attempt at taking down a big pot in the pick six.

As for me, I'm finished playing the pick six. I just returned from Cal Cup Day at Oak Tree and even with more than $1.3 million at stake I kept my wallet in my pocket and didn't even buy a $2 ticket when once I would have dived in deep. I have lost confidence not only in how wagers are tabulated but also in the poor security surrounding the existing betting systems.

Let's hope the folks at Churchill Downs, Inc., Magna Entertainment, and the New York Racing Association take the hardest possible look at a problem that affects the fans in a very serious fashion.

Robert Winkleman - Los Angeles

A good starting point: inquiry into flaw's origin

The Oct. 31 article "Pick six: A hacker's paradise?" informed readers that pick six data is not transmitted all at once because the wagers include so many potential combinations that the size of the computer files could create traffic problems in the totalizator network that links tracks across the country. Instead, only the complete information from tickets still "live" after four race is transmitted into the commingled pools before the fifth race.

As a computer business owner for over 22 years I can say it is very odd that the data would be parsed because of size constraints. The size of data to include would seem to be very small and certainly would not create traffic problems.

This would almost seem to be an intentional design flaw. Perhaps the investigation should start there. Who initially designed this system?

Paul Sadler - Coshocton, Ohio

Shut down the bet or shut some windows early

Should not racing's authorities suspend the pick six until it is thoroughly established that there is no margin for any manipulation after the tickets are entered into the system?

If tracks feel that they will lose substantial revenue by suspending this popular pool, they should at least stop the practice of forwarding the ticket information to the main pool after the fourth race is over. They should, as with any other wager, transmit the information immediately after the pool is closed.

If one computer engineer could manipulate this at one center, could it not have taken place elsewhere? As suggested in Steven Crist's Nov. 3 column, "System needs overhauling," there would be nothing wrong in closing the offtrack windows a few minutes before the start of the wager's first leg.

Prasad Kavali - Chesterfield, Mo.

Don't cheat honest fans in the name of safety

Closing down wagering one or two minutes before post time would be unfair to the vast, honest majority. If you are looking for a solution, then focus on the bettors who bet after the start of a race, not those who bet before.

Why penalize the majority just because the tote companies do not have the motivation or incentive to put proper security in place? Institute the necessary procedures to safeguard against wagers being placed after the start of a race. It won't bankrupt the industry, and, more importantly, it won't penalize the honest bettor.

Sal Carcia - North Reading, Mass.

Tote companies need feet held to fire

Shame on me for not taking a few computer courses and making the pick six into a daily double.

The people responsible for allowing this fraud to happen should be held criminally negligent. Did they think that saying over and over again that it was impossible to cheat would make it true?

Never again will you see my money in the pick six until all selections are transmitted before the start of the first race.

Brian Melkun - New York City

Security panel lacking in practical know-how

It is somewhat reassuring to see the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and Breeders' Cup form a panel to review tote security (Nov. 3). With the exception of Jim Quinn, however, I wonder if the panel members - all but Quinn high-level executives - have the practical knowledge to understand the problem.

This looks like another corporate group formed for appearance rather than effect. I would have felt a lot better if a specialist in information systems security and audit, had been included on the team - someone actually working in that field.

Bruce Williams - Oakley, Calif.

NBC chose babble-head over Cup's real story

What was worse on Breeders' Cup Day: a) Mick Kinane's ride on Rock of Gibraltar or b) Kieran Fallon's ride on Hold That Tiger?

Answer: Neither of the above.

While Kinane demonstrated once again the folly of using overrated European riders in major American races, the worst performance on Breeders' Cup Day belonged to the NBC producers who missed the biggest story of the day by about the same distance that Fallon had Hold that Tiger away from the rail.

A year after surviving a grave illness and a day short of his 57th anniversary, a 77-year-old American horse trainer, P.G. Johnson, won the country's most lucrative race with a longshot horse bred and co-owned by his family. In the meantime, NBC chose to waste its postrace airtime with an interview of Bob Baffert, the trainer of the horse the network spent five minutes overhyping before the race. Interviewing Baffert after Volponi's performance was akin to interviewing the manager of the Milwaukee Brewers after Anaheim's World Series win.

When NBC finally got around to winning trainer Phil Johnson, there was no time left for more than a thank-you. Viewers learned nothing of his heartwarming story but were subjected the year's millionth inane interview with racing's biggest blowhard.

There will always be enough TV time for the Bafferts of the racing world. This should have been Phil Johnson's moment.

Mark Belling - Milwaukee, Wis.

Tribute to trainer really struck home

For the past two weeks, I've been looking at Volponi's past performances, trying to figure out how that horse won the Breeders' Cup Classic.

I have yet to come up with the answer of how, but I know why - so Karen M. Johnson would have the chance to write the beautiful and moving tribute to her dad, "Special thanks for a job well done," in the Nov. 3 Racing Form. It was a Classic.

Amy J. Zimmerman - Monrovia, Calif.