05/23/2002 12:00AM

Mid-race odds changes rankle horseplayers


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Perhaps the most annoying aspect of this age of simulcasting is how the odds change after betting has closed. Horseplayers frequently complain about how they are shortchanged after their horse has left the gate at something like 2-1, only to cross the wire in front at 6-5.

This unfortunate process, which is a result of the unavoidable "dumping" of last-minute wagers - primarily from offtrack simulcast sites - affects not only the win pool, but all pools. The situation can become even more exacerbated when the dumping changes which horse ends up the post-time favorite. This is precisely what occurred in the sixth race Wednesday at Churchill Downs.

The peculiar series of events began just a few minutes before post time when Uncle Vic, the morning-line favorite and 4-1 third choice at the time, was a late scratch. When the horses were sprung from the gate, Clear Title was the 9-5 favorite and Macatawa Bay was the 3-1 second choice.

Macatawa Bay led from the start of the 1 1/8-mile maiden turf race, and by the time the field straightened into the stretch, he was on his way to an easy romp. And then it happened - all the late money was dumped in, and Macatawa Bay plummeted to 2-1 and the favorite over eventual third-place finisher Clear Title (2.20-1).

Not only was the win price on Macatawa Bay lowered from at least $8 to $6, but also - because of Kentucky regulations that mandate all pick three and pick six wagers be automatically shifted from scratched horses to the post-time favorite - all tickets that had Uncle Vic became winners (or were still alive) because the Uncle Vic selection automatically became Macatawa Bay.

As a result, a $1 pick three wager that ended on the sixth race returned $22.10, barely more than half of the $41.30 it would have paid if Macatawa Bay had not been the favorite. In the same way, the payoffs on the next two pick three's were significantly lowered, as was the pick six, which eventually paid $1,454 for a winning $1 ticket (the total pick six pool was just over $40,000).

For bettors who had Uncle Vic on their pick three and pick six tickets, what unfolded was a stroke of good luck. Conversely, bettors who had Macatawa Bay surely felt cheated.

"It's only a problem when you get the short end of that transaction," said Churchill director of mutuels Rick Smith. "Obviously, the majority of people don't complain when money comes in on other horses and the price on their horse goes up as a result."

Smith said he "would guess that maybe 20 percent" of monies bet on any given race at Churchill is bet in the final cycle of wagering, "so you're talking about a huge influx of cash.

"You're talking about something that's the nature of our business as it exists. There is always going to be a little bit of a lag factor. What's the alternative? Not to allow any money to come in after there are, say, two minutes to post, just to insure that no money would be processed after horses left the gate? I don't think that would be a very attractive alternative.

"You're talking about eliminating a tremendous amount of money that's bet every day at every facility around the world."

Danner undefeated this meet

Trainer Mark Danner ran his record to 3 for 3 Wednesday, when Jeanie Sue easily won the fourth race.

Jeanie Sue was the first starter at the meet for Danner since opening day, April 27, when he sent out two winners. Danner, 44, has four active horses in his stable. The only horse of his not yet to run at the meet is Loose Wrappings, who "got a little break after winning a couple times for me in Hot Springs" at Oaklawn Park, Danner said.

Danner is stabled in the same barn as Lynn Whiting, who through Wednesday had a record of 6 for 8 at the meet. Collectively, the barn is 9 for 11.

Nuesch: Have tack will travel

David Nuesch, possibly the best-traveled jockey in the United States the last 10 years or so, was on the Churchill backstretch Thursday morning.

Nuesch was crossing the country from Lone Star Park to Mountaineer, where he will begin riding this weekend.

"Just checking with a few guys who might run at Mountaineer," said Nuesch.

Nuesch, a Virginia native, began his career in Maryland in the late 1980's and has ridden regularly at more than a dozen tracks in the U.S. since. He has been a regular at Aqueduct, Arlington, Bay Meadows, Colonial Downs, Emerald Downs, Golden Gate, Oaklawn, Lone Star, Louisiana Downs, Timonium, and others.

"Moving on," said Nuesch.

Repent back in training

Repent, who underwent arthroscopic ankle surgery soon after finishing second to War Emblem in the April 6 Illinois Derby, returned to training for the first time Thursday, jogging an easy mile at Churchill for trainer Ken McPeek.

"He was very happy to have the tack back on," said assistant trainer Helen Pitts, who was aboard the colt.

Repent, winner of the Louisiana Derby in March, was widely regarded as one of the Kentucky Derby favorites until being injured.