Updated on 03/05/2012 11:12AM

Oaklawn-Santa Anita simulcast dispute hinges on canceled $100K show wager


A dispute has erupted between Santa Anita Park and Oaklawn Park over the cancellation of a $100,000 show wager on a horse in the first division of Oaklawn’s Feb. 20 Southwest Stakes that has led Santa Anita to drop Oaklawn from its simulcast menu, according to officials.

According to Bobby Geiger, Oaklawn’s simulcast director, Santa Anita shut off the signal from Oaklawn as of Thursday after Oaklawn officials and Arkansas state regulators began questioning Santa Anita about its cancellation policies. The bet that was cancelled was placed at Santa Anita at approximately one hour and ten minutes prior to the first division of the Southwest. Another hour passed before the bet was cancelled with approximately ten minutes to post, according to Geiger and Mike Marten, a spokesman for the California Horse Racing Board.

The bet was placed on Longview Drive, who was the favorite in the race. Longview Drive finished in a triple dead-heat for sixth.

Scott Daruty, a simulcasting executive for Santa Anita’s parent company, said on Saturday evening that the track pulled the Oaklawn signal because of uncertainty over whether Oaklawn would allow bets placed at Santa Anita to be cancelled on its races in the future. The signal will not be restored until the “landscape becomes a little clearer,” Daruty said.

“It seemed to us that the most prudent course of action was to wait until this situation clears up,” Daruty said. “If Oaklawn is going to be say we can’t allow our patrons to cancel bets, that’s something we would have to think long and hard about. This is something that’s always been allowed in California.”

Because the bet was placed before the race preceding the Southwest had been run, the $100,000 show bet “created a buzz throughout the grandstand” at Oaklawn when the tote board first began displaying the odds for the Southwest, Geiger said. After the bet was cancelled, Oaklawn opened an investigation into the wager, with the help of the Thoroughbred Racing and Protective Bureau, Geiger said, because of suspicions that the bet and its cancellation were being used to manipulate betting pools.

“We received a lot of complaints about it being very misleading,” Geiger said. “In our opinion, you don’t have to be in the win pool to manipulate the odds on a race.”

Marten said that the CHRB and TRPB conducted a joint investigation into the cancellation. He said the bettor had made approximately 20 to 30 similar-sized bets in the past year, and that investigators said that they did not believe he was using the cancellation to manipulate the pools.

“He placed the bet early, watched a race on the simulcast, and didn’t like what he saw,” Marten said, when asked what reason the bettor gave for cancelling the bet. “Something with the track, and also a further review of the past performances. This is someone who has made a lot of big bets before, large bets that he hasn’t cancelled.”

Cancellations of large wagers are very rare. Santa Anita, like almost all tracks, requires a supervisor to approve the cancellation of a large bet. Because the bettor was well known to Santa Anita management, it’s likely mutuel officials did not believe the bettor had any ill intentions when cancelling the bet.

Geiger said that Oaklawn has allowed Santa Anita to approve the cancellation of bets in the past. But he said the unusual nature of the Feb. 20 bet – including the nearly one hour gap between the placement of the bet and its cancellation – required the track to review its cancellation policies.

“You shouldn’t be able to play hokey-pokey in the pools,” Geiger said. “If one guy can do this, why can’t a lot of big bettors just move money in and out of the pools?”