06/11/2017 7:45PM

Santa Anita stewards ask for guidance to prevent future pick six controversy

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Benoit & Associates
Fly to Mars wins Saturday’s finale, capping off an $898,568 single-ticket pick six.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Although the winning ticket that scooped the $898,568 pick six single-ticket jackpot on Saturday at Santa Anita had not been cashed as of late Sunday, the wheels already are in motion regarding parimutuel handling of recently gelded horses such as final-race winner Fly to Mars.

 The pick six generated controversy even before race 11, the final race in the sequence, was run. It was announced after race 10, and less than 20 minutes before the finale, that Fly to Mars was a first-time gelding. Fly to Mars was the only runner that could trigger a single-ticket payout.

 Many were upset the horse was allowed to start, considering no information had been released that Fly to Mars had been gelded since his most recent start. First-time gelding is a significant factor typically listed in the program and designated in past performances. Trainers are expected to inform the racing office after a horse is gelded.

 The Santa Anita Board of Stewards referred the late gelding announcement to California Horse Racing Board investigators. Fly to Mars’s trainer, Peter Miller, could face a penalty of $1,000 or more if the determination is made he failed to inform the racing office of the change.

 Miller said on Saturday that Fly to Mars had been gelded months earlier. Miller, who trains one of the largest stables in California, called it “an oversight.” The  stewards, the racing office, and the betting public were unaware the horse had been gelded until he was examined by Horse Identifier Jennifer Paige some 30 minutes before he ran.

 In the aftermath of the controversy, stewards Scott Chaney, Grant Baker, and Kim Sawyer requested “direction” from the CHRB in the future event of a similar late announcement.

 Stewards initially considered scratching Fly to Mars after learning he was gelded following his most recent start nearly a year earlier. However, under CHRB rules, Chaney said they do not have authority to scratch a horse in that situation.

 The other option was not available. “[Some] had the genius idea that we should have just allowed the horse to run for purse money only,” Chaney said. “Unfortunately, the rules do not allow that.”

 Under current rules, Chaney said the only time stewards can allow a horse to run for “purse money only” is tote error – when a horse is inadvertently removed from the pools, otherwise known as an accidental scratch.

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 Stewards requested the CHRB provide guidance, perhaps leeway, if the situation happens again. Currently, stewards had only one option – allow Fly to Mars to run, and be wagered on, as scheduled.

 Either way, Saturday was a no-win situation for jackpot publicity. Fly to Mars was the only single-ticket payout. If he had been scratched, some would charge the decision was made to insure the jackpot would carry. In leaving him in, others allege the decision was made to benefit someone with inside information of the first-time gelding.

 Based on traditional handicapping, Fly to Mars was a contender regardless of his first-time gelding status. Miller wins at a high percentage, the horse had fast works, and he was entered in the maiden-claiming race with the provision “ineligible to be claimed.” CHRB rule 1634 allows a horse off six months or more to return in a claiming race without risk of being claimed.

 The “no-claim waiver angle” is considered a positive factor. The perception is the horse’s connections like the horse, and do not want him claimed first start back. The “angle” reappeared Sunday in race 7, when Swiss Skimmer returned $49.60 first start back in a $20,000 claiming race while employing the no-claim waiver.

 The winning pick-six ticket Saturday included two logical contenders in the final race – Fly to Mars and odds-on runner-up Lucky With You. The pick six “will pay” to Lucky With You was $77,794. When Fly to Mars inched past late to win by a half-length, the bettor grossed $904,630. That is the sum of the single-ticket jackpot and 14 consolations that each returned $933.

 The unidentified bettor made the wager at the Hollywood Park Casino in Inglewood, investing $1,920 into the winning ticket. The ticket included multiple runners in all six legs; it was structured 3 x 4 x 4 x 5 x 2 x 2.

Although none of the winning horses in the pick six was an outrageous longshot, the sequence was difficult due to large fields, no winning favorites, and a string of middle prices.

 The $2 win payoffs for the pick six races, 6-11, were: $17.40 (Indygo Bo, fourth choice in betting); $16.40 (Rings of Jupiter, fifth choice); $12.80 (Sharp Samurai, fourth choice); $8.40 (St. Reno, second choice); $14.40 (Starlite Style, third choice); and $10 (Fly to Mars, second choice).

 According to Nate Newby, Santa Anita vice president of marketing, the winning ticket had not been cashed as of late Sunday afternoon, at either Hollywood Park Casino or Santa Anita.