Updated on 09/16/2011 8:34AM

Suspicious bet under scrutiny


NEW YORK - The New York State Racing and Wagering board is investigating a $3 million payday by a bettor who made suspicious Breeders' Cup Pick Six wagers through Catskill Off-Track Betting Corporation in New York, board officials said Monday.

According to several officials investigating the incident, the winning wagers used only one horse in each of the first four races of the pick six Saturday at Arlington Park, including two longshots, and then used the entire fields in the last two races.

At issue is whether the bettor, acting alone or in a group, made the winning bets after one or more races in the Breeders' Cup pick six sequence were run. Officials said the investigation will look at whether the computer security information, which records the times at which bets are placed, was altered.

The bettor, identified by a Catskill official as a 29-year-old Maryland resident, held the only winning tickets on the pick six, which were placed through a Catskill OTB telephone account. The Catskill OTB is one of the state's six regional offtrack wagering corporations.

The bettor made his play in a single $12 denomination ticket - which translates into six winning $2 tickets - at a cost of $1,152. Each winning $2 ticket was worth $428,392 for a total $2,570,352. The bettor also had 108 consolation tickets with five of six winners, each of which returned $4,606.20, for a total of $497,469.60. The entire payday was worth $3,067,821.60.

Officials of the New York State Racing and Wagering Board said they launched the inquiry after learning about the bets on Sunday.

"It is an unusual circumstance that you would want to look at no matter where it happened," said Stacy Clifford, a spokeswoman for the board. "We have frozen the tickets, and we're taking a very hard look at it."

Clifford would not discuss details of the investigation but said that "the proper law enforcement authorities" would be contacted if any evidence indicates fraud.

Breeders' Cup has withheld payment to Catskill pending the results of the investigation. Officials for the Breeders' Cup and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, which merged with Breeders' Cup last year, have told New York regulatory authorities that they will assist in any investigation.

"Our obligation in this case clearly is to protect the customer and the integrity of the process," said Breeders' Cup president D.G. Van Clief.

Officials for Autotote, the tote provider for Catskill and Arlington, denied on Monday that any wagering information had been manipulated or that the security of their system had been compromised.

OTB Official calls bettor legitimate

Donald Groth, the chairman of Catskill OTB, said the winning bettor wanted to remain anonymous. Groth said that "there is nothing to indicate that this was anything but a very good day for our customer."

"I know why you're suspicious, but that's not my job," Groth said. "I'm familiar enough with the customer that I believe this is legitimate."

Groth relayed a message to the bettor, seeking a comment, but the message was not returned.

A variety of issues raise suspicions about the winning wager, according to a number of racing officials and professional gamblers. The wager was too expensive for an amateur, they said, and too naive in its structure for anyone but a novice. Other than fraud, the only way to explain the win, gamblers said, was blind luck of the most phenomenal variety.

David Cuscuna, a professional gambler who specializes in pick six and other exotic bets, said it didn't make sense for a gambler to bet nearly $1,200 on a race by using the combination that was used on the winning ticket.

"The whole idea of this, of a guy that puts down a $12 multiple, 1 by 1 by 1 by 1 by all by all bet, that has the first four winners, which includes a $28 horse and a $54 horse - good lord, it's not even a point of discussion," Cuscuna said. "This is not a real bet."

Data indicates bets placed early

Groth said that he has personally checked the time stamps for the telephone calls in which the pick six wagers were placed. "They were placed beforehand," he said.

Pick six wagers were required to be placed before the fifth race on the card, the Mile, which was the first race in the pick six and which went off at 1:37 p.m. Central time.

Louis Skelton, the director of technical services for Autotote, said on Monday that technicians had reviewed all pertinent data related to the wagers. He said the data indicated that two bets - the $12 base wager that cost $1,152 and a second $2 base wager, which cost $364 and used the entire field in the first two races and one horse in the final four legs - were placed 20 minutes before post time.

"From a systems perspective, we're 100 percent certain that the pools were closed and that this gentlemen made his bets 20 minutes before post time of the [first leg]," said Brooks Pierce, Autotote's president.

First bets under new account

The bettor did not appear to be a frequent customer of Catskill OTB. Two racing officials and one official with Catskill OTB said that the bettor opened the account in the past two weeks and that the pick six bets were the first wagers made through the account.

The winner of the first leg of the pick six, the Mile, was Domedriver, who paid $54. The second leg, the Sprint, was won by the favorite, Orientate ($7.40), and the third leg, the Filly and Mare Turf, was won by Starine, who paid $28.40. The winner of the fourth leg, the Juvenile, was Vindication, who paid $10.20.

In the last two races, the pick six was filled out by High Chapparal, the 4-5 favorite in the Turf, and Volponi, who paid $89 as the longest shot on the board in the Classic.

If a short-priced horse such as Medaglia d'Oro or War Emblem had won the Classic instead of Volponi, the Catskill bettor might not have attracted any attention. In that case, the chances would be greater for other winning tickets, obscuring the bettor's good fortune. As it turned out, Volponi's upset victory turned the spotlight on the Catskill tickets, they only ones with the right combination - six times over.

Paul Berube, the president of the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau, said on Monday that he would not comment on the investigation and would neither confirm nor deny whether the bureau has been asked to participate in the investigation. The bureau was set up by racetracks to conduct investigations into allegations of fraud and other misconduct in racing.

"It's unfortunate these things get out before all the facts are known, and I would assume that there is a fair amount that we don't know right now," Berube said.

What happens if bet is voided?

If the Catskill wagers were voided, then one possibility for the Breeders' Cup would be to redistribute the entire pool to people holding 5-of-6 tickets. Bettors who had consolation tickets had to sign IRS forms to cash their wagers, so it would be possible to contact them and increase their payouts.

If the pools were recalculated to pay off on the 78 other consolation tickets, the payoff for each ticket would be just under $33,000. Recalculating the pool to pay off on 4-of-6 would be difficult because some tickets might have already been discarded.

Even in this early stage, racing officials and gamblers disagreed on what the long-term ramifications of the investigation would be. Gamblers said that there would be increased fears of mutuel pools being manipulated. But officials said the investigation proves that racing has enough checks and balances in place to ensure integrity.

"It's good for the industry that they are taking the time to fully verify all this," said Pierce, the president of Autotote. "It means the system is working."