Updated on 05/23/2012 4:34PM

Thistledown betting still a mystery


The intentions of the bettor or bettors who targeted Monday's fifth race on Thistledown in Cleveland for $90,000 in late win bets remained unknown on Wednesday, according to officials who are familiar with the investigation into the wagers.

Investigators have failed to determine how the bettor or bettors figured they would profit from the $15,000 win bets, which were placed on every other horse in the seven-horse maiden race but the 1-5 favorite within 90 seconds of the race going off. The bets drove the odds on the favorite up to 14-1 before a robotic wagering program targeted the favorite with an $8,359 win bet placed just before the race went off.

The horse who had been the favorite, Eye Look the Part, won the six-furlong maiden race by 16 1/2 lengths. He paid $12.80.

According to investigators, the "most obvious theory" was that the person or persons who had placed the $15,000 win bets were seeking to drive up the odds on the favorite in order to cash win bets placed with non-parimutuel bookmakers who pay off at track odds. But that tactic was highly unlikely to turn a profit, because most bookmakers who pay off at track odds have strict limits on win bets, and all of them would be unlikely to pay off a win bet on a race in which the pools were clearly manipulated, as is the case with the Thistledown race, officials with knowledge of the investigation said on Wednesday.

"I don't know any bookmaker who is taking anything but marginal bets on Thistledown," said a racing official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "No one has anything higher than a $1,000 limit on win bets, and that's assuming that any of these guys would pay off on something that is obviously structured as some kind of betting coup."

In order to recoup the $90,000 in win bets, the bettor or bettors would have had to have placed at least $14,064 in bookmaker bets at the final odds. At the 14-1 odds displayed by the favorite before the computer program entering the pools, the bettor or bettors would have had to have bet at least $6,428.

So far, investigators have determined that all the bets were placed prior to the race going off. The non-computer win bets were placed through two account-wagering operations, with one of the operations accounting for $7,000 win bets on every other horse but Eye Look the Part, and the other accounting for $8,000 win bets on the other horses.

Racing officials who are investigating the bets had said on Tuesday that the computer bet had been placed before the other win bets. On Wednesday, however, investigators said that was not the case, and that the robotic wagering program had entered the pools just before post time. Robotic wagering programs, which account for approximately 10 percent of all handle on U.S. races, scour wagering pools for inefficiencies and frequently place bets in unusual denominations.

In addition, the officials had said on Tuesday that the non-computer bets had originated from two account-wagering operations run by the Greyhound Channel and Euro Off-Track. Instead, investigators said on Wednesday that the bets went through two Internet account-wagering services. One was betamerica.com, which is owned by Lien Games Racing, a North Dakota operation that uses the same betting hub as Greyhound Channel; the other was link2bet.com, an Isle of Man operation that is operated by European Wagering Services, which was formerly known as Euro Off Track. Officials at Greyhound Channel stressed on Wednesday that none of their customers had any involvement in the Thistledown bets.

The accounts of the bettors who made the wagers at both operations have been suspended, according to William Crawford, the executive director of the Ohio State Racing Commission, which is leading the investigation into the bets.

Investigators also said that the same bettors using the betamerica.com and link2bet.com accounts had placed substantial wagers on the eighth race on Monday at Thistledown. In that race, the mutuel pool was $60,530, approximately six times the typical size of a Thistledown mutuel pool.

The officials said the investigation into the eighth race, which was won by the 4.80-1 third choice, had just begun.

In addition to the Ohio State Racing Commission, the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau, an agency owned by U.S. racetracks, is also investigating the bets.