Updated on 05/22/2012 3:53PM

Thistledown: Irregular betting prompts investigation into Monday's fifth race

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Ohio racing officials have launched an investigation into a flurry of last-second bets on the fifth race at Thistledown on Monday, the officials confirmed on Tuesday morning.

The bets, which originated through account-wagering hubs, drove the odds on a 1-5 horse at post time in a seven-horse maiden field to 5-1 just after the horses left the gate. Eye Look the Part, the horse that had been 1-5, won the race by 16 1/2 lengths and paid $12.80 as the longest shot in the six-furlong race.

Just prior to the race starting, a bettor, using a Euro Off-Track betting account, wagered $7,000 to win on every horse in the race but Eye Look the Part. At the same time, $8,000 in win bets were placed through a separate account at the Greyhound Channel on every horse but Eye Look the Part, according to William Crawford, the Ohio State Racing Commission’s executive director.

All told, $90,000 was bet at the last cycle to win on all the other horses in the race. Another $12,000 was bet on the other horses to show, also through the accounts, Crawford said. The bets did not show up on the odds until the race had started, but bettors who thought they were getting 1-5 ended up getting 5-1.

“Normally in these cases it’s the other way around,” Crawford said.

Crawford said that the mutuel pool – the total of all win, place, and show bets – on a race at Thistledown is typically $9,000. The total mutuel pool for the fifth race on Monday was $128,010.

Because of the way the bets were structured, a likely explanation is that the bettor or bettors who targeted all the horses but the favorite were attempting to drive up the price on Eye Look the Part in order to cash bets at non-pari-mutuel off-shore books that pay off at track odds. In order to break even under such a scenario, a bettor would have had to have made at least $14,064 in win bets through non-pari-mutuel outlets.

The betting was complicated by another factor. Of the amount bet to win on Eye Look the Part, a total of $8,359 was made by one bettor, also operating through an account-wagering service, Crawford said. The bettor also made a $968 show bet on Eye Look the Part. Both bets were placed well before the race started.

Crawford acknowledged that the odd amounts of the win and show bets on Eye Look the Part pointed to the use of a computerized robotic wagering program. The programs, which account for at least 10 percent of the handle on U.S. horse races, analyze pool totals searching for inefficiencies, and they typically place bets in odd amounts because of the program’s ability to calculate the impact of the bets on the odds.

Crawford said he has requested additional information from both Euro Off-Track and the Greyhound Channel on the bets and the bettors who placed them.

In addition, the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau, an investigative arm of a company owned by racetracks, has also begun looking into the race, according to the TRPB’s director of wagering analysis, J. Curtis Linnell.