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New York Commission Addresses Wagering Controversy From Saratoga Surface Change – Horse Racing News


Horseplayers reacted with frustration earlier this summer when a last-minute surface change impacted multi-race wagers on the Aug. 6 race card at Saratoga.

The track saw a fatal breakdown on the inner turf course in Race 4. After Race 5, New York Racing Association officials said the jockeys requested a meeting with the racing secretary to discuss the conditions of the turf course and expressed concerns about the course’s safety. Afterward, Races 7, 9, and 10 were moved off the turf, which had a significant impact on bettors who had already placed multi-race wagers including those turf races. The change was announced as horses loaded into the gate for Race 6, the first leg of the late Pick 5.

The payout for the late Pick 5 that day was $25 for a 50-cent wager, after three legs of the wager defaulted to ‘all’ on active tickets.

NYRA CEO and president David O’Rourke appeared on NYRA’s Talking Horses broadcast later in the week and indicated NYRA wanted to delay the start of the first leg to give horseplayers a chance to rework their bets but that request was denied by the stewards.

At a regularly-scheduled meeting of the New York State Gaming Commission on Oct. 3, executive director Robert Williams revealed that NYRA didn’t make that request until two horses were already loaded in the gate for Race 6. The race was a maiden special weight contest for 2-year-olds.

“Nine fillies were entered and their histories find that seven of the nine had never run in a race before,” said Williams. “In other words, this was their first experience with a starting gate with other horses in front of spectators. The stewards, recognizing the fractious and unpredictable nature of inexperienced 2-year-olds, recognized that backing out the horses after two had already been loaded, and then delaying the start by the requested ten minutes was an unsafe practice. Hence, they declined to do so.

“The stewards appropriately put the safety of the horses, the gate crew, and the jockeys first.”

In the same Talking Horses interview, O’Rourke also indicated that NYRA wanted to refund all late Pick 5 wagers but was unable to do so and suggested this related to a decision by the stewards.

“NYRA could not cancel the entire wager and refund the tickets as all wagers were properly booked, and were being undertaken under existing rules,” said Williams. “A cancellation of the wagers would have disturbed the individuals who ultimately correctly picked the winners of the first and third legs. NYRA, had it chosen to do so, could have refunded using their own money, the full value of all patrons making wagers through account wagering.

“This is something they determined not to do.”

Williams noted that NYRA did later seed a late Pick 5 pool with $100,000 on Aug. 12.

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