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By Maury Wolff
After the penultimate race of 2014 Breeders’ Cup Saturday, will-pays flashed across screens and it became clear there was about to be a first in BC history: There would be a Pick 6 carryover into Sunday’s (non-Breeders’ Cup) card. Instead of completely distributing the Pick 6 pool on BC Saturday to those who had 5 of the 6 winners, $1.3 million of the pool was carried over to the Sunday card. The impact on those who managed to hit 5 of 6 despite Saturday’s results? Instead of winning around $375,000, five winning tickets got only about $114,000 each.
Why wasn’t the pool distributed on Saturday?
Last year, the BC quietly changed its longstanding policy regarding distribution of the Pick 6. I read about it in some fine print in a DRF story. Since there were many perfect tickets last year, it didn’t get any attention. This year, the same policy was in effect, and again I saw only one mention of it. Most of the regular horseplayers I have talked with were unaware of the change. It seems unlikely that many fans who play only on racing’s big days knew about it.
What are the financial implications of this policy change?
Santa Anita closes its meeting the day after the Breeders’ Cup. Last year, with no carryover, the track handled $400,000 on its Pick 6 on that Sunday. This year, with the carryover, the track handled over $5 million in that pool. Handle for the entire Sunday card was $7 million more this year than last year.
But while the policy is good for Santa Anita and probably had only a negligible effect on Saturday’s BC Pick 6 handle, it is a hefty tax on people who hit 5/6 on 2014 BC Saturday vs any other BC Saturday.
And the fact that it was not publicized makes it worse. It is one thing to play a bet when you know the rules. It is quite another to play it under an assumption that longstanding policy is being continued when it is not. When the Pick 6 policy changed, no one asked horseplayers what they thought about the deal.
It’s a misguided policy, and it should be revisited. There is little common ground between a national Pick 6 with a national following and a Sunday Santa Anita card. The first two races of the Pick 6 on Sunday were both maiden races with 8 or 9 first-time starters in each (first-time starters won both races). More than a little advantage to the home crowd. The audiences for these two cards are fundamentally different, and the pools should be kept separate.
If a Breeders’ Cup host track is owed something more in its contract for hosting the event, couldn’t a deal be struck without sacrificing those that pour money into the Saturday BC Pick 6 Pool? Perhaps the BC could guarantee a pool on the following day in the event that no one had a perfect ticket on the BC Pick 6. Among other ideas, that would be a better standard for the day than the current standard, which is caveat emptor.