A disturbing contradiction in betting rules was brought to light yesterday at Pimlico Race Course. Half of a two-horse entry was scratched, and while all win-place-show and exacta wagers were refunded on the entry, the remaining half remained alive in Pick Three wagering.
Confusion reigned before and after the sixth race -- third leg of the Pick Three -- when Trishman, No. 1, was scratched. His defection left Flying Norman (No. 1A), his entry-mate, running in the race -- but, in accordance with a four-year-old rule, Flyin Norman had no odds. He was running only for purse money.
But because of an inconsistency in rules, Flying Norman was still a "live" betting interest in the Pick Three.
As the race unfolded, Flying Norman was a factor before tiring, and favored Medieval Hunter won. When the race was official, incorrect Pick Three payoffs were briefly displayed. The inability of the track's computer to handle such a scenario led fans to believe Flying Norman had been scratched from the Pick Three pool and that Pick Three wagers on him had automatically been transferred to Medieval Hunter, the favorite.
Track officials conferred with the stewards and each other before deciding, about 30 minutes later:
* That they acted properly in not eliminating Flying Norman from the Pick Three.
* That they would "manually" correct the computer that had directed Pick Three money from the entry to the favorite. A winning Pick Three ticket paid $1,073, not $296.80, as the initial flash had indicated. Winners had to cash the tickets at special information windows.
* That the rules as they exist are seriously flawed.
"I went before the [Maryland Racing Commission] a few months ago trying to alert them to the situation," said Clinton P. Pitts Jr., chief steward. "I understand the contradiction: You can have a $1,000 bet riding on a horse in the Pick Three but you can't bet $1,000 on him to win? The rules are in direct conflict with each other."
At the commission meeting at the Timonium Fairgrounds to which Pitts referred, he was assured by track officials that should uncertain circumstances arise, they would be able to deal with them. The matter was tabled.
After yesterday's incident, however, Pitts and Pimlico vice-president Jim Mango said they had already been discussing a resolution to the rules problem in recent weeks. Mango said the track would ask for a repeal of the so-called "Broad Brush rule," a rule approved to protect a bettor who bets on an entry that includes a superior horse such as Broad Brush. (The thinking is that if the Broad Brush-type horse scratches, the bettor will not be stuck with a much lesser entry-mate.) The track's request would leave all wagers intact on the remaining entry-mate, as happened only in the Pick Three pool yesterday.
The entire brouhaha would have been avoided if trainer John Hartsell had scratched Trishman earlier in the day. Trishman is entered in today's 12th race, and Hartsell believed he was not required to fill out a scratch card on the horse "because he drew in the body of a race for the next day and was part of an entry," he said. "I assumed he'd be an automatic scratch."
Pitts said Hartsell would be fined for the oversight.
Later, Rebuff upset Double Booked in the $54,350 Damascus Handicap.
Double Booked, the 3-10 favorite in the 1 1/8-mile turf event, carried his expected early lead to the early stretch before Rebuff launched a rally from last place. In the final yards, Double Booked still held a clear lead, but Rebuff closed relentlessly and won by a head.
"He beat me at a mile, but at a mile and an eighth my horse is better," said Calixto Juarez, who rode Rebuff.
The victory was the third in a grass stakes this year for Rebuff, a 6-year-old gelding.
Double Booked, a $472,270 earner this year, may make his next start in the six-furlong Laurel Dash on Oct. 20, said his's trainer, Linda Rice. The gelding is not nominated to the Breeders' Cup on Nov. 2.