Tote-board error was accident, race officials say Some bettors didn't know winning horse at Laurel was scratched, put back

July 19, 1996|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

A wagering foul-up at Laurel Park last week that infuriated bettors was, according to racing officials, an inadvertent human error.

A horse presumably scratched from Friday's 10th race was reinstated with no announcement. Many bettors did not realize the No. 13 horse, Honey's Acallade, was running. Although she was 7-2 in the morning line, she paid a glaring $45.80 after winning by a neck.

James Mango, Maryland Jockey Club chief administrative officer, and Kenneth A. Schertle, executive director of the Maryland Racing Commission, said this week that their investigations uncovered no fraud.

"I'm not diminishing what happened. No question, when you take a horse on and off the board it's a serious matter," Mango said. "I can't stop people from being angry, or saying this is some kind of conspiracy.

"But it's nothing like that. There's no story here other than it was a mistake."

Irate gamblers called The Sun, including Pat Dolan, a 57-year-old tavern owner from Earleville in Cecil County. He said that all 15 to 20 bettors around him at Delaware's Dover Downs, which simulcasts Maryland races, thought Honey's Acallade was scratched -- until she crossed the finish line first.

"We were all in shock," Dolan said. "I didn't get angry until I got home. Then I said: 'What the hell's going on here?' "

According to Mango, here's what happened:

At 5: 09, the odds went up for the 10th race. The tote board and TV monitors showed the 3 blank, meaning that horse was scratched, which he was, and displayed the odds on the other horses, including the 13. All was well.

zTC But then, at 5: 11 and 5: 12, an employee of AmTote, the company that handles wagering, tried to reinstate the 3 and scratch the 13. At 5: 12, the odds on 13 went blank.

At 5: 18, the stewards, charged with enforcing the rules of racing, called the mutuels department, asking why the 13 was blank. The mutuels manager discovered the mistake.

At 5: 23, six minutes before the scheduled post time, the odds for 13 were reinstated. After stewards delayed the race five minutes, giving bettors more time to bet the correct field, the race began at 5: 34.

Mango and Schertle said the unidentified AmTote employee claimed to have heard someone yell: "Scratch the 13 horse, and re-liven the 3!"

"But he didn't check that with anybody," Schertle said. "Maybe he thought, 'Oh my God, I scratched the wrong horse,' and tried to correct it. . . . It was an error, but not an intentional error."

The track received 25 calls from disgruntled patrons, Mango said. And sites that simulcast Maryland races "have had their share of complaints like we have," he said.

But Mango, who was out of state Friday, said he believes the stewards and mutuels manager reacted properly. The only thing they might have done, he said, was make an announcement explaining the mistake.

The stewards allowed the race to proceed because only $8,000 of the eventual $325,000 -- on- and off-track -- had been wagered when the error was discovered, Mango said. They believed most bettors would have time to adjust their handicapping, he said.

Schertle, director of the racing commission, which regulates the state's horse-racing industry, said he would review the incident with the stewards and members of the racing commission.

Pub Date: 7/19/96

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