Breeders' Cup Spells Success Worldwide

1 November 2002

Long-shot horses weren't the only winners over the weekend at the Breeders' Cup. It was a successful day around the world for bookmakers and interactive betting houses.

While U.S. racing fans have the Triple Crown and European punters get excited when the Cheltanu Festival and Grand National rolls around, only one day of racing captivates punters from both sides of the pond.

The nature of the Breeders' Cup, getting the best horses from around the world in races varying in length and on both dirt and turf, creates an atmosphere that appeals to owners and trainers from all over the world.

Likewise, punters have a penchant for laying a few quid or bucks down on their favorite horses to see how he they fare against horses they've never faced.

Blue Square, the popular U.K.-based developer of interactive betting platforms, was tied into the U.S. pools at the suburban Chicago track that hosted the day of racing. Ed Pownall, the company's press officer, said having bets tied into the larger pari-mutuel system for the Breeders' Cup drew a great deal of punters as well as professional book makers looking to keep their books level.

"Business was fantastic especially through the pools," he said. "We had well into six figures going into the pools which was superb."

Leading up to the Breeders' Cup, Blue Square was predicting that a large part of its action would come from professional bookmakers, however, Pownall said early indications were that casual bettors represented more of the company's business than anticipated.

"We can't really tell for sure, but the average bet size was around £60," he said. "Looking at that I think you would have to say that most of the action was coming from punters."

U.S.-based Inc., meanwhile, saw record turnout and numbers for its Web- and telephone-based betting service.

On the day of the Breeders' Cup, Oct. 26, Youbet handle increased 83 percent, and simultaneous users online increased 28 percent over the previous record holder, the 2002 Preakness. In addition to the record highs for the day of the race, Breeders' Cup week (October 21-27, 2002) raised the weekly handle record to $4.9 million. The previous record for weekly handle was $4.1 million, set July 1 - 7, 2002.

Youbet CEO Chuck Champion said the activity generated from the Breeders' Cup was a good indication of things to come. He said performance goals were met with the event, but he's more pleased with the steady improvement in business in the wake of major-stake races like the Kentucky Derby.

"In the weeks since the 2002 Kentucky Derby, our handle, revenue and market share continue to rise and we have repeatedly set new weekly and monthly records," he said. "In fact, our July and August monthly totals blew away the Triple Crown months. Our handle is up and our margins are as well."

Not All Wine and Roses

The Breeders' Cup was great for the bottom line for the books but it wasn't all wine and roses. Many favorites throughout the day failed to finish in the money, and 43-1 long shot, Volponi, finished first in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Much media attention has been centered on a controversial winning Pick 6 ticket sold in New York that brought the punter a $3.1 million payout.

Racing officials in New York have launched an investigation centered on the owner of the ticket, a 29-year-old Maryland resident who is a self-employed computer technician.

The man, Derrick Davis, won $3.1 million when a $1,152 bet he placed through a phone account at Catskill OTB in New York contained the six winning pick six wagers and 108 of the 186 consolation tickets.

Although no evidence of wrongdoing has been found, Breeders' Cup has withheld payment, citing the investigation launched on Sunday by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board.

Investigators are hoping to question Davis about the wager, which was made in a $12 denomination and used only one horse in each of the first four races and the entire fields in the final two races of the pick six sequence.

The issue for investigators is to determine whether the wagers could have been altered after the running of the first four races, just before the totalizator system routinely sends information on pick six bets that are still "live" into the merged pari-mutuel pools.

Although the values of Pick 6 bets are transmitted instantly into the merged pools, the information about which horses are used in each bet is not transmitted until after the fourth race, to minimize traffic on the tote network.

Investigators said they believe a sophisticated hacker with access to the pools would have had time to alter the ticket so that it included the four horses that had already won.

The Pick 6 betting caused some minor headaches in England too. Pownall said Blue Square's system experienced technical difficulty in trying to process the Pick 6 bets for part of the day. He said the problem has been fixed and won't happen again.

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