Horse’s disqualification a $1.6 million bad beat


Possibly the worst bad beat in sports betting history occurred in the Rainbow Pick 6 on Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

An unidentified horseplayer almost won $1.6 million in the Pick 6. But, he was disqualified out of that life-changing score when Collinito, who ran first, was placed second by Gulfstream stewards at the Hallandale Beach, Fla., track. He was ruled to have interfered with the runner-up horse, Strategic Keeper.

I set apart this kind of bad beat because it was based on a decision by the stewards and was not decided by some fluky play on the field. Racing stewards have the same job as officiating crews in football, baseball and basketball. These officials make judgment calls based on rules infractions and some that can be debated forever.

I’ve seen the head-on of the stretch run of this race many times. Collinito came out twice moving into the path in front of Strategic Keeper. It was a close call, but one I have seen go either way in other racing jurisdictions.

What magnified the disqualification was the amount of money involved. If you bet on sports and horses long enough, you will lose a bet because of a judgment call. But I doubt that your loss, while important, was anywhere near this amount.

Social media was full of conspiracy theorists who believed that Gulfstream management plotted with the stewards to take down Collinito. The benefit to the track would be a continuation of the Pick 6 carry-over, which has been a boom to its parimutuel handle.

I’ve worked at racetracks before and never have seen or heard of this kind of collusion. There is not one shred of evidence to support this accusation.

On the Paulick Report, one poster named Tom Foley identified himself as an employee of Gary Contessa, trainer of Collinito. Foley wrote “as much as I disagree with the call, I don’t believe for a second that any conspiracy is involved here.”

A beneficiary of the takedown was Walter Lytwyn of Hamilton, Ontario. Standardbred Canada reported that Lytwyn won $183,296 at Flamboro Downs because he had the Pick 6 five times with Strategic Keeper.

It was reported on social media that Lytwyn cost himself the $1.6 million jackpot because he bet a $1 unit instead of a 20-cent unit. Not true. There were eight winning tickets worth $36,659 each, so Lytwyn, who held five of them, was not poised as a unique winner.

The Pick 6 rules on the Gulfstream website define a unique ticket as “having occurred when the total amount wagered on a winning combination selecting the first-place finisher in each of the six races is equal to the minimum allowable wager.”

Thus, my advice to Mr. Lytwyn and all Rainbow Pick 6 players, always bet the 20-cent minimum and not a larger unit like $1.

Theoretically, what could have happened would be the ultimate bad-beat story if Lytwyn had cost himself the $1.6 million Pick 6 jackpot. Say, for example, if he alone had won it five times, by rule he would have canceled out himself, even though he may have been the only person to have a perfect ticket.

Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at rich_eng@hotmail.com. Follow him on Twitter: @richeng4propick.