Last night in the 6th race at Emerald Downs there was a sudden drop in odds on number 2, Lonely and Free, from around 13-1 to 1-9. It appears that a $10,000 win (correction: it was a $100,000 wager) bet did the trick. The seven, Zippin E., was the prohibitive favorite from the time the odds opened to around 3 or 4 minutes to post (might have been 5 or 6 minutes to post) when the big wager on the two was made. The exactor pools, and the place and show pools on the two horse were reflective of a medium long shot.
The large bet wasn't pulled until the horses were in the gate. This had to lead to many other ticket cancellations. Who wants 1-9 on a long shot? And by looking at the final pool numbers, it is pretty clear that the two wound up taking a higher percentage of place money instead. The 1-9 scared off any other new bettors on the two except in exactors and probably triactors for when the bet was cancelled and the race went off, Lonely and Free went off at 52-1, though he was probably around 12-1 or so in exotics.
The thing is, the horse almost won, leading throughout the race, only to get caught by the number 4 horse in the last few strides. The winner, Have N A Wild Time, went off at 6.5-1, but wound up paying more to place than the two, who went off at 52-1.
Was this manipulation intentional? Well, you have to figure that if someone is placing a $5,000 or higher wager, they are going to try to make sure they buy the right ticket at the right track, whether the wager was made online or at racetrack or simulcast center. Also, the fact that the bettor had $10,000 either on them or in their betting account leads one to believe that the bettor was a sophisticated Horseplayer (this is assuming it was one person and one wager). However, keeping the wager in until the last moment was risky in case the cancellation couldn't be made in time.
Whatever the intent, whether it was a mistake or manipulation, this type of thing flies in the face of the integrity of the game and can turn bettors off. Unless a teller made a mistake, you can't blame the bet taker unless it is a known repeat offender, this kind of "mistake" can happen at any track or through any ADW or simulcast center.
So what is the solution? Stop cancellations? I don't think so. Real mistakes do happen, and tellers need to be protected. As long as cancellations are allowed for certain instances, cancellations have to be available to all.
How about this? On any win, place, or show wager of $100 or greater, or any exactor or double wager with a $10 base or greater, allow 90 seconds to cancel whether it is on track or online. And to avoid any temptation to manipulate, these wagers do not show up in the pools until the 90 seconds are up or the bell rings to end betting, whichever comes first.
I realize that this gets us away from real time odds even more, as late odd fluctuations are already upsetting to many Horseplayers, but it might actually lead to less fluctuation, as big bettors using robotic programming to wager as late as possible will have less real time info to make decisions, which means they will have to speculate stressing other factors than current odds. I do believe they'll still wager the same amounts they do today, they will just be more creative and will probably spread out their wagers more.
I imagine the hard part of my idea is to get the racetracks on board with it, and then get the tote companies to implement it. If it is too costly, you can just about forget about it.
One more thing, cancellations do not matter to the integrity of the game when it comes to blind pools like triactors, superfectas, Pick 3's, Pick 4's, etc. so they can be unlimited without any worry, and not subjected to time constraints. Late scratches having to do with a horse being used in a triactor or super by someone with a limited bankroll create a need to be able to cancel, so that another horse can be subbed in by the Horseplayer.