The idea that horse races are fixed has long been a shadow over the sport. The truth is that the reputation is not ill-deserved. In the early days of horse racing there were many incidents where the outcome of races were prearranged. While this does not happen often in today’s world, it would be incorrect to say that it never happens. Here are a few reasons why some handicappers think that the horse racing wool has been pulled over their eyes.
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I Lost So the Race Must be Fixed!
This is the main reason that people claim horse racing is crooked. A handicapper works hard to pick a winner, and when that horse doesn’t come in they are looking for someone to blame. The obvious excuse is to claim that those in the race had it in for the bettor and conspired to cause them to lose.
Let’s talk about why the bettor really lost the race. More often than not the reason for a losing bet is poor handicapping. The bettor has not done their homework, and they may have been betting when they had no business doing so. Nothing has been arranged for them to lose. They simply did not have the knowledge to win the bet.
It is natural for a handicapper to make excuses when they do not win. No one likes to lose. Perhaps it is easier for the bettor to swallow a loss if they feel that something unseemly was going on behind the scenes.
I Saw The Jockey Betting!
At EZ Horse Betting we can understand how this might cause some people to think horse racing is fixed. If you saw a jockey betting at the windows it would surely make you think twice. That is why you will almost never see a professional jockey take the risk of placing a bet in public. We’re not going to say that jockeys don’t bet, but they rarely do it in a way that reveals they have made a wager.
In most racing jurisdictions it is illegal for a jockey to bet on their horse or on another horse that they are competing against. But there are ways around that. The jockey can ask a trainer or a friend to make the bet for them. They can have their agent make the bet. But one of the best ways for a jockey to make a bet would be through an online racebook.
It isn’t likely that the jockey would create an account for themselves. They would probably have their wife or a friend create one and use that one to bet. It might be possible for a jockey to open an online racebook account with Bitcoin and make a bet that way without having to reveal any personal information. In any case, we’d bet there are more than a few jockeys that have used this method.
I Saw the Rider Pull the Horse!
This is another claim that you will hear made by losing bettors. They believe that the jockey pulled on the horse’s reins in an effort to slow it down. While this has surely happened in more than a few races, it is very rare. The reason? There are cameras everywhere on the racetrack. If a jockey does this they are going to be eventually discovered, and that will be the end of their career.
A bettor may mistake rating for pulling a horse. Rating occurs when a rider is purposely trying to get a horse to conserve its energy during the early stages of a race. This method is necessary for horses that have a running style which dictates that they stalk the pack from a distance before unleashing a powerful run in the stretch. As the horses enter the stretch the jockey will ease the tension on the reins and throw the horse its head. This will signal the horse that it is time to release that final burst of speed.
The Rider Had a Buzzer
On this point the bettor may be correct. It is a sad state of affairs that buzzing horses is all to common at many race tracks. It happens more often in quarter horse racing than it does in thoroughbred racing. A buzzer is an electronic device that administers a shock to the horse as it is running. The shock is meant to make the horse run faster with a quick burst of speed.
No one knows for sure where the buzzer was invented or where it was first used. Many suspect that it came into prominence on the bush tracks of Louisiana where owners of horses would gather to contest their horses in match races. It was not uncommon for these trainers to use children to ride, and some of them would even tie a live rooster to the horse before it ran. The flapping, squawking, spurring bird would terrify the horse and make it run much faster.
The penalties for using a buzzer are very severe. A jockey can be banned for life if they are caught using one of these electronic devices. On some circuits the use of a buzzer is so prominent that many horse bettors and trainers have called for its legalization. They argue that a buzzer is more humane than a whip. Someday you might very well see a notation in the Daily Racing Form that says a buzzer is being used.
The Horse Always Loses and it Won Today
This is another thing that is frequently observed at a race track. A horse that has a bad record and can’t win a race suddenly wins by many lengths. How is this possible? The answer may be that the horse is receiving some form of illegal medication from its trainer.
The use of illegal medication in horse racing is widespread. Some trainers are unethical and will take short cuts. They can give horses a substance like caffeine or antihistamine to improve performance. The horse responds when it is given the medication with a strong winning effort. This is something that does not long escape the eyes of a race steward. Pretty soon the trainer of such horses will be called in to provide a blood test on their horse.
Testing is done on all winners. There are also horses chosen at random from each race to be tested. If the trainer does not willingly submit to such a test, they can be barred from participating in races. If they fail a test they can be fined or have their license suspended. Some trainers like Doug O’Neill have developed a reputation for bad tests. The use of illegal medication is a stain on the fabric of American horse racing.
I Heard Someone Say the Race Was Fixed
You can hear all sorts of things on a race track. Everyone in the paddock seems to have a hot pick. These same individuals will also claim that they have inside knowledge when a big favorite loses a race it was supposed to win. A little thought will tell you that this is a fallacy.
If you were a horse trainer and you were going to fix a race, would you tell anyone about it? Probably not. You could be discovered and punished. Also, if bettors knew that a race was fixed they would be in a hurry to make a bet. This would drive down the price on the winning horse. The whole point of trying to fix a race would be to try and make a decent sum of money. If everyone was in on it, there would be no money to be made.
The Mafia Fixed the Race
Many people still believe that the mafia controls horse racing. There was a time in history when the mafia certainly attempted to influence the outcome of races, but that era is long past. This probably happened more on the East Coast when off track betting parlors were first introduced. Today it would be very hard for organized crime to infiltrate horse racing.
Racing in each state is governed by a state racing commission. The commission is the entity responsible for issuing racing licenses. Every one that applies for a license must undergo a background check to make sure they have no ill marks on their record. It would be very hard for a criminal to insert themselves into the sport for the purpose of fixing a race.
Another reason that the mafia doesn’t fool with horse racing is that there is no money in it for them. They have a much greater chance of making a profit by running drugs or through prostitution. Fixing a race would involve multiple bribes, and it would also mean that numerous people had to be in on it. There are an average of eight horses in every race. That means eight jockeys and trainers to bribe. Not an easy feat, even for the mafia.
Don’t Worry About Horse Race Fixing
If there is indeed fixing in horse racing, it happens so infrequently that you should not make this a part of your handicapping decision. All you will do is cause yourself to be stressed, and being stressed means that you will make poor decisions at the betting window. It is a far better use of your time to study handicapping than it is to worry over race fixing.
If a race were fixed, is this something that you would really want to know? It would probably be better to make your bets without this kind of worry. Race fixing is rare. Accept this and make your bets accordingly.
Now, what happens if you become aware that a race really is fixed? Well, we will leave that up to you. Maybe you will decide to make a bet on the outcome and cash a big winning ticket. Maybe you will decide to look the other way. That is your business and no one needs to know about it. Just be aware that many bettors have been fooled into thinking they were betting on a fixed race only to discover that they were had.
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