The question of race fixing is one that will also loom over the head of professional horse racing. Some people can simply not shake the idea that the outcome of horse races are predetermined. It is hard to argue with that idea when you have incidents like the Breeders’ Cup Fix Six.
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The Breeders’ Cup Fix Six was an attempt to fix one of the biggest horse race betting pools – the Pick 6 for the 2002 Breeders’ Cup World Horse Racing Championships. Had it been successful those who perpetrated it would have walked away with millions. It is a story that still haunts horse racing bettors almost twenty years later.
A Computer Vulnerability in Horse Racing Betting
It was a programmer that worked for Autotote who first noticed a vulnerability. Chris Harn was responsible for programming the tote boards that are used to track bets made at the race track. What Harn noticed was that some winning horse racing tickets are never cashed. Some are cashed weeks or months after being certified a winner.
The number of uncashed tickets is so high that New York reclaims more than $7 million each year in unclaimed winnings. One can assume this is the case on most horse racing circuits, although smaller circuits may not reach that $7 million level.
Chris Harn came up with the brilliant idea to somehow cash in on all those discarded winning tickets. The immediate problem was that there was no way for Harn to carry out the scheme by himself. He needed confederates. He chose two friends to help, Derrick Davis and Glen DaSilva. Harn would create the tickets for Davis and DaSilva to cash based on the missing cashout totals.
Business was good. The two confederates made almost $100,000 cashing tickets. For Harn this was not enough. He wanted more. Soon he found another glitch. He discovered that there was a lag of time between the making of a bet at an OTB and the bet being registered on the racing tote board. This allowed Harn to change tickets without anyone knowing.
Harn applied this cheating strategy to the biggest bet in horse racing. The Pick Six requires bettors to pick six winners in a row. He would alter a ticket to contain the first five winners of a Pick Six and then select all the horses for the sixth race. A win was guaranteed. It was decided the trio would try to use the technique to cheat the Breeders’ Cup Pick Six.
Before trying that the cheaters made a test run. They won a six-figure Pick Six and were convinced they could walk away with millions in the Breeders’ Cup. Sometimes, you should be careful what you ask for because you just might get it.
A Longshot Dooms the Breeders’ Cup Fix Six
Everything was going perfect for Harn and company come the 2002 Breeders’ Cup at Arlington Park in Chicago. Then the 43-1 longshot Volponi won the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The only person to hold a winning ticket was Harn’s partner Derrick Davis. The suspicions of the racing officials were raised. They reasoned that no one was lucky enough to make five straight single picks before nailing the longshot in the last race.
Davis pretended that it was just dumb luck, but the racing officials were not impressed. They started to investigate and soon pieced together the entire chain of events that led to the Breeders’ Cup Fix Six. Federal charges sent all three men to prison.
The aftermath of the Breeders’ Cup Fix Six was ugly. It destroyed the confidence of many bettors in a sport that many already regard as suspect. Some felt that this was simply a confirmation of what they had known all along – horse racing is fixed.
The truth is that horse racing in the US or across the world is not fixed as a matter of course. There is simply too much risk involved for the jockeys. No jockey is willing to risk losing a career by participating in race fixing. As for hacking horse racing betting like these three men did, it happens. It does not happen on the scale that it happened with the Breeders’ Cup Fix Six. Fixing incidents like this one are very rare.
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