Punters dudded? You betcha
A ROCKHAMPTON punter has been caught up in a national racing controversy after TABs around Australia paid out on the wrong placings in a race.
In an astonishing case described as “an absolute disgrace” by panellist Richard Callander on thoroughbred racing channel TVN, TABs were unable to act on the error, leaving punters who had backed the rightful third-placegetter, Lovabruchill, with empty pockets.
Conversely, punters who had backed the horse which finished fourth, Moonbound, thought Christmas had come early when they were paid the handsome third place dividend of $22.40.
The embarrassing blunder was not made by any TAB, but by the official judge at Western Australia's Belmont racetrack last Wednesday.
It has received little to no coverage in national media.
After the first race of the day at Belmont, the judge incorrectly declared horse 16 (Moonbound) third and horse 15 (Lovabruchill) fourth and semaphored correct weight.
Once correct weight is declared on a race, the TABs pay out on the result.
It wasn't until some time after correct weight that the mistake was realised.
When being interviewed by stewards, the official judge stated that he had erred in semaphoring the incorrect numbers.
Even though stewards amended the official result of the race for prizemoney purposes to the owners of Lovabruchill, TABs cannot change numbers and payouts after correct weight.
This effectively robbed punters whose bets centred around Lovabruchill (should have paid $3.10 for the place).
It robbed the Rockhampton punter, who had rovered Lovabruchill with the field in the trifecta (bet cost almost $60), of a collect.
Subsequently a $3604.70 trifecta dividend was paid to punters who had Moonbound and the first and second-placed horses.
“For a stuff-up like this to happen in this day and age of technology is unbelievable,” the Rockhampton punter said.
“There's nothing fair and just about it - it's equivalent to robbery.
“Furthermore, it seems to have slipped under the radar. To my knowledge no media other than TVN have reported it. What if this had happened on the Melbourne Cup in a few weeks' time when hundreds of thousands of once-a-year punters take part?
“It would have made world headlines and been a huge black mark on not only an Australian icon, but the racing industry in general.
“It doesn't matter whether it's the Melbourne Cup or the first at Belmont, punters deserve better than this.”
UniTAB divisional general manager of wagering, Brad Tamer, told The Morning Bulletin he empathised with punters who backed Lovabruchill but said there was nothing that could be done.
He said UniTAB relied heavily on judges and stewards providing correct information.
“If we made the error we'd be the first to put our hands up. But that's not the case,” he said.
Mr Tamer said it was not the first time an incident such as this had occurred but it didn't happen often.
“We cover about 50,000 races a year and you might see (a mistake) once every 18 months.”
Rockhampton solicitor Doug Winning had not heard about the incident until contacted by The Bully but described it as “an absolute disgrace in the modern age of racing”.
He said if there was to be any legal action by punters, it would have to be against the race club for negligence.
“Clearly the judge has been grossly negligent in discharging his duties,” Mr Winning said.
“One would think there would be some sort of systematic checking procedure whereby a second person has a look at the print or numbers before correct weight is declared.
“An incident like this devalues the public confidence in the administration of racing.”
Obviously embarrassed by the bungle, a Racing and Wagering Western Australia stewards spokesman would only confirm that the judge had been spoken to and that he would continue his duties, before referring The Morning Bulletin to chairman of stewards John Zucal.
Mr Zucal did not return our calls.
Morning Bulletin racing writer Tony McMahon, a former steward, said while humans were involved there would always be errors.
“As for technology - it has to be fed by humans and deciphered by them.
“The totalisators work on a system whereby they pay out on the judges placings ASAP after correct weight.
“They cannot double-dip and pay out again later because of this unfortunate error.
“I suppose the hypothetical has to be asked, 'would the backers of the fourth horse wrongly placed third at Belmont come in and refund their money?'
“The answer is no way!”