Kentucky Horse Racing Commissioner Ned Bonnie suggested the regulator bring in outside help to investigate the events surrounding the victory by Masochistic in the third race on the May 3 Kentucky Derby day card at Churchill Downs.
Bonnie, who consistently reminds other commissioners that the betting windows can provide a bigger prize than a purse for nefarious horsemen, said the state needs to bring in outside help to investigate events surrounding the maiden win of Masochistic, who is trained by co-owner A. C. Avila, who owns the horse with William Shamlian.
In the May 3 race at Churchill, Masochistic was sent off as the favorite at odds of 2-1 in the six-furlong maiden special weight event. He opened a clear lead through a quarter-mile and only built on that advantage to the wire, winning by 14 lengths under Victor Espinoza. While that race may have been run squarely, Bonnie believes the betting public was duped by a program line that didn’t provide the whole story with its “fifth by 4 1/4 lengths” in Masochistic’s March 15 debut at Santa Anita Park.
Importantly, the comment line noted a disqualification but there was no room for the reason for the DQ—a failed drug test. It did not note a follow-up investigation of Masochistic’s rider that day, Omar Berrio, who is being investigated by the California Horse Racing Board for lack of effort in the March 15 race. Both, in fact, took place.
Despite the disqualification and the rider investigation in California, Masochistic was allowed to be entered at Churchill in the May 3 maiden race. Horse racing is regulated from state to state.
Bonnie believes the May 3 race won by Masochistic should be investigated closely, particularly wagering associated with the race, because Churchill may have been used to carry out a betting coup. The thinking is that with larger than usual purses on Derby day, large wagers would not catch as much attention and the larger pools would help ensure higher odds.
He brought up his concerns during the May 13 meeting of the KHRC. Under Bonnie's line of thinking, if the same large wagers had been made on Masochistic to win on a Wednesday in Southern California, he may have gone off at 3-5. Instead, he went off at 2-1 at Churchill and returned $6.20 for each $2 wagered to win. Wagers in exotic pools also would enjoy higher odds.
In a blog entry that day, Southern California horse racing radio show host Roger Stein suggested the race and wagering associated with the race should be examined. Stein outlined the disqualification and the investigation of Berrio.
After his fifth-place finish at Santa Anita, Masochistic was disqualified to last place after a urine sample came up positive for promazine, a metabolite of the sedative acepromazine. On March 16, stewards questioned Berrio about his ride on the 4-year-old gelded son of Sought After. Stewards noted that a formal hearing would be set for an upcoming date.
“The board of stewards is concerned that Mr. Berrio prevented his horse from giving his best race,” the stewards said in their notes. “The horse was examined and tested post-race, and the CHRB investigators were directed to look into the matter.”
Kentucky Horse Racing Commissioner Dr. J. David Richardson said because the horse ran legitimately in Kentucky and any concerns about his effort occurred in California, it was up to the CHRB to conduct the investigation.
“We’re not in California, and we’re not in Kansas,” Richardson said to Bonnie.
Bonnie suggested that because of its day to day duties, the KHRC staff may not have the manpower to effectively investigate the May 3 race at Churchill and trainer Steve Asmussen, his assistant Scott Blasi, and others following a video posted by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
KHRC Chairman Bob Beck said that while he was not familiar with the May 3 race issues, he was confident the KHRC staff was prepared to fully investigate any wrongdoing surrounding it and the PETA video.
Kentucky Horse Racing Commission supervisor of pari-mutuel wagering Greg Lamb said Kentucky has previously worked with other regulators and has provided wagering information as needed. After the meeting, Lamb provided a spreadsheet that showed $3,741,395.97 was wagered on the May 3 race at Churchill.
The most money wagered on the third race May 3 at Churchill was the $545,292.50 sent in on-track. The other four outlets with more than $100,000 wagered were advance-deposit wagering outlets TwinSpires.com, TVG.com, XpressBet.com, and Churchill Downs-owned Isle of Man-based rebate shop Velocity Wagering.
Trainer A. C. Avila could not immediately be reached for this story.