The investigation into the Breeders' Cup Ultra Pick 6 fraud has triggered an industry-wide review of pari-mutuel systems and tote security, but the negative publicity hasn't doomed the pick six or chased away sponsors.
Both issues were of concern to National Thoroughbred Racing Association/Breeders' Cup officials soon after the fraud was uncovered on the heels of the Oct. 26, 2002 World Thoroughbred Championships at Arlington Park. The Breeders' Cup board of directors, during a meeting in early January, laid them to rest.
Though the three men involved in the Ultra Pick 6 fraud still haven't been sentenced, and more than $3 million in winnings for those who picked five of six winners remains in limbo, Breeders' Cup is looking ahead to this year's championship event at Santa Anita Park. And there will be pick six wagering.
Though perhaps never really in jeopardy, the Ultra Pick 6 was discussed by the Breeders' Cup board as part of a review of 2002. The bet will be offered again, but Breeders' Cup president D.G. Van Clief Jr. said it's too early to say whether it would get a promotional boost given the events of 2002.
"We had considered (the Pick 6) late last year, and asked ourselves, 'Do we do it again?' " Van Clief said. "The answer was, 'Yes.' We have a preliminary budget (for this year), but we did not get into specific executions for this year's Pick 6."
The NTRA/Breeders' Cup identified three risk areas in the wake of the Ultra Pick 6 probe: consumer confidence, problems in the legislative arena, and "business interruption." The last category included more than potential loss of handle; officials also were concerned how NTRA/Breeders' Cup sponsors would react.
"We haven't seen any manifestation of that with our sales efforts," Van Clief said. "We've had no push-back from our partners, and it doesn't seem to have hurt our prospects (for additional sponsorships). Though we haven't seen any push-back, it was a concern, and it remains a concern."
In 2002, the NTRA/Breeders' Cup made progress in the sponsorship arena. Bessemer Trust, John Deere, and NetJets were title and division sponsors; Long John Silver's and NAPA were title sponsors; Alberto VO5 was a presenting sponsor; and FedEx and Guiness signed on as sponsors.
In another matter, Van Clief said the Breeders' Cup adopted a resolution supporting a ban on the slaughter of Thoroughbreds. It is the same document adopted by the NTRA board in December, Van Clief said.
The NTRA at the time said it would support proposed legislation that would ban the slaughter of Thoroughbreds. A bill could be introduced this year.