California Board May Look to 'Beat The Favorite'

by Jack Shinar

California officials are considering a wager that taps into the bettor's natural inclination to "beat the favorite."

In fact, that's what the bet is being called. The California Horse Racing Board's Pari-Mutuel Operations Committee will examine Beat the Favorite for the first time Aug. 22. If racetrack representatives and the committee like it, and believe the public will support it, the legislative approval process would begin.

The idea is for bettors to select a horse or multiple horses in three races on a typical eight- or nine-race program that aren't favorites. If the selections prove correct, the winner would collect a portion of the pool that would be split among all the winners at the end of the day, a la the pick six or place-pick-all wagers.

The pool would be subject to the same 20.18% takeout applied to all exotic wagers in the state.

"It's a really interesting idea," said CHRB commissioner Roger Licht, who also chairs the pari-mutuel committee. "I'm looking forward to seeing the staff's report on it. One of the things I'm concerned about is that since you have to make the wager in advance, how do you determine who the race favorite will be?

"In a maiden race, a horse that is 10-1 on the morning line can turn out to be the favorite. What happens if that horse wins?"

Licht also said he believes the proliferation of exotic bets is a problem.

"I'm concerned about cannibalization," he said. "Is someone making this bet doing it instead of making another type of bet?"

John Reagan, CHRB staff analyst, said Beat the Favorite is the brainchild of nationally known handicapper James Quinn. Reagan said it was brought to the pari-mutuel committee's table at the request of Jack Liebau, director of California racing for Magna Entertainment Corp.