Following an investigation into possible collusion among competitors in this year's Breeders' Cup Betting Challenge, Breeders' Cup officials announced Dec. 8 that an entry by Eric Moomey that earned a ninth-place finish has been disqualified.
The following is a release from Breeders' Cup that did not include reaction from Moomey.
The independent investigation determined that Moomey and Roger Ball colluded to increase the number of entries available to them and otherwise attempted to manipulate the tournament's results in violation of the BCBC official rules. Consequently, Mr. Moomey's entry that resulted in a 9th place finish (and within the prize pool) was disqualified and the participants that finished 10th through 19th will each move up one place in the BCBC final standings. Prize money will be reallocated accordingly.
Breeders' Cup said other allegations of collusion amongst additional BCBC participants were extensively investigated but the investigation led to the conclusion that there was insufficient evidence to support a finding that any additional rule violations occurred.
Breeders' Cup said Dec. 8 it had completed its analysis of the results of the 2017 Breeders' Cup Betting Challenge. In early November, BCL retained Robert Watt of Stoll Keenon Ogden (SKO) to perform an independent investigation of the BCBC following the receipt of a written complaint alleging several improprieties including collusion among specific BCBC participants. The BCBC rules explicitly provide that "[c]ollusion of entries between horse players is prohibited, as is any attempt to manipulate the results of the tournament."
Over the course of several weeks, SKO undertook an extensive investigation of the BCBC. This investigation included reaching out to 2017 BCBC participants and inviting them to share any pertinent information relating to any tournament improprieties, reviewing wagering patterns of all BCBC prize-winning participants and any alleged partners, consulting with three independent handicapping tournament directors, a review of wagering detail by the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau, reviewing podcasts and other interviews of participants commenting on the BCBC, and interviews with participants that either made allegations, had information, or were accused of violating contest rules.
The investigation noted that Moomey and Ball each had two entries and the review of wagers revealed that those four entries covered all horses in the Juvenile Fillies Turf on Friday with zero overlapping wagers between the four separate entries. Moomey's and Ball's collective four entries covered all of the European horses other than the horse in the 14 post in the Juvenile Turf on Friday with zero overlapping wagers between the four separate entries. Combining four separate entries to create a larger bankroll to permit wagering on more horses in a single race is an unfair advantage over other participants playing one or two entries. Moomey and Ball made all of their wagers in these two races within close proximity to each other and used the same four wagering machines for all of these wagers. Many of these wagers were made at nearly the same time.
Breeders' Cup said it also received a complaint about Nisan Gabbay and Kevin McFarland. Both individuals only had one entry per person (as opposed to the permitted two entries per person). McFarland wagered throughout both days of the BCBC. Gabbay did not wager until the sixth race on Saturday and incurred 5,000 penalty points on Friday and 6,000 penalty points on Saturday for failing to place minimum wagers in accordance with the BCBC official rules. Gabbay and McFarland stated unequivocally that they do not collaborate on wagering strategy even though they share tournament winnings. The BCBC official rules do not prohibit the sharing of winnings and the investigation concluded that such sharing does not violate the rules in effect.
Moreover, according to Breeders' Cup, Gabbay and McFarland played only one entry apiece and the wagering patterns employed could have been employed by one participant with two entries within the rules.
Breeders' Cup received additional complaints regarding a revision to the BCBC rules on minimum wagers. Prior to the 2016 BCBC, participants were given a 5,000-point penalty per race for failing to bet the minimum wagers on Friday and a disqualification for failing to bet the minimum wagers on Saturday.
Breeders' Cup felt that the penalty was too harsh and the BCBC rules were revised in 2016 to state that participants would receive a 1,000-point penalty per race on Friday and a 2,000-point penalty per race on Saturday for failing to bet the minimum wagers without providing for disqualification. The 2017 investigation concluded that the imposition of penalties in 2017 was consistent with the current version of the rules and that the application of those rules does not warrant the disqualification of Mr. Gabbay in addition to the specified point penalties.
While other major handicapping tournaments also have minimum wager penalties similar to the current BCBC penalties, Breeders' Cup is nevertheless reviewing its Official Rules for future years to encourage wagering throughout the two days of racing while mitigating penalties for those players that unintentionally failed to meet the minimum wagering requirements.
As part of its investigation, Breeders' Cup has received significant feedback from participants regarding improvements to the contest. As a result, Breeders' Cup has recently formed a wagering committee made up of Breeders' Cup members and chaired by Craig Bernick and Mike Rogers. Other Members from Breeders' Cup include Fred Hertrich, Bret Jones, Mike Levy, and David Richardson. Horseplayers and tournament players will be represented on the wagering committee by Paul Matties, Joe Appelbaum, Jonathan Kinchen, and Tom Quigley.
As stated by Breeders' Cup president and CEO Craig Fravel, "while we hope that the work of the wagering committee will lead to improvements for the Breeders' Cup and Thoroughbred racing generally, the first priority will be to review the operation of the Breeders' Cup Betting Challenge as well as the rules governing play. We expect to address concerns related to collusion, the audit/referee function, minimum play requirements, bet types, and any others brought to our attention by the committee or the tournament community. While this has been an unfortunate occurrence, we expect to make changes that will set an example for the industry and establish a foundation for growth. We welcome input from horseplayers as part of those efforts."
In its release, Breeders' Cup thanked all BCBC participants for their patience and cooperation in the delay of the official results as well as for their part in making the Breeders' Cup World Championships a success.