Anne M. Eberhardt

Santa Anita to Investigate Irregular Will-Pays

Prospective payouts for the final race Dec. 26 appeared to be abnormal.

The Stronach Group's chief operating officer, Tim Ritvo, said Dec. 26 that the track owner will look into what appear to be irregular "will-pays" from the last race on Santa Anita Park's opening-day card.

Spanish Hombre, the 5-2 favorite, won the final race and paid $1,306.85 in the Pick 5 and $128.55 in the Pick 4 based on the 50-cent base wager.

What led to suspicion, particularly on social media, were the listed Pick 5 and Pick 4 "will-pays" for the horses listed ahead of the final race. The highest will-pay—the amount of money to be paid out for each horse in the race should they win—in the Pick 5 was $4,900 for 28-1 longshot Dark Energy, far below what would normally be a five-figure payout for that sequence. The Pick 4 will-pays were similarly tight to the favorite's payout, in comparison to how the wagers normally play out. Dark Energy was also the highest will-pay in the Pick 4 pool, at $466.

The will-pays listed for winning favorite Spanish Hombre going into the final race for the Pick 4 and Pick 5 were the amounts returned to winning bettors for each wager.

In the four races leading up to the final leg of the Pick 5 wager, winning horses paid $17.40, $8.80, $4.60, and $17, respectively. In the Pick 3 pool, Spanish Hombre returned $88.90. In that pool, the will-pays were more spread out, as the longest shot (Malibu Music) was set to deliver $1,033 for a $1 base wager. The Pick 3 will-pay for Malibu Music was higher than the listed $1 Pick 4 will-pay of $759.90.

Ritvo wouldn't go so far as to say the will-pays were suspicious to him personally, but said the issue was "worth looking into." He said Santa Anita will reach out to the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau for guidance and that wagers in the pools will be analyzed by site and ticket. That process won't begin until Dec. 27.

"We will look into who made those bets, where they came from—things like that," Ritvo said.