Betting on a Button
Late on Monday's Saratoga race card, a steward accidentally closed the betting on the ninth race with still two minutes to post. Carmine Donofrio, a racing board steward, claimed he saw another race on the TV screen, thought it was race 9 and pushed the button that closes all betting.
The natural reaction is to blame the steward, and while there doesn't appear to be another race late Monday during the same timeframe, who knew such a pivotal moment in every race was controlled by a person's ability to consistently push a button every 35-45 minutes? I certainly didn't.
Does this strike anyone else as a bit archaic? In my acting days, I took a gig as a stage manager who's primary duty after a show started performances was to “call the show”, essentially calling out light and sound cues to keep the tech crew together. There were around 100 cues for a 70-minute show meaning for the most part we were on our toes the entire time The cues we missed (I was far from a perfect stage manager) were the ones spaced out over 5-10 minutes, not the ones right on top of each other. If given enough time, people's minds tend to wander…or excessive drinking backstage is bad…one of the two.
I understand why this has likely been the process for years. While the technology has caught up to change this system, the racing industry has not seen its best days over the last decade and budgets are tight for any improvements. When money is invested in improvements, any racing company would want to vest those monies to improve the racing experience for fans and athletes.
But maybe we can ensure this type of integrity at a relatively low cost. Is there anything keeping a racetrack from installing a relay signal at the opening of the gates to the tote room that closes betting? While this isn't a common problem, it's likely the source of any past-post wagering issues that have come up over the years.
It's probably wrong to blame Donofrio. Human beings are prone to make mistakes, especially over long periods of time. A system that relies on the consistency of computers seems to make a lot more sense to me.
But what do I know? I couldn't even make it as the stage manager for a children's production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.