The Bad Beat of a Lifetime: $488,000 Jackpot Disappears

by | 07.22.2013 | 5:33pm
Tsavo breaks on top in race nine at Louisiana Downs Saturday

In the annals of bad beats at the racetrack, what happened Saturday at Louisiana Downs has to go down as one of the worst ever.

Heading into the final race on the card, the will pays posted on simulcast screens and betting websites showed one ticket alive to the #1 horse, Tsavo, in the Super Pick Five. The wager requires bettors to pick the winners of the final five races, but it only pays the entire “jackpot” if there is one unique winning ticket. If there is more than one, half the pool for that day is split while the other half is added to the growing jackpot.

By Saturday afternoon, the pool had grown to $488,000, and if Tsavo won the last race, the will pays indicated that the holder of that one ticket would take down the entire pool. More than 1,100 miles away in West Virginia, Billy Kennedy and Jimmy Appell were brimming with anxiousness. They held that one ticket, a $240 wager they had placed through Kennedy's account.

Appell, a lifelong fan and Thoroughbred owner, watched the race from Charles Town, while Kennedy, a jockeys' agent, saw it unfold from home.

Tsavo was making his third career start after losing his first two races by a combined 38 lengths. Still, the 3-year-old son of Lion Heart, who was stretching out from sprints and making his first start on turf, was bet down from his morning line of 6-1 to be the 8-5 post-time favorite. He broke sharply, went straight to the lead, and held off all challengers to win by a length and three-quarters.

“And it will be Tsavo, a two-length winner taking down the Pick Five!” exclaimed track announcer Travis Stone.

Back in West Virginia, Kennedy, Appell and their friends were going nuts.

“We're all jumping up and down of course, yelling and screaming,” said Kennedy. “Everybody knew at the track. They're all slapping high fives, they're all calling congratulating me.”

But when Kennedy went to the Twinspires website to see the windfall appear in his account, the payout was $11,983 before taxes, not $488,000. Thinking there must have been a mistake, Kennedy called Louisiana Downs and “got the run around” but eventually spoke to Stone, who also works as the track's mutuels manager. Stone promised to get to the bottom of it.

“It turns out there was a ticket placed early Saturday morning through Arlington that used one of the scratched horses in the race,” Stone said. “And based on the rules of the wager through the Louisiana Racing Commission, that particular ticket also got placed to (Tsavo), which nullified the jackpot payoff.”

Stone said the Arlington ticket-holder singled a 30-1 longshot using “Quick Pick,” a random assignment of picks. The horse was a vet scratch later in the morning, meaning the Arlington ticket-holder, alive going into the final race, would get the post-time favorite. When the will pays were announced before the race, the favorite was #11, Adamo, but by post time, Tsavo had been bet down to favoritism, meaning there were actually two tickets alive to Tsavo and no possibility of a jackpot score, despite what the previous will pays suggested.

“I'm never the conspiracy guy,” said Kennedy. “But it just sounds real fishy to me. I know Louisiana Downs wants to keep the (jackpot) going. They get no money in their pools.”

Stone called Kennedy Sunday morning and promised there was nothing nefarious and no mistake. The probable payouts just changed when Tsavo became the favorite.

“I feel awful for this guy and his partner,” Stone said. “But there was no foul play, nobody did anything wrong, there was nothing incorrect or unlawful about what happened. It was just a really bad sequence and set of circumstances.”

On Sunday, Louisiana Downs turned off the will pays for the Super Pick Five, and Stone said that would be the procedure for the rest of the meet.  He said he won't proclaim a jackpot winner during a race call, either.

“We're dependent on the information we get from the tote, so it's kind of tough for us,” he said. “It all depends on scratches, and at any point, the whole scenario can change. It can change right up until the race is off.

“I don't think we will ever in our lifetime come across a worst beat for somebody.”

Kennedy said in hindsight, if he had known the real scenario, he would've tried to bet money on the #11, Adamo, to make him the favorite instead of Tsavo.

“With a chance at $400,000, I'll come up with the money. I don't have many friends, but I have a couple!

“If I could talk to the person with the other ticket, that would ease my pain a little, not thinking that I got screwed. If I was him, I'd be upset,” Kennedy said. “If I got beat by the Quick Pick, I got beat by the Quick Pick. What can you do?”

Kennedy said the experience has soured him on Louisiana Downs and its owner, Harrahs, but not on betting the races in general. In fact, he played a Pick 4 at Saratoga Monday, and it hit for $1,500.

“It's like, I got to hit that 400 times to make up for what they just cost me,” he said. “I'm trying to grin and bear it, but it's a life-changing score. That's what I'm playing for, a life-changing score. That's what we're all playing for, I think.”

  • Craig Brogden

    Industry needs to reinvest some money into upgrading the Tote system. Modern technology with instant information would correct the incorrect information from being broadcast to the bettor and fan.
    The tote systems are decades out of date. Finding a funding source that all parties can agree to for this is the roadblock to fixing this issue that handles >$10 billion dollars annually.

    • LongTimeEconomist

      Wouldn’t have made a difference here. In a race where there are scratches, whether early or at the gate, the payoffs aren’t known until the race goes off and the favorite is determined. The only way to avoid it is to never post “will pays”.

  • Nancy Hayes

    That really blows. To be that elated, only to get shot down like that. Guys, I am so sorry.

  • Andrew A.

    The Track or someone affiliated with the Track could have put a couple
    of grand to win on the horse to make it the favorite and prevent the
    jackpot from being taken down. Having that big Jackpot every day emailed out is a huge benefit for the track.

    and……………………..It’s Louisiana.

    • Kyle Scheiner

      Agreed. When do you ever see a horse live for the jackpot go off as post time favorite… Especially an 8-5 price… Have had that rule w/ PTF bite me a bunch of times. Wish there was a way to make it more beneficial to players

      • Bman

        Change the rule for this specific scenario so it never happens again; If ONE “real” ticket is alive with any quick-pick ticket that has thus had a late scratched horse in the final race at any time, that/those quick-pick tickets cannot receive the PTF in the final race of the sequence. IF the ONE alive ticket loses, quick-pickers can get a share that way. No one should be allowed to tamper or manipulate the wagering or racing, or have to like the gentleman said he would’ve. This could happen again very soon! Does DM or SAR have quick picks and what’s their rule?

        • Figless

          The quick pick is irrelevant, this could happen with ANY scratched horse, in fact it does all the time. If there is a late scratch, even a gate scratch, in the finale’ at Saratoga, for example, all wagers on that horse get moved to the post time favorite so the payoff is different than the will pay posted. Happens all the time, in this case magnified because it was a jackpot play.
          For instance, you may be alive in P6 to the 1 horse in the final, who is the post time favorite, and someone else could be alive to the 2, with these being the only two live tickets. The 2 scratches at the gate. Your 100k payout gets halved since the other players gets moved to your horse.

          • David

            Good points. Bottom is that as bets have become more ‘exotic’ added contingencies need to be factored. Even the best-written rules have that pinhole exception that leads to upheaval. Late scratches and multi-race pools are accidents waiting to happen and ‘buyer beware’ must apply as well.

          • Chris Lowe

            In NY, only on Pick 4 and Pick 6 a scratch is moved to the post time favorite. Daily Doubles and Pick 3 bets are a conso.

          • mike shark

            Figless is correct that the quick pic is not the issue. But let’s really bottom line it…All of these post time favorite late scratch designations are pathetic. There needs to be a consolation payoff on a late scratch at all times. Even with the Rainbow 6, the track has built in incentive to keep it going. There should be a proportional divide from the previous winners but no way should that ticket be allowed. Get a good lawyer andgo after the crooks.

        • Harry

          La. has always been a crooked place not just there but the whole state! Every see a new trainer come in there and make the standings? Cajuns take care of there own for sure !!!!!!!! Here’s just one good example!!! Just don’t bet in CAJUN country they take care of there own! So sorry this has to happen in a great game!!

      • Hoops and Horses

        As noted in another reply, he was trained by Albert Stall, who gets heavily overbet at La. Downs. A lot of people likely bet that horse solely because of the trainer.

    • kyle

      Well, there were four horses the would have taken down the jackpot. What I want to know is how that ticket was purchased a 8 am.

  • HogHater

    IMO, I feel that the Del Mar DQ on Sunday causing a massive Wednesday carryover and keeping the track from having to pay out a $50K bonus to a single Pick Six winner is a bigger stiff job. After the non-DQ in Friday’s stakes race, it makes a player wonder.
    The LAD issue seems to have been a graphics & tote problem that will certainly be rectified.

    • Andrew A.

      I’m pretty sure the 50k stays in the pool for Wednesday. But I did think it was a bad DQ.

      • Hoops and Horses

        I saw the replay of that race at Del Mar. The horse who finished first did come in and interfere. While it was ticky-tack, it also was the correct call given the interference in the stretch. No shenanigans or anything like that.

    • rpres43

      I had a $3 ticket w/ the winner who was dq’d @ $400 +. I thought the was no way for a DQ after some much worse incidents have been allowed to stand. No consistency w/ DMR stewards! That along with trying to beat a 24% take-out is enough of DMR for me.

  • Chris Lowe

    One possible rule could be implemented to help avoid this scenario. Don’t allow multi-race betting until morning scratch time, but we all know how tracks, racing commissions and ADW companies cooperate. (Snark)

    • LongTimeEconomist

      You can still have late scratches. Only way to avoid this problem is to never post “will pays”.

      • Figless

        Correct, the tote should reflect early scratches already, so the La Downs issue is a little odd, doesn’t mention if the scratch was a late scratch or not?

        • Figless

          Sorry, it was early, just got moved because odds changed, my bad.

      • Chris Lowe

        My ADW’s in NY (Interbets and NYRA rewards) don’t allow wagering until the early Eastern time scratch time(usually 10 AM)

  • salthebarber

    I have thought of the scenario where one person has multiple live horses in the last leg including the favorite. If one of the selections scratches and the favorite wins then what happens? I am assuming the jackpot is lost, because one person has the winning ticket twice. If this is the case, the rules should be changed. I wish someone from Gulfstream would comment on this scenario.

  • Don Reed

    “Huge Prison Break In Iraq – 500 Escape” – Business Insider, July 22, 2003

    400 are running for purse money only.


    How’s this for a coincidence? Just today, at Saratoga, Hillhouse High – #7, morning line 7/2 – threw a shoe in the gate. Instead of being scratched, the stewards decided to run him for purse money only.

    Those using him as a single in the 5th race in their P4s & P6s were involuntarily switched to the fave who finished 3rd (Hillhouse finished 4th. What would had happened if he had run with four shoes on?).

    The “Iraq prison break” actually happened & the headline is for real.

    • Figless

      This is one of the reasons I have soured on multi race wagers, despite the advantage with the take out. And late scratches seem to occur at Saratoga more than other tracks, perhaps due to horses unfamiliar to the starters and the many baby races, perhaps due to temporary starters being hired at Spa. I have heard gamblers say they are suspicious of the gate crew up there, but I find that hard to believe.

      • bobjonestwo

        I’ve been a multi race player for years, love the pic 3’s, 4’s, 5’s and 6’s. However I have been burned too many times to count over the years when singling an entry in one of the races, only to have the by far best half of the entry scratched late while the other half, who would have been 99/1 on his own if not coupled with the standout, still run, and run poorly. A million ways to lose at the track, but these guys have one for the ages. Another tough way to lose multi race bets that I’ve seen way too many times the last few years is on bridgejumper show bets that virtually guarantee the horse will run out.

        • Mike Shark

          That half entry scratch becomes a refund in NY. Should be that way everywhere.

      • Don Reed

        About six years ago, I watched the start of a Sara race from the starting gate area. As it happened, the horses were in the gates for a long time before the gates were opened and the race was off (it eventually started uneventfully and that’s a nice way of using the same basic word twice without being redundant).

        Afterwards, I had a nice chat with the head starter, who absolutely floored me with his opinion that the length of time that the horses stay in the gates prior to the start of a race doesn’t matter.

        I literally could not believe my ears, but his opinion was so reasonably stated and his tone of voice was so sincere, I had to take him seriously. I also didn’t want to abuse his cordiality, which I found so refreshing, for a moment, I had to double-check and make sure I was speaking to someone on a NYRA payroll.

        He wasn’t right, nor wrong, nor was I, since no two lengthy “gate cooking” situations are the same, nor are the same horses involved every time, and sometimes, by chance, you must end up with an entire field of seasoned, disciplined campaigners averse to panic (I am referring to the horses; seldom do the humans on the race track fit that criteria).

        That concludes today’s sermon. Did the 3 a.m. test pattern color bars appear after we signed off?

  • Don Reed

    I once bet about $240 and got back a profit of about $11,743 (the 2002 Kentucky Derby).

    Best day of my life at the track.

    The exact same thing happens to Mr. Kennedy and he’s going to have heartburn every time he thinks about this for about the next five years.

    Life is strange.

  • JP Fanshawe

    They can say nothing nefarious happened, but I think it is clear what happened. A horse that had lost its first two races by 38 lengths combined moves from 6-1 morning line favoritism, solely on the strength of stretch out and first-on-turf angles. I don’t buy it. I suspect an agent of the track of putting money into the win pool to ensure that that horse went off as the post time favorite…It is a real shame for those two handicappers. I have had some bad beats in my life, some five-figure bad beats, but nothing on par with that, and the sickening part is that another handicapper didn’t beat them: a lotto player (or maybe track pigeon with fistfuls of cash), did.

    • brussellky

      It was not just the angles you described. No one has mentioned the horse was dropping to LA bred maiden $12,500 claiming and every horse in the race, save a first timer that was a $300 yearling, had already been beaten at that level or below. He was taking a massive class drop, showed some speed in his losses, was trained by a top trainer and was by the best sire in the race (Lion Heart). Remember, these were LA bred $12,500 maiden claimers. I looked at the PPs this morning and the bigger incompetent act was making him 6-1 on the morning line to begin with. If you look at the PPs you will see that him going off at any more than 2-1 was HIGHLY unlikely.

      • JP Fanshawe

        Good Points…still I harbor some doubt that some extra money might have found its way into the pool via some track reps themselves, because you cannot deny it is in their interest to keep these lottery-type jackpots going. (Personally, I don’t play them because I think they are horrible bets….no one should get excited for hitting a consolation payout and sharing it, when 60 percent of the pool carries over, and given that field sizes are relatively small there, the likelihood of single ticket winners is miniscule….these bets have better odds than the actual lottery, but not much…better.) Had there been more than one horse that could have provided a payout, I would feel differently, but this article says that only one ticket was alive, and it was known to whom which horse it was. Further, there were scratches, so it isn’t a big leap to think, “hey, if we throw more money into that pool and make sure that one horse goes off as the favorite, we get a carry-over.” I feel for the guy losing such a big score, but I would be Zen about it. As it is he did hand them $240 and get back $11k….which I would count as a pretty. good. day.

        • Mike Shark

          Please…. these guys make less money than a $2 bettor. What personal incentive do they have to load a pool at the last minute? They barely understand the rules. There’s no conspiracy. There is however a bunch of inept and incompetent inmates running the asylum.

      • Mike Shark

        Excellent points. The morning lines at all LA tracks are the absolute worst.

  • tyler_j

    Are we really surprised? The “Industry” strikes again and yet again fouls a player and itself.

  • Undine

    That’s horse racing for you.

    Win over 11k and it seems like a disaster.

  • David

    Wow, that is a killer. Can’t fathom a licensed track guilty of foul play so it does come down
    to an unbelievably tough beat but OMG! Being taken down in the final leg of a P3 w/decent prices takes time to get over but this one . . .? There is a scene out of ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ about the sequence of events that leads to a fateful outcome that, if any had been altered tragedy wouldn’t have struck. My sympathies guys.

    • bryan m

      you can’t fathom a licensed track guilty of foul play so it must all be completely fair and honest? really? do you think even a single visitor to this site will buy that glossed over explanation?

      do you really think it was worth your time to type something so inane? i realize you probably are affiliated with whoever is so obviously corrupting horse racing and maybe even the people fixing all the races at places like Louisiana Downs, but you should at least try to sound more like an intelligent adult when you are trying to deceive and manipulate the real racing fans who use this site.

  • Hoops and Horses

    Apparently, what happened is a lot of people bet on the winner because he was trained by Albert Stall, who from what I heard is apparently overbet at Louisiana Downs. That, coupled with the Quick Pick that was placed very early in the day, long before the scratch or any other implications were known created this scenario. Nothing wrong was done here, it’s just a case of someone probably doing a bunch of random tickets early in the morning at Arlington coupled with a trainer who apparently is heavily overbet that caused this.

  • hill

    Why would a track ever have will pays posted in races that have scratches before you know who the favorite will be ? It is just a fluid situation until they are out of the gate, or at some tracks halfway down the backstretch. On the other hand if you stop posting will pays before the races you are going to cause handle to drop. I am almost exclusively a multiple race exotics bettor and base many decisions on what the will pays are and what they could be on the next sequence of races. It is a tough call but as a bettor you have to realize that there are scratches in the race and if any of your horses are close to the favorite this outcome is possible. I hate to hear this for the guys involved, just sucks.

  • Mark Toothaker Bloodstock

    I have to say that is the worst beat for sure since they felt 100% sure they won, as a side bar I did have a friend at same track in the 90’s alive to a pick six when his horse was scratched warming up. He then was given the post time fav that he hated, rounded up all the money he could borrow from everyone at track and bet it on a horse he did like and was able to make it the post time fav instead of second choice and he did in fact hit the pick six by doing so.

  • johnnyknj


  • kyle

    How was a ticket bought at 8 o’clock in the morning at Arlington? How about someone from Arlington mutuels cueing us in on that.

    • LL

      You can do early bird betting at AP.

      • kyle

        You can’t bet at the plant at 8am can you?

      • kyle

        OK, the story says “purchased through Arlington.” I’m going to assume it was through an account on-line. I want this to be clearly stated and I want to know the structure of the ticket. Transparency depends at least that.

        • kyle

          Should read: “demands at least that.”

  • kyle

    This is just too fishy. It may be completely benign. But what is required is that the Arlington bettor come forward. And if that requires Arlington and/ or Louisiana Downs to pay him to do so that needs to be done. Racing can not afford this kind of crap

  • Kingturf

    Wow…I will call it a conspiracy. Arlington the home of the manipulating of the Breeder’s Cup pick 6. Louisiana…the home of allowing Jockey’s who are barred from states racing jurisdiction to obtain a license and ride. Yes I call Louisiana (Sleezyana). It smells a little fishy to me!

  • Herewego

    Quite simply the LA. Racing Commission screwed up when they approved the rules for this wager.
    In any of these wagers that require one unique winner any combinations that involve a scratch after the pools open MUST be refunded, they can’t revert to the favorite for this very reason.
    Granted these wagers are more like a lottery than pari-mutuel wagering but this should never happen. As has been mentioned by another poster under this scenario someone a ticket holder with multiple horses alive in the last leg can knock themselves out of the jackpot if one of their horses is a late scratch and another is the post time favorite which ultimately wins.

  • Sandra Warren

    Oh, but for the good old days when you bet a horse to win, place, or show, and shared in the pool. Too complicated! Racing will rue the day they started these bets that take a lot of money out of people’s pockets at the beginning of the day and create no churn.

  • Oly345

    The track had the computer guys put the bet in to continue the jackpot. It’s like the year the guys got caught during the breeders cup hitting the pick six. Just because people get caught robbing banks doesn’t stop people from robbing banks

  • ButlerCreek

    This would make a great episode for the 4 A guys in LUCK

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