Horse Racing’s Biggest Betting Controversy

Three college friends tried to cheat to take down the Pick 6 at the 2002 Breeders’ Cup but the scheme failed. (Photo credit: Breeders’ Cup Ltd.).

Horse race betting is a pretty straightforward thing these days. You back a horse, you watch the race and if your horse wins your bet is a winning one as well. There is not much room for influencing the final outcome of a wager once it has been submitted.

However, it wasn’t always like this and whenever new horse betting inventions were first implemented, there was room for swindlers to find a hole in the system and exploit it. That was just what happened at the 2002 Breeders’ Cup.

This betting scheme would have never happened however, if the swindlers participating in it would have bet online and not in offline betting parlors. In fact, these days Online Betting, on top of being hugely entertaining,  is also one of the safest things out there.

The Plan

There were three people involved in the 2002 Breeders’ Cup controversy. The designer of the scheme was a senior computer programmer at Autotote called Chris Harn and he was helped by two friends, Derrick Davis and Glen DaSilva. Autotote is an American company which deals with almost two thirds of all horse racing bets in the United States.

The friends’ plan focused on exposing a weak link in the process of submitting the final results in horse races at the Breeders’ Cup. Harn realized that if a bet was made at some of the off-track betting establishments, there was a 30 minute delay in the processing of bets after the second and the fourth race of the six major races in the competition.

These 30 minutes were an ample amount of time for the computer programmer to influence and change an Ultra Pick 6 betting slip which requires the punter to guess correctly the six winners of the six major races of the competition (the Classic, Turf, Sprint, Distaff, Juvenile and Mile) for a huge financial gain.


What Harn and his two friends did was to use the 30 minute delay between the end of the race and the submission of the final results from the off-track betting parlors to Autotote to change their winners from the initial four races with the real race winners.

Then they would combine those four winners with all horses participating in the remaining two races, thus making sure that they would end up as winners regardless of the winners of the final two races.


On the day of the races everything went to plan and  Harn, Davis and DaSilva thought that they had made a profit of over $3 million without anyone noticing. However, as with all exposed scams there was a small glitch in their results which completely undid all of their hard work.

As fate would have it, one of the races, the Classic, was won by Volponi, and Volponi was a 43 to 1 long-shot. Had any other horse won the race, there would have been more winners and the trio’s actions would have gone unnoticed. Instead, they were the only winners of the Ultra Pick 6 and were promptly prosecuted and charged.


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