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Monday, April 21, 2008

Too Secretive For Their Own Good

- Little in the way of additional reported news in the matter of trainer Gregg Matties, denied stall space by NYRA after, we're told, it was alerted by the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau (TRPB) to "irregular betting patterns" involving his family members. Jerry Bossert had written last week in the NY Daily News that some of the races involved horses Matties had runners in and some did not.

The TRPB is certainly quite vigilant in protecting us horseplayers, but not quite so when it comes to telling us exactly what it is they're protecting us from. What we do know is that Matties' brothers are big bettors, that they co-own the horses that Gregg trains, and that the barn won four races in 29 attempts at Aqueduct thus far in 2008.

Now, as far as unreported news, rumor, and speculation goes, an anonymous commenter on this site who claims to know the Matties brothers writes that the suspicions involve not Matties holding a horse back, but "for winning, I believe. Take a look at his last winner, I think you will understand." I suppose that was in response to my guessing here that any problem would be regarding his horses not winning. That was my initial reaction, because what would possibly be the problem with family members betting on a horse that they were told was doing well? Unless the TRPB has suddenly morphed into the SEC, I don't believe that would break any laws, and nor do I believe that it would constitute what most horseplayers would consider to be a breach of trust. Inside information has long been accepted as a part of the game, and something, as long as it doesn't involve drugs or other hanky-panky - neither of which has been cited in the Matties case - that I think we all accept. Besides, much - though certainly not all - parimutuel activity is totally transparent, and I've always believed that a good handicapper ignores unexpected action at the tote at his or her own risk, and, in fact, turns it to his/her advantage.

A little research (which could have been avoided if I'd merely checked out the Can Gamble blog, a member of our own TBA) reveals that Matties' last winner that the commenter refers to was Too Drunk To Call on March 27. On February 27, he stretched out to a route, dropped in class, and scored a seven length win at odds of 5-1. His Beyer of 88, a career best, was a vast improvement over recent efforts sprinting. A little over a week later, moving up to a state-bred optional claiming allowance, he was an even 5th at 7-2, beaten less than four lengths. Then, in his last race, on March 27, Too Drunk to Call, in the same class, loped to an easy lead in slow fractions, and bounded home the winner by five lengths, returning $17.60 to win, and once again topping his lifetime best Beyer, this time a 92.

However, despite the improved speed figures, I don't see anything here that seems overly suspicious, and if you drop me an email, I'll be happy to send you his career past performances. The fact is that the horse has always improved his form when switching to two-turn inner track races, and [some of his] prior best career races were run under those conditions. And it's perfectly reasonable to think that he bounced, running just eight days after the Feb 27 race, and then rebounded on March 27 in a race in which he was afforded a clear lead through a slow pace.

Whatsmore, the winning odds of 5-1 and 7.80 to 1 hardly indicate foul play...unless there was action in the multi-race wagers, bets on which us horseplayers sacrifice the transparency of the tote action and leave those matters to chance. Did Gregg Matties commit a violation worthy of being denied stall space if he told his brothers that his horse was doing very well in anticipation of his annual switch to race conditions under which he has historically improved? Or for that matter, if he told them that the horse was liable to bounce on March 8? Even if one theorizes that he was playing games with that race in order to fatten the price for his next effort, is that indeed against the rules? Or the kind of maneuvering that goes on every day at every track? Were the Matties' wagering more likely to come under the TRPB's radar just because they have the same last name as a trainer? Does the TRPB need to obtain a subpoena in order to gain access to what I would consider private records?

Given the organization's secrecy, I suppose we won't be learning the answers to these and other pertinent questions anytime soon. Meanwhile, Can Gamble reports a rumor that Matties has been given his stalls back after threatening to sue NYRA. Whether that's true or not is one thing I suppose we will soon find out.

[UPDATE: Thanks again to on below for legible version.]


Anonymous said...

More "Integrity" from the "new" NYRA.
Rumor up this way near Toga is that Mattes is a whale who doesn't wager through NYRA so now he's being punished. Good for him for suing.
Maybe the TRPB should look at the wagering of all the NYRA trustees on the horses they own?

Anonymous said...

I wonder if it's even really the TRPB's own investigation. As I recall, the jockey investigation (it's been almost 2 years; think they'll finish that up soon?) was really an investigation by the FBI, which then shared information (also about suspicious betting patterns) with the TRPB.

I've read that the suspicious pattern in the jockey case amounted to leaving a particular horse out of exotic wagers. Who would ever do that???


Anonymous said...

Nothing suspicious here on the face of it.

I actually bet him in the last race, 8-1 was an overlay, plus of course I relate to the name.

Anonymous said...

An interesting blog entry at 2nd Avenue Sagas for anyone who used to ride the Big A special train from 42nd and 8th.

I used to ride this back in the day. Buy your form on the train, kick back and handicap on the A train super express.

Anonymous said...

does the Derby have separate betting interests with common ownership?

if not, could be quite the entry.

Anonymous said...

The TRPB suspected a peculiar betting pattern - thats a good one. They wouldn't know a suspicious pattern if you laid it out in front of them along with video of the races.
Someone at the "new" NYRA did not want the kid around - thats it plain and simple - are Noe and Meyocks back already.