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The Great American Breeder's Cup Betting Scandal of 2002

By Archie Ward. October 2012

America’s Breeder’s Cup, billed as “Thoroughbred Racing’s Finest Day” was also almost the finest day for the greatest horse racing scandal of recent years. Back in 2002, the Breeder’s Cup only lasted one day in a series of eight races, capped by the shocking 43.5-1 longshot Volponi winning the $3 million (US) Breeder’s Cup Classic.

Picking Volponi would satisfy many horse racing punters, but not computer programmer Chris Harn of Newark, Delaware. He wanted to win the outrageously lucrative Ultra Pick Six. One $2 bet would earn him a cool $44,000. Harn wanted more than one winning Ultra Pick Six ticket. He wanted at least three. The trick was to pick at least five winners from six races. This trick would be easier to pull off with some clever computer hacking.

How the Scam Worked

Harn was in the sweet seat to hack into Autotote, which was then the computer system used to make wagers in the majority of American tracks. He was Autototes head computer programmer. Apparently the pay for a head computer programmer was not sufficiently to Harn’s liking. He discovered that not all winning tickets were cashed out. He also noticed that there was a 30 minute delay in odds being placed from the main computer in Delaware to the tote board at Arlington Park, where the 2002 Breeder’s Cup was run.

This sparked his idea to take ‘gambling’ to a whole new level. Since Autotote employees are banned from betting, Harn needed an accomplice. He recruited his two former fraternity brothers, Derrick Davis and Glen DaSilva. Each would have a winning ticket. Davis had a phone betting account. Harm placed the Pick Six bet on the phone pretending to be Davis. Harn then took advantage of the Arlington Park tote board delay to quickly switch the results of his bet immediately after a race was won. The trio figured they had a sure thing.

No Sure Thing in Horse Racing

Volponi then splashed home for the Classic. He was not part of the field. Suddenly, there was only one winning ticket. That ticket belonged to Davis. Because Volponi’s win was such a shock, suspicions soon came to light. Had basically any other horse in the field won the Classic, there would have been at least one other winning ticket and no suspicions. Harn was fired before being sent to jail for 366 days.

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