On the surface, it would seem like racing needs a new wager like Beverly Hills needs another botox clinic, but the Oak Tree Racing Association will offer bettors a novel alternative when it begins its 26-day run at Santa Anita on Sept. 29.
Oak Tree, an innovator in wagering options, will present a $1 Pick 5 for the first time. The bet is the brainchild of Sherwood Chillingworth, Oak Tree’s vice president since 1989. Magna Entertainment offered a $2 Pick 5 last year, over five races at different tracks in about an hour. Oak Tree’s Pick 5 will be on the last five races at Santa Anita, sandwiched between the beginning of the Pick 6 and the $1 Pick 4.
"I wanted to experiment with this to see how popular it might be," said Chillingworth, who has been known to participate in an exotic wager or two during his distinguished career as a racing executive. "If it cannibalizes other bets like the Pick 6 and the Pick 4, we may have to reevaluate, but I think we’re the right people to do it. Oak Tree was first with the rolling triple and the rolling double, which initially received criticism, some saying it wouldn’t succeed. But it did and now all tracks do it.
"I wanted to try the Pick 5 because I think people who lose the first leg of the Pick 6 want to find some way to recover, and with a one-dollar bet they can include more horses. I don’t think it will detract from the Pick 6, especially if there’s a carryover. It might cut into the Pick 4 a little, but we’ll see. Frankly, the $1 Pick 5 is a flat-out experiment."
There will be no carryovers in the Pick 5. When there are no winning tickets, the pool will be distributed to tickets with four winners, etc.
"This is the first Pick Five with a $1 wager, not only in North American but in the world," said Chillingworth, known to the racing cognoscenti as "Chilly."
"The rationale is that people can put together a decent ticket with a smaller bankroll and if they get blown out early on the Pick 6, they can come right back and start a Pick 5."
Seemingly, the $1 Pick 5 is the final frontier on the wagering wilderness. Already established are straight bets, rolling daily doubles, rolling Pick 3’s, a Pick 4, a Pick 6, Place Pick 8’s (9’s or 10’s, depending on the number of daily races), exactas, quinellas, trifectas, superfectas, assorted parlays and now a $1 Pick 5.
Las Vegas may be the bastion of proposition betting, but Oak Tree isn’t far behind, especially since it races while college and pro football are in full swing.
"I always thought this new bet would be appropriate during football season," Chilly said with a chuckle. "Six, five, four, three, two one! Hut, hut, snap a dollar on the Pick Five."
Another Oak Tree, twilight racing on Fridays, will occur this meet with post time at 2:30 p.m. "It will allow those who normally can’t make it on Fridays a chance to come to the track," Chillingworth said. "And we’ll take a page from the Del Mar book and offer concerts."
Featured on California Cup Day, Oct. 16, is a Bugmobile promotion and the best of the Beatles’ tribute groups, The Fab Four. "People with classic Beetles (Volkswagens) will get in free. Combined with the Fab Four, we hope to draw somewhere between 6,000 to 9,000 people for those two attractions alone," Chillingworth said. "I think we’ll have a good season. You can’t really compare how we’ll do off Del Mar’s meet, because that’s a unique venue. But some horsemen have saved their horses for our meet, so we’re hoping for larger fields."
”¡ Jack Carava, who won the 2002 Oak Tree training title with 14 victories, has a full complement of horses and hopes to add some that are ready to run.
"Hopefully, things will continue to click along," said Carava, who just failed to crack the top 10 at Del Mar with a 7-9-5 record from 48 starters. "I need to claim a few more horses to have a real good meet. I’d like to win a few at the same time and build up the barn for the winter. I have a full barn now but many are young horses and horses coming off layoffs that probably won’t run right away. But we’ve got a pretty decent bunch of horses."
Carava expects his stock to make a smooth transition from Del Mar to Santa Anita, where the 38-year-old Arcadia native is headquartered year-round. "The track seems real nice," Carava said. "All my horses work well over it." Carava doesn’t think his young horses will be ready before the Hollywood and Santa Anita winter meets, but he is optimistic about a California-bred named Devil Badgett who is pointing to the Cal Cup Mile.
”¡ Isaias Enriquez says he won a unanimous decision in his jockeys’ room fight at Del Mar with Corey Nakatani, but both riders have since "shook hands," according to Enriquez, who cited "personal" reasons for the squabble and not anything that happened during a race.
”¡ Bob Meldahl, long-time agent for Laffit Pincay Jr. before injury forced him to retire, was surprised when Mike Smith and David Flores fired him recently. "Mike wasn’t happy with me representing two riders, although he had approved it," Meldahl said, adding he was perplexed over Flores’ decision, since he finished fourth in the Del Mar standings. On Pincay’s advice, Meldahl has taken the book of veteran Rene Douglas, a recent fixture in the Midwest, who is returning to Southern California where he maintains a home.