One of the first questions many novice horseplayers asked when the news of Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit’s positive drug test for excessive amounts of an anti-inflammatory medication was: “If he’s DQed, can I cash my Mandaloun ticket?”
The answer is an emphatic “no.”
Bettors holding Mandaloun tickets deserve props for drawing the proverbial line through his sixth-place finish in the Louisiana Derby and backing that conviction with money. They don’t, however, have a claim on their 26/1 (or better) tickets. That’s because pari-mutuel wagering results stand in granite the moment the stewards rule a race official.
Kentucky Horse Racing Commission regulations address this clearly: “Payment of valid pari-mutuel tickets shall be made on the basis of the order of finish as declared ‘official by the stewards or judges.”
Mandaloun ticket holders? That’s a nice souvenir
That means exactly what it says. No matter what happens afterward, in terms of appeals, disqualifications, or any other outcome-changing element, the pari-mutuel payouts stand.
For Mandaloun’s connections, a Medina Spirit disqualification means they own a Kentucky Derby winner. For Mandaloun’s ticket-holders, it means they own a nice souvenir and conversation piece. Nothing more.
History – both recent and 53 years ago – backs this up. When Maximum Security was disqualified for interference in the 2019 Derby, owners Gary and Mary West spent a year unsuccessfully trying to get the DQ overturned. Had they been successful, any Maximum Security ticket-holders wouldn’t have been able to cash their tickets.
Official vs. pending review: It’s all in the timing
Why? Because the race was deemed official after the 22-minute stewards’ review and subsequent DQ elevating Country House to the winner’s circle. Those lucky folks holding 65/1 Country House tickets cashed one of the biggest bets in Derby history.
Taking the way-back machine to the 1968 Derby brings us the case of Dancer’s Image. He finished first in that year’s Derby, but was later DQed after he tested positive for phenylbutazone. Rules at the time forbid the medication from being in a horse’s system on race day.
Peter Fuller, Dancer’s Image’s owner, appealed the DQ. He followed that with legal action that ultimately stalled at the Kentucky Court of Appeals. And Forward Pass’ promoted victory stands to this day. But Dancer’s Image’s bettors still cashed their tickets, because the DQ happened after the race was initially ruled official.
This racing standard prevents chaos
Bob Heleringer, who wrote “Equine Regulatory Law”, told the Louisville Courier-Journal that the rule making betting results final once a race is official is “one of the most irrevocable standards in racing.”
When you think about it from merely a logistical standpoint, it has to be “one of the most irrevocable standards in racing.” Imagine the pari-mutuel headache if Medina Spirit’s second sample comes back positive and Churchill Downs takes him down as the 2021 Derby winner.
Mandaloun bettors who somehow saved their tickets would rush to their ADWs or OTB sites and cash their tickets on a race after Medina Spirit bettors cashed theirs on Derby Day. Since no Medina Spirit bettor in their right mind is giving their winnings back — and who can possibly enforce this, anyway — we have chaos.
And we have chaos in a sport that can least afford it.