Sports Outside the Beltway

Was there race fixing at Hazel Park?

Last week I blogged about police and regulators in Michigan looking into whether races were fixed at Michigan area horse tracks. ESPN’s Bill Finley has an interesting take on the subject.

The thought of race fixing conjures up images of bad guys sitting in smoked-filled rooms deciding which horses are going to be stiffed, how they’re going to bet the bogus races and how they’re going to divide up the huge loot they’re going to make. It’s the last part that is the key. Race fixing involves greed and greed involves making money, usually lots of it. In Michigan, anyone in the race-fixing business would be lucky to make minimum wage.

Harness racing in Michigan is small-time stuff and the pools at the state’s track are pathetically small. The feature race Saturday night at Northville Downs, the only track currently racing in Michigan, was a conditioned race with a $5,600 purse. The best race on the biggest night of racing during the week, it attracted all of $8,782 in wagering in the win, exacta, trifecta and superfecta pools. After the takeout, roughly $6,800 was returned to winning bettors.

In order to fix a race, you’d have to have at least three drivers in on the scam, not to mention some gamblers and maybe even a trainer or two. At the very minimum, five people would have to be involved. Much of the pool would be taken down not by the race-fixers, but by gamblers who honestly stumbled onto to the winning numbers. Whatever the exact math is, there’d be nothing but a few crumbs left for the five or so bad guys after they divvied up their winnings. Anyone in on a fix would be lucky to walk away with a couple hundred dollars.

The betting figures out of Northville last Saturday were not an aberration. Hazel Park handles the most of any Michigan harness track. It averaged $89,612 per card in handle for 2008, according to the most recent Michigan Gaming Control Board report to be released. The average daily handle at Sports Creek in 2008 was $24,238, which comes out to about $2,000 per race. Imagine making your living fixing races at Sports Creek. You’d be on food stamps.

Would anyone fix a horse race, risk their career and jail time, for, at the most, $200 or $300? I suppose it’s possible, but it’s hard to believe anyone could risk so much for so little.

Finley goes on to wonder if investigators really understand horse racing.

If the take numbers Finley cites are accurate, I don’t see how fixing would be on these tracks for the same reason he does. That goes my usual inclination to believe if an investigation is under way in sports, that there has to be substance to it.

I grew up being taken from one Midwest race track or county fair to another*during the years 1971-1974. In late 1973 over 20 people(including some of the country’s most famous drivers) were arrested in the New York area for fixing superfecta races. I remember this huge scandal very well but it is almost forgotten today. The handles in 1973 by the way were many times bigger then today. Most of those arrested were found not guilty in court, but this and some of my father’s stories about drivers holding back, I’ve always taken a jaundiced rule when the possibility of race fixing surfaces. This time I want to see more and won’t jump to conclusions.

*- I grew up on Long Island but my father’s horses raced out of tracks in New Jersey, Ohio, and the Chicago area. New York city are tracks had strict rules about minors attending the races. In fact I can count the times I saw races at Roosevelt and Yonkers on on hand. Whereas I been to Freehold, Atlantic City, Brandywine, Scioto, Sportsmans Park, and a couple other tracks probably 200 times all combined.


Montreal Canadien Maxim Lapierre suspended for 4 games

Welcome to case #2318 of wacky NHL discipline decisions.

Montreal Canadiens forward Maxim Lapierre has been suspended four games for a late hit on San Jose Sharks forward Scott Nichol.

The NHL announced the discipline on Friday.

Lapierre knocked Nichol into the end boards 1:50 into the third period of the Sharks’ 3-2 win Thursday night in San Jose.

Nichol was injured on the play and did not return to the game. No penalty was assessed on the play.

Lapierre will miss games at Los Angeles, at Anaheim, against Tampa and against Edmonton. He will be eligible to return March 13 against Boston.

Lets get this straight Lapierre isn’t penalized during the game but has to serve a suspension. Philadelphia Flyer Mike Richards whacks Florida Panther David Booth so hard he earns a five minute penalty and Booth can’t play because of a concussion for three months. Yet the Richards serves no suspension. Isn’t this pro league’s discipline system in serious need of an overhaul?

Here’s a video of the hit

Lapierre deserved the suspension IMHO.

Special Note- This is the 4000th post made to OTB Sports since the blog began on February 21, 2006.


Race-fixing claims investigated at 3 Michigan horse tracks

Search warrants were executed earlier this week. From the Detroit Free Press-

Authorities say they believe as many as 30 owners, drivers, trainers and gamblers conspired to fix the outcome of certain harness horse races run at three Michigan tracks.

The Michigan State Police and the Michigan Gaming Control Board executed search warrants today at three southeast Michigan homes as part of an ongoing investigation into fraudulent wagering at the tracks.

Police say the case involves races at Hazel Park Harness Raceway, Northville Downs and Sports Creek Raceway in Swartz Creek. The tracks themselves aren’t under investigation and have been cooperating with investigators.

People in Ontario aren’t investigating.

Horse racing in Michigan is in serious trouble. Racing meets were recently shortened due to lack of funds. This news, true or untrue, certainly can’t help. Who wants to gamble on something that could be fixed?


Minnesota Timberwolves suspend C Al Jefferson after DWI arrest

He is the team’s leading scorer. From AP-

Minnesota Timberwolves star center Al Jefferson apologized to the team and fans Sunday after his arrest on suspicion of DWI following a weekend loss to Portland.

The Timberwolves suspended Jefferson for the next two games without pay — a punishment Jefferson said he accepts.

“I want to apologize to the entire Timberwolves organization, owner Glen Taylor, my teammates, coaches and Wolves fans everywhere for my actions last night,” Jefferson said in a statement released Sunday by the Timberwolves. “I made a very poor decision and I am truly sorry for that. As a leader on this team, I know that more is expected of me, and I am disappointed in myself.”

A Minnesota State Patrol trooper stopped Jefferson, 25, on Interstate 394 near downtown Minneapolis early Sunday for speeding and changing lanes without signaling, patrol spokesman Lt. Eric Roeske said.

After taking a field sobriety test, Jefferson was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center for a blood test, which he had agreed to, then to Hennepin County Jail on suspicion of fourth-degree driving while impaired, Roeske said. Jefferson was released after an hour in jail and faces an April 23 court appearance.

A forth-degree crime will probably result in a fine not jail time. If convicted, Jefferson should accept the fine like he did the suspension. I’m thinking he probably will.


Slow speed chase- Miami Heat’s Carlos Arroyo arrested after traffic violation

Among the charges he faces, is driving too slow. From the Miami Herald-

Miami Heat point guard Carlos Arroyo was arrested Friday in Coral Gables and is facing charges for a traffic violation and resisting arrest.Carlos Arroyo

According to the arrest report, Arroyo was spotted at 8:41 a.m. driving slow enough along the 7100 block of Old Cutler Road to the point that he was said to be impeding traffic.

Arroyo apparently was on his way to the Heat’s practice at AmericanAirlines Arena. He did not attend the workout in advance of Saturday’s game against Milwaukee.

“We are aware of the traffic stop involving Carlos Arroyo this morning, and while we fully support our players, this is a pending legal matter and we will have no comment at this time,” Heat president Pat Riley said in a statement.

According to the incident report, a motorcycle patrolman made several attempts to stop Arroyo’s vehicle. Additional police units were called because of Arroyo’s initial unwillingness to pull over his car, according to the incident report.

Arroyo, 30, eventually stopped but “attempted to resist” being handcuffed when he exited his car. He was also accused of being “confrontational and challenging” and “posing a threat to both himself and officers,” the report said.

Arroyo appears to have scratches and red marks on his face and neck in a mug shot taken by police when he was booked at the Coral Gables Police Department. He is charged with operating a vehicle at a low enough speed to impede traffic, resisting arrest without violence and failing to obey a lawful order. Arroyo was released on a promising to appear in court.

Resisting police without violence? Then why those cuts to his face? I have a very low opinion of South Florida law enforcement. They don’t believe the law applies to them, and I cite multiple instances that say just that. Plus my own personal experience of getting harassed by five to six policemen and almost arrested. My crime? Waving down an officer when my car broke down. Right now Arroyo has my sympathy.


Toronto Maple Leafs center Mikhail Grabovski arrested

That broken wrist he suffered last month isn’t keeping him out of fights. From the Toronto Star-

This isn’t how the Maple Leafs hoped Mikhail Grabovski would be spending his Olympic break.

The 26-year-old centre was arrested at 2:30 a.m. Saturday by Vancouver police and kept in jail overnight after allegedly being involved in a street altercation.

Grabovski was apparently released to his parents at about 9 a.m. Saturday.

Leafs GM Brian Burke said in a news release he was “aware” of the incident. “Since we are presently investigating this matter, the team will not provide any further comment at this time.”

The details of the incident are unclear, but apparently an argument on the street escalated into a situation in which punches might have been thrown, possibly at least one by Grabovski. No charges had been laid as of late Saturday evening.

The wrist injury took place on January 2nd. He was scheduled to play for Belarus in the Olympics.

IMHO Grabovski is an overpriced NHL player and just another example of why Toronto is one of the worst run teams in the NHL. They are paying nearly 3 million dollars for a player with 7 goals and 12 assists scored this year.


Miami Dolphin CB Will Allen charged with DUI

He is the second Dolphin player to get arrested this season. From AP-

Miami Dolphins cornerback Will Allen has been arrested and charged with driving under the influence in Miami Beach.

Jail records show Allen was arrested Saturday and was being held at the Pretrial Detention Center in Miami on $1,000 bond.

A spokesman for the Dolphins declined comment, saying the team only recently learned about the incident.

Messages left with the Miami Beach Police Department were not immediately returned. The records did not indicate whether he has an attorney.

Allen is a nine-year NFL veteran. He missed the final 10 games last season because of a knee injury that required surgery.

To be more precise- Allen tore his ACL in a game against the New Orleans Saints. This legal problem won’t determine whether Allen still has a career with the Dolphins. What will decide his fate is if that knee is his can still sustain him as an NFL starter.


Oregon RB LaMichael James arrested on domestic violence charges

He rushed for over 1,500 yards last season. From ESPN-

Oregon running back LaMichael James, one of the top freshmen in the nation, was arrested on domestic violence charges after his girlfriend said he grabbed her neck during an argument and pushed her to the ground.

James, 20, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to misdemeanor charges of menacing, strangulation and assault. He remained in the Lane County Jail on $40,000 bail, according to a jail deputy. His attorney, Michael Buseman, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Springfield police Sgt. Tom Borchers said the incident happened Monday evening outside a Springfield apartment complex. The 22-year-old woman, whose name has not been released, contacted authorities the following day and police located James in Eugene late Tuesday.

With the exception of self defense, there is no excuse for violence against a woman. If the charges are true, James needs to be disciplined. Including possibly kicking him off the Ducks football squad.


Texas Community College Women’s basketball coach arrested

He and one of his players were arrested earlier this week. From AP-

The women’s basketball coach at an East Texas junior college and one of his players was released on bond Thursday after their arrests after a game.

Trinity Valley Community College coach Bill Damuth was freed from Washington County Jail on $1,500 bond Thursday, a day after Blinn College police arrested him on a charge of resisting arrest. Freed on $2,500 bond was Lesha Dunn, Trinity Valley’s 6-foot-4 freshman post player from Canada, who was charged with assault on a police officer.

According to Blinn spokeswoman Cathy Boeker, Damuth angrily charged game officials at the final buzzer of No. 4-ranked Trinity Valley’s 61-55 loss Wednesday night at Blinn, then struggled with a campus police officer who was trying to restrain him.

Boeker says Dunn came to her coach’s aid, grabbed the arm of the officer trying to restrain Damuth, then struggled from behind with a second officer who was trying to place Damuth in handcuffs.

Both spent the night in the Washington County Jail in Brenham before their arraignments Thursday morning.

The charge of resisting arrest is abused by law enforcement officials all the time. Without further facts, I won’t comment on the criminal charges. As for being angry at officials, Coach Damuth needs more self control.


Miami Dolphin DT Tony McDaniel arrested for Domestic violence

In a affidavit he accuses his girlfriend of attacking him. From AP-

Officials say Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Tony McDaniel is out of jail after being arrested and accused of domestic violence.

McDaniel was released Sunday on $3,500 bond. Authorities say the 25-year-old South Carolina native returned from a night out with friends and then got into a fight with his girlfriend early Saturday at his home in Davie, which is near Miami.

McDaniel says in a police affidavit that his girlfriend attacked him.

McDaniel is in his fourth season. He played for Jacksonville for three seasons and came to Miami in 2009. He had 16 tackles and 1.5 sacks this season.

McDaniel is a marginal NFL player. Getting in trouble with law enforcement won’t help his career.


Visitors Since Feb. 4, 2003

All original content copyright 2003-2008 by OTB Media. All rights reserved.