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The Fine Cotton Scandal

Tambo_valley_races_2006_editNew to our little slice of Start here!

They say cheaters never prosper and I’m not so sure that’s true but idiotic cheaters certainly never prosper. Cheating in horse racing has a long and storied history but I’m going to focus on a specific kind of cheating in this article called a ‘substitution scam’ or sometimes called a ‘ring in‘. Essentially the scam goes like this; get two horses who look almost identical, race the weaker of the two horses in as many races as you can to drive down the odds of the horse ever winning a race, substitute the stronger of the two horses once the odds have become low enough, bet on that horse to win (which it likely will, because at that point the weaker of the two horses is running in some low class races), and profit.

Fine Cotton, the ‘weak’ horse in this scandal, had been raced in just about any race its owners could find in southern Queensland, Australia. At the time of the substitution, Fine Cotton’s odds were around 20-1. Fine Cotton’s owners were ready to substitute Fine Cotton for another horse, Dancing Solitaire, that looked exactly like Fine Cotton. Not being the most scrupulous, nor attentive, owners, Dancing Solitaire came up lame from running into a barb wire fence. With the big race coming up, this was devastating to the scammer’s plans. How could they find a horse that looked like Fine Cotton, but was also a great racer like Dancing Solitaire? Well, as it turned out, they couldn’t.

Instead, they found a horse named, Bold Personality. Now, Fine Cotton was a brown horse with white markings on his hind legs. Bold Personality was bay with no markings. Not to be deterred, the owners got some hair dye from the local super market with plans on dying all of Bold Personality to match Fine Cotton’s color. Their plans were met with little success as Bold Personality’s coat became red as opposed to the brown they had planned on. They also forgot to apply peroxide to Bold Personality’s hind legs to achieve the white markings of Fine Cotton.

On August 18, 1984, ‘Fine Cotton’ lined up at the gate for a race called the 2nd Novice Handicap, a race for new horses making a name for themselves and old horses on their way out of horse racing. Suspiciously red in color, Bold Personality also had some white paint applied hastily to his hind legs. Everyone who followed horse racing knew it was a ring in. Before the race, Fine Cotton’s odds went as low as 33-1. Once people began to see the horse trotting around the track, the obviously not, Fine Cotton’s odds went to 7-2. People as far away as India were placing bets on Fine Cotton. This kind of action, on a race that was so inconsequential, stood out like a sore thumb to race officials and essentially destroyed Fine Cotton’s owners plans.

The race went on, and ‘Fine Cotton’ won the race by a nose. At the winner’s circle, while being weighed in, Fine Cotton’s paint began to run off his legs. Already suspicious from the betting action, the racing officials demanded Fine Cotton’s papers from his owner. Fine Cotton’s owner fled from the race track, revealing the ring in to the officials. Fine cotton, aka Bold Personality, was disqualified from the race and everyone who placed bets on him lost their money as the second place horse was awarded the race.

So, in this case, cheaters didn’t prosper. Now, how about you get into some fair games and stay away from betting on brown horses that turn red!

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