Last night (May 17) was my final Saturday night on the broadcast desk at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto. And boy was it a fun night.
To be perfectly clear, this was my final Saturday night at this particular track – I still work Monday night at Woodbine and then 22 dates at our sister track, Mohawk Racetrack, before wrapping up 17 years with the company on June 21.
So what made this Saturday night so special? Well, if you have to ask, you probably don’t play the ponies. As the meet concludes on Monday we had a mandatory payout of something called the Jackpot Hi-5. In this particular wager you have to select the first five finishers in the last race of the night AND be the only person to do so. If nobody correctly picks the top five finishers (rare), or if more than one patron picks the top 5 (common), then only half the pool is paid out and the other half is added to the Jackpot and carried over to the next program. Going into Saturday night that Jackpot had swelled to $656,386.
When there is a mandatory payout, it doesn’t matter how many winning tickets are purchased — the pool will be divided evenly amongst all winners. Bettors look at this as a shot at some “free money” as they are playing for the money wagered on this night plus all the money carried over from previous nights.
At the start of the night I asked a number of second floor regulars to estimate how much would be wagered into the pool by the end of the night. The most common answer was “around $400,000”. I was a little more optimistic and estimated that we might be able to sweeten the pot by $800,000. When the windows closed the on and off-track patrons had forked over another $1,345,640 which created a total pool of $2,002,026 to be divided amongst the winning ticket holders.
After one minute and 51 seconds it was Drain Daddy who found the wire first, just ahead of Rock Me Amastreos, Junior K, Speed Again, and Real Rocker. A winning ticket costing $1 would return $43,795.75 and a 20 cent wager produced a payout of $8,759.15.
Suffice to say, I’ll remember my final Saturday at Woodbine as the night we did a record $2 million worth of business on a single wager.
And no, I did not have a winning ticket. No first-class upgrades for me.