Million-Dollar Winner at Track Faces Fight

Times Staff Writer

Rodolfo Sahagun, who nine days ago was announced as the winner of $1 million at Hollywood Park, filled in three entry forms in the horse-picking contest, and because of this a court must decide if he must forfeit his prize, a representative for the track’s insurance company said.

“The rules state no more than one entry per person per contest day. As of today, I know that Mr. Sahagun submitted three entry forms for him, and one was submitted under his wife’s name,” James Robie, an attorney for the Los Angeles-based Mission National Insurance Co., said.

However, Sahagun’s attorney, George A. Martinez, claims that the track lost its right to disqualify Sahagun after it announced him as the winner. “A park of this sophistication has the ability to properly conduct its own contests,” he said. “Having announced him as the winner, they waive whatever disqualifying factors might have otherwise existed.”


Robie said three entries submitted in the Hollywood Park handicapping contest show Sahagun’s signature and his printed name and address. “My opinion, based on what we know, is that there is a clear rules violation,” he said.

Robie said he intends to take the issue to Los Angeles Superior Court for a ruling “to determine who is entitled to what.”

Although such a ruling would be given priority on the court calendar, Robie said he could not estimate when the case will be heard. “I want this settled as quickly as possible,” he said.

Martinez would not comment on the number of entry forms submitted by Sahagun. He said he intends “to go to the limits of the law” to seek payment for Sahagun.

Sahagun, who has been advised by Martinez not to speak to the press, picked nine winners in nine races to win the $1-million prize. The father of four, Sahagun grows tomatoes on four acres near his rented home in Carlsbad and receives a monthly welfare check of about $900. Martinez said Sahagun has been cut off from welfare since he won the contest.

Neil Papiano, attorney for Hollywood Park, said the park has sent Sahagun a letter notifying him that the insurance company intends to protest the win. Hollywood Park has no objection to releasing the money, he said, adding: “It’s really a matter of whether the insurance company is willing to pay.”