11/21/2002 12:00AM

0-to-post close nixed for Hollywood


EL SEGUNDO, Calif. - The California Horse Racing Board on Thursday defeated by 5-1 a proposal by Hollywood Park that would have ended betting at zero minutes to post, rather than when the gate opens.

The request stemmed from a policy change enacted earlier this month by Churchill Downs Inc., the parent company of Hollywood Park. The change has been implemented at three tracks owned by the company - Calder, Churchill Downs, and Hoosier Park - but needed CHRB approval to be implemented in California.

Hollywood Park officials said they sought the rule change as a way to restore bettor confidence following the pick six betting scandal at the Breeders' Cup at Arlington Park last month.

Only commissioner Marie Moretti supported Hollywood Park, but her request to have the motion approved did not receive a second vote. Commissioners Alan Landsburg, Roger Licht, Sheryl Granzella, John Harris, and John Sperry voted against the request. Commissioner Bill Bianco did not attend the meeting.

"Until we get past the antiquated tote system, you're penalizing the people who wait as long as they can to study," CHRB chairman Alan Landsburg said before voting.

The defeat infuriated Hollywood Park officials. They had hoped to enact the plan as soon as next Wednesday.

"The complacency is shocking to me," track president Rick Baedeker said during a recess following the vote. "I think in time we'll look back and realize just how dramatic the impact of the pick six scandal has been."

The track conducted an 11-question poll with 301 customers last weekend, and Baedeker frequently cited the results. In one question: When asked if fraudulent bets could be made after the start of a race, 68 percent of the respondents felt that it was extremely likely or somewhat likely, 24 percent said not at all likely, and 8 percent had no opinion.

Currently, betting is stopped in California when the horses break from the gate, meaning that money is still flowing through the tote system while the race is underway. Consequently, odds on horses can change during a race, leaving bettors frustrated when odds decrease on winning selections.

Hollywood Park's plan to stop betting at post time would have allowed additional time for the tote board to reflect the final odds. But track officials admitted that even the new policy would not have prevented late odds from occasionally appearing on the tote board.

Hollywood Park's proposal was not supported by many segments of the industry, including the Thoroughbred Owners of California, and Los Alamitos Racecourse, which runs a night mixed meeting in Orange County.