09/05/2002 11:00PM

10-minute halt on bets to remember Sept. 11

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NEW YORK - Nearly all racetracks and simulcast locations in the United States plan to stop taking bets for 10 minutes on the afternoon of Sept. 11 to commemorate last year's terrorist attacks.

Officials have been asked by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association to close betting, stop racing, and tune all televisions to a broadcast from Del Mar outside San Diego from 4:10 p.m. Eastern to 4:20 p.m. Del Mar has planned two ceremonies related to the attacks and will also hold an after-races charity event.

The broadcast will be "a way for the racing industry to express unity and solidarity," said Keith Chamblin, the NTRA's director of marketing. The NTRA asked Del Mar to agree to the broadcast last month after racetracks began contacting the association about the proper way to observe the one-year anniversary of the attacks.

Two racetracks, Belmont Park in New York and The Meadowlands in New Jersey have canceled racing and simulcasting altogether. Belmont and The Meadowlands were closed for more than a week after Sept. 11 last year, in part to assist in the rescue and recovery effort at the former World Trade Center site, which is within 20 miles of each track.

"To me it was a no-brainer," said Barry Schwartz, the chairman of NYRA. "It's the respectful thing to do. I don't think we should be competing with all the religious services and ceremonies going on in the city that day."

New York City Off-Track Betting Corporation, which is owned by the city, will close two locations near the former World Trade Center site, but 72 other OTB shops will be open. Ted Nicholson, an OTB executive vice president, said the company is complying with a request from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg for city agencies to remain open.

"He's our boss," Nicholson said. "He wants us to be open. That's what we're going to do."

Officials at tracks outside the region also cited advice from government officials to remain open.

"Here in this part of the country, we want to focus on moving forward with our lives while giving an appropriate opportunity for our fans to seriously reflect on what happened," said Bob Elliston, president of Kentucky's Turfway Park, which will run a live card Wednesday night after a short ceremony.

At Del Mar, where Sept. 11 will be the track's last live racing day, officials briefly considered running live on Tuesday instead of Wednesday, but they ultimately decided to run while making plans for extensive commemorative ceremonies.

"We figured, we could take this on, make a red-white-and-blue salute," said Craig Dado, the track's director of marketing.

Both of Del Mar's ceremonies will be officiated by the sports broadcaster Dick Enberg. The first ceremony will include helicopter fly-bys, three color guards, a rendition of the national anthem from a member of a local fire department, a moment of silence, and patriotic songs by a local church choir.

The ceremony should run 20 minutes, Dado said. The last 10 minutes will make up the NTRA broadcast and be followed by a three-minute video. The second ceremony will start after the third race and will include the unfurling of a 4,500-square foot flag, a skydiving Navy Seal unit, and a rendition of "God Bless America." A flock of doves will be released at the conclusion.

Del Mar's ceremonies will cost the track $30,000, Dado said, and they are by far the grandest planned by any racetrack in the U.S.

Several other tracks, including Arlington Park outside of Chicago and Turfway, plan to give away flags or pins to all customers while also sponsoring their own small ceremonies. Track officials said they were being careful not to advertise the giveaways or ceremonies.

"We would not in any way take advantage of the situation," said Steve Sexton, the president of Arlington Park, where the ceremony will include the playing of "Taps" and several moments of silence.

Other tracks are also treading carefully. At Calder Race Course, where live racing is not conducted on Wednesdays, the track will be open for simulcasting, but several television monitors in every section of the track will be tuned all day to broadcasts of ceremonies across the country, said Ken Dunn, the president of the track. "We thought that was something we should make available to our patrons," Dunn said.

At Finger Lakes racetrack in upstate New York, all trainers and backstretch workers will be asked to observe two moments of silence during training hours on Wednesday morning, marking the times that the planes separately hit the World Trade Center towers, according to Christian Riegle, the president of the track. Finger Lakes does not run live on Wednesdays, but it will be open for simulcasting on Sept. 11.