11/12/2002 1:00AM

Calder bets to go zero-to-post


MIAMI - Calder president Ken Dunn said he does not expect any major problems for customers Thursday, when a new policy goes into effect to close betting about a minute before horses enter the gate for live races.

Churchill Downs Inc., which owns Calder, announced the change for all its tracks last week in response to concerns about late-odds changes and to restore public confidence in the mutuel system in the wake of the Breeders' Cup pick six betting scandal.

"I would expect there may well be some people during the first couple of days who did not get the message," Dunn said Tuesday. "But the patrons are adaptable, and I don't think it will take very long before they get used to the change."

Betting will stop when the minutes-to-post countdown reaches zero, which usually happens as horses are loading or about to be loaded into the starting gate. Officials expect this will be about a minute or a minute and a half before the start of a race. The change is intended to ensure that final odds be posted when a race begins.

"In the long run, we feel the new policy is in the best interests of all our patrons," said Dunn, who has been a proponent for an early close to betting. "We've already polled some of our bigger players, and they are unanimous in their support for the change."

The policy was first scheduled to go into effect Wednesday at Churchill's flagship track in Louisville, Ky. The other Churchill tracks with current live meets - Calder, Hollywood Park in Inglewood, Calif., and Hoosier Park in Anderson, Ind., were dark Tuesday and Wednesday after having raced on Monday.

As of Tuesday, Hollywood had yet to receive approval from the California Horse Racing Board to close betting at zero minutes to post. The change must be approved by the board, whose rules state that betting should end when a race starts.

"We've asked for a waiver for the remainder of our meeting," said Eual Wyatt Jr., Hollywood Park's general manager. "Whether or not the board can consider it absent a regular meeting of the CHRB is a gray area."

The next board meeting is scheduled for next week, but Wyatt was hopeful the matter could be resolved earlier, perhaps in time for Thursday's card.

Hoosier Park received permission from the Indiana Racing Commission to implement the new policy Thursday, according Joe Gorajec, the commission's executive director.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman and Marty McGee