01/13/2004 1:00AM

Hub cut off at post time

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Beginning Thursday, Fair Grounds will impose an early cutoff on bets placed on Fair Grounds races at a wagering hub in Lewiston, Maine. Fair Grounds president Bryan Krantz said the track would stop accepting bets from there at zero minutes to post. A Fair Grounds race typically starts about one minute after that, and bets usually are taken up to the time the horses leave the gate.

It's hoped the cutoff will put an end to some late odds drops on horses in Fair Grounds races, including one last Saturday that spurred the track to change the handling of bets from Lewiston. Contracts between Fair Grounds and offtrack sites permit such restrictions, Krantz said. With wagering cut off earlier, the effects of large wagers significantly lowering a horse's odds would be visible to the public before a race.

In Saturday's first race, a horse named Hunter Cat was the subject of heavy late wagering. His odds fluctuated between 6-1 and 7-1 immediately before and during the race, but after leading from start to finish and winning by a half-length, Hunter Cat paid just $8.60 to win.

"The wagering affecting that race appeared to have come from the Lewiston hub," Krantz said. "There was that situation, and there are others we're looking into."