12/18/2004 12:00AM

Investigators got early info from NYRA


The New York Racing Association supplied information to the state attorney general in advance of Wednesday's raid by state investigators at Aqueduct racetrack, NYRA said in a release on Saturday.

NYRA did not specify what information was provided to the attorney general's office, nor would NYRA comment on specifics of the investigation. State police seized records on Wednesday at Aqueduct regarding entries and weights for all of 2004, leading to speculation that the investigation involves horses carrying less or more weight than the published assignment.

The information that was given to the attorney general was passed on by NYRA's Special Oversight Committee, a panel that was formed early this year after NYRA accepted a deferred prosecution agreement to escape a conviction on tax fraud charges. NYRA is currently operating under the oversight of a federally appointed monitoring firm, Getnick and Getnick, as a result of the agreement.

"The NYRA trustees and NYRA's senior management want it to be perfectly clear, both to the general public and to the people who are involved in NYRA's racing operations, that we have zero tolerance for anyone who fails to abide completely by the laws and rules of racing," said Peter Karches, a member of the oversight committee, in the release. "If we see something suspicious occurring at our racetracks, the appropriate law enforcement agencies will be immediately notified."

Karches declined comment regarding the investigation on Saturday beyond the released statement. He stressed that NYRA was cooperating fully with law enforcement agencies.

The comments demonstrate that NYRA is attempting to distance itself from any implication that the association itself was involved in any wrongdoing. NYRA will be released from the oversight of the federal monitor next summer if the association complies with broad promises to reform and as long as no crimes are uncovered.

Investigations into fraudulent weight allegations have occurred several times in racing history, but none has involved law-enforcement agencies, according to racing officials who declined to be identified, citing the sensitivity of the NYRA issues. The officials said that in past cases, the investigation usually involved a clerk of scales deliberately allowing jockeys to ride overweight.

"It's normally a clerk of scales who is friendly with someone, who lets the guy slide because he's not able to make the weight," one of the officials said. In the previous instances, the clerk of scales was either fired or reassigned, without involving law enforcement.

State law in New York makes it a felony to tamper with a sporting event, a statute that may come into play if deliberate wrongdoing is uncovered in the New York investigation.