08/19/2004 11:00PM

Letters to the Editor


Blame more properly placed on tote company

It is amazing that even now, almost two years since the Breeders Cup Pick Six betting scam was cracked by the joint efforts of the New York State Racing and Wagering Board and the New York State Police, the venerable Racing Form still does not understand how the crime happened. This is clear from your recent front-page story on August 15, 2004 ("New York's broken system").

Any objective look at the facts shows that data manipulation inside the tote company, not touch-tone betting at Catskill OTB, compromised the system. And while it is true that Chris Harn and company thought they could get away with their betting scheme in New York, the bottom line is that they didn't.

Our investigators at the New York Racing and Wagering Board, together with the State Police, acted quickly to bring Chris Harn and the other perpetrators to justice. Within 72 hours, we knew what happened. And it took only a week later to cement the evidence necessary to cause an arrest and effectuate a successful prosecution of the case.

The Racing Form was correct in its assertion that weaknesses existed in the wagering system, but the article should have placed more significance on the vulnerabilities that existed inside the tote company. The fact that a tote company employee in Delaware could come in on his day off, turn off the tote company's backup recording device without approval, and then access and alter wagering information in a system handling more than $10 billion annually in wagers from virtually every major racing jurisdiction cannot be ignored.

No doubt the Breeders Cup Pick Six betting scam was a needed wake-up call for an industry that had ignored calls to modernize the tote system. But the National Thoroughbred Racing Association reacted promptly and the work of its Wagering Systems Task Force is not only overdue but essential to the future well-being of parimutuel wagering. We in New York are pleased to be assisting in this effort and are pressing for a system of uniform tote standards to be instituted by regulator states.

It's disappointing that the Racing Form did not provide their readers with all of the facts in its article. This letter should, in some measure, set the record straight.

Edward J. Martin
Executive Director
New York State Racing and Wagering Board

Take our money, but protect us

I have three major comments after having read your Sunday, Aug. 15, front-page story, "New York's Broken System":

1. It is amazing to me that the three men caught fixing the Breeders' Cup Pick Six ticket even had a realistic chance to get away with it. It is also amazing to me that, given the opportunity and the $80,000 with which one of them had apparently already collected, the men simply didn't make more than the minimum required $1,152 in bets to disguise the ruse. Had they done so, by wagering on three or four horses in each of the first four legs (instead of just the one), then gone all-all, the ticket would at least have appeared to be legitimate.

2. I'm an "average Joe" who likes to bet a little leisure money on the horses. I and the many thousands like me are the fuel that drive this sport's finances.

What infuriates me is that those on the "house" side of the ledger can't wait to implement ways to squeeze more money out of people like me (phone wagering, offtrack wagering, Internet wagering) without actually investigating if they can control them. The pick six scandal is the epitome of greed and bureaucracy gone wrong.

3. All I keep hearing from the racetrack executives is that they "want to protect the horseplayer" by providing a legitimate service with safeguards in place to protect against any kind of shenanigans. Why is it then that I am subjected to a wagering system that can be so easily infiltrated and exploited, and without sufficient explanation?

Here's an idea: Why don't they just actually try to run the business honestly? They're going to get their money out of us sooner or later, so why not take precautions first? Is that too much to ask for?

Chris McWade
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Disqualification puts damper on big day

Arlington Million Day was another unfortunate incident in our great sport. On a day that horse racing received some great coverage in the mainstream (ABC's two-hour coverage of the NTRA National Pick 4), we had to witness one of the worst DQ's in a big race in history.

DQ's should occur when placings are affected. Despite what Kent Desormeaux said, Kicken Kris was not going to get by Powerscourt, and anyone with any sense could see that. I've watched the replay numerous times, and it just was not going to happen. The top four finishers would have been exactly the same with or without the incident.

Michael F. Barone
Midlothian, Va.

Stewards should have spared the rod

I was surprised that Mike Watchmaker brushed over the disqualification of Powerscourt so matter of factly ("Europe tops U.S. on the turf," Aug. 18). As someone who did not have a financial interest, my opinion can be objective. Powerscourt was clearly the best horse and was clear of Epalo when he began to drift in. While Powerscourt was under a right-handed whip, so was Epalo, who was also tiring badly. When the winner makes no contact with another horse and is clearly the best, the stewards are being "activist" in their decision and the winner and betting public are penalized unfairly. I wonder if the judges fell for Desormeaux's act after the wire, or if Jerry Bailey would have been taken down for a similar ride?

Gary Cohen
Great Neck, NY

Racing injuries: Time to take action

How can I go to Del Mar and enjoy my day if so many horses are vanned off the track after a race with injuries?

In three days, six horses were vanned off:

Friday, Aug. 13 - race 1, Atten Hut, trained by Jeff Mullins; race 6, Zam Zam, Mike Marlow.

Saturday, Aug. 14 - race 4, Jackpot Belle, Steve Knapp; race 5, Pittsburgh City, Kristin Mulhall.

Sunday, Aug. 15 - race 2, Wetherly, William Currin; race 6, Investingold, David Hofmans.

Wetherly suffered a fractured leg and had to be euthanized.

These injuries occurred on both grass and dirt.

Assuming that the trainers mentioned are very qualified for their jobs, then why is this happening so often?

It makes me wonder if the track superintendent is qualified or watching close enough. Then I wonder if the horses state veterinarians say are "racing sound" actually are racing sound.

Something must be done immediately to prevent the overwhelming amount of injuries to horses.

Teddy Cole
Beverly Hills, Calif.