11/01/2002 1:00AM

Letters to the editor

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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Fans howling long and loud at Cup pick six

From the moment I read that all six winning Breeders' Cup pick six tickets came from the same location ("Suspicious bet under scrutiny," Oct. 30), I was immediately disgusted. Then to hear the details of the bets made me wonder who is responsible for watching over the honesty of the biggest payoff of the year. Apparently no one.

If the pick six had been won by 20 other people this year, no one in authority might have have noticed someone playing such an obviously past-posted ticket. Heads should roll!

Catskill OTB has singlehandedly derailed the public's confidence in the honesty of racing and dropped it down to the level of Enron and Worldcom. This theft can never be rectified. Even refunding the wagers will not work, since most losing tickets have been tossed away.

Phone wagering that leaves no paper trail should be banned. Horse racing fans must have the faith that someone is watching the cookie jar.

Terence Malida

Arlington Heights, Ill.

Inquiry must be thorough

I don't know of a single horseplayer who would play a pick six ticket before the races are run, using single selections in the first four legs, combined with "all" in the last two legs. The wagering strategy was too inconsistent and radical for the typically contentious Breeders' Cup races.

I hope that Breeders' Cup and National Thoroughbred Racing Association officials consider all inquiry options before hanging up the official sign. It doesn't matter how long the investigation lasts. All credibility with simulcast network pick six wagering is at stake.

To think that horse racing and Breeders' Cup XIX got to this controversial state is deflating. This Catskill OTB incident will discourage many race fans, even the hard-core ones, if wrongdoing is proven and that the perpetrator(s) managed to undermine the system.

T.A. Yamada

Torrance, Calif.

Who would buy this story?

The manner in which this bet was placed made no sense at all, and I have trouble believing that any knowledgeable person in the industry would have put any stock in the claim of the person in question. If this result is allowed to stand, I will make it a personal goal to cast doubt on the honesty of the entire industry.

Absent the integrity of the betting pool, there is no point in ever making a bet on horses again.

Kelly Wilson

Owasso, Okla.

Classic upset opened case

Hey, I had a nice win bet on Domedriver, and my wife hit Starine, but would we have singled these two in the pick six and then played it multiple times? No way!

But what gets me really mad was the initial reaction within the industry. Donald Groth, the chairman of Catskill OTB, stated that he believed the bets were legitimate. Has this guy ever played a pick six? An Amtote official tried to claim the system was not compromised. Come on guys, get a clue.

The Breeders' Cup and National Thoroughbred racing Association need to take a much more active role. The FBI needs to be called in. Telephone records need to be gathered and computers seized before there is an opportunity to eliminate evidence.

Volponi's victory didn't just surprise fans everywhere. It has very likely revealed the presence of manipulation within the Thoroughbred betting system. This undermines the fundamental core of the industry and must be addressed thoroughly and openly.

Bill Keith

Lakewood, Calif.

Not a 'good day' for racing

The idea that a Breeders' Cup pick six bettor could past-post a wager four races into the bet is just phenomenal.

Even more phenomenal is the idea that an executive working for Catskill OTB taking the bet could say that the bettor just had "a very good day." Four singles with the "all" button on the last two races? Please! We're not living in an episode of "Bewitched."

For my money, there's no amount of apology to fix this situation. Dismantle the system for all racetracks, and put it back together with the services of a team that operates under the auspices of both federal authority and the tracks that want a clean bill for their tote practices. Then we'll talk.

Bob Smoke

Boulder, Colo.

Software needs updating

If qualified forensic security investigators look into the Breeders' Cup pick six situation, they will likely find a lot of legacy software code and a system design from the era when telecommunications speeds were much slower and costs much higher. Today, telephone companies have millions of miles of dark fiber they can't give away.

A state-of-the-art system would transmit all of the data to the central site in real time, making it much more difficult to scam the system, as people outside the local OTB would need to be involved.

When all is said and done, I believe it is very likely that the pick six has been scammed before as well as on Breeders' Cup Day. Until the obvious design flaw in the system is rectified, betting the pick six requires belief that every person involved in administering and operating the system is honest. That is a leap of faith I am not prepared to make.

Tom Rossman

Lexington, Ky.

Surely not the first incident

As a longtime habitue of the OTB here in the desert, I can say that most bettors with any degree of sophistication have long suspected some sort of manipulation in the betting pools.

Come on, someone opens an account and the first and only bet he makes is a weird pick six configuration that happens to win?

And how could such a software system ever have been approved for installation? It is so glaring a hole in the firewall of integrity as to defy belief. It is also obvious that the odds are long against this being the first and only application of fraud. Will there be other investigations by other tracks?

One thing that I have long advocated is the publishing of the configuration of winning pick six tickets. While such revelations may not point out all suspicious races per se, they would reveal such glaring anomalies as the Breeders' Cup incident.

Robert L. Shelton

Palm Springs, Calif.

Not one more red cent

I have been betting the pick six for many years, and always suspected manipulation in one way or another. After this incident I will never invest a penny.

I am disgusted with the way tracks have been handling these matters. Even win bets are not secure anymore as odds change after horses are in the stretch. The track explanation of pools coming in from outside simulcast outlets is unacceptable.

If they have no other solution, then they have to stop accepting bets at least three minutes before start of a race. Bettors may not like that, but we prefer it to cheating and being robbed by computer-savvy thieves.

Andy Namani

Hollywood, Fla.

Hit 'all' for refund

Let's not let Autotote (or whoever) come up with some idea that they aren't going to refund the bet. They need to refund the bet to those who can prove they made them (either tickets or computer records from phone bets), and only then recommend adding the remainder to next year's pool or whatever other unfair idea they concoct to cover their rears.

How could this have happened?

Michael J. Natoli

Alexandria, Va.