03/17/2003 12:00AM

More money forthcoming to pick six ticketholders


The U.S. attorney who prosecuted last year's Breeders' Cup pick six case has decided to forfeit his office's claim to the bet's disputed winnings, racing officials said Monday.

The forfeiture, which will take place after the defendants in the case are sentenced Thursday, will clear the way for the distribution of more than $39,000 in additional winnings for each ticket with five of six winners on the Breeders' Cup pick six last year. Those winners have already received $4,606.20 for each consolation ticket.

Racing officials are unsure exactly when the distribution will take place. But they had been told that James Comey, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, had decided to relinquish any claim to the winnings on Thursday if the defendants are sentenced as scheduled. That could clear the way for a redistribution as early as Friday, officials said.

"It looks like this is going to be freed up by the end of the week," said one racing official in close contact with the attorney's office, who declined to be identified.

Mark Kulstad, a spokesman for Comey, declined to comment on the status of the claim on Monday.

The vast majority of the winnings of the Breeders' Cup pick six have been held in an interest-bearing escrow account since late October, when regulators opened an investigation into suspicious winnings bets on the Breeders' Cup pick six. The Breeders' Cup was held on Oct. 26 at Arlington Park.

Three former fraternity brothers - Chris Harn, Derrick Davis, and Glen DaSilva - have since entered guilty pleas to charges of rigging the Breeders' Cup pick six and two other bets earlier in October.

The rigged Breeders' Cup pick six bet, the only winner, would have netted two of the defendants, Harn and Davis, approximately $3.1 million, including the $2.5 million jackpot payout and the payoffs to 108 consolation tickets. Harn and Davis gave up any claim to their winnings in their plea agreements.

D.G. Van Clief, the president of Breeders' Cup, said Monday that he could not confirm that the U.S. Attorney's Office has decided to relinquish its claim. But he said "if that is the case, then we would certainly welcome it.

"We've heard that they are contemplating that, and our only concern is to expedite this matter and get the rightful winners paid," Van Clief said.

In late January, Breeders' Cup and Churchill Downs Inc., the owner of Arlington, filed a petition with the U.S. District Court in New York asking that a court-ordered freeze on the money be lifted so that it could be redistributed. The court has not commented on the petition.

Breeders' Cup was able to identify the bettors who had consolation tickets because the size of the payout required the winners to fill out IRS forms for tax purposes. The holders of all 78 redeemable tickets have been located, Van Clief said, "to the best of my knowledge."

Mickey Ezzo, an official with the Illinois Racing Board, said that the board has "already advised Arlington that they will be permitted to release the funds" as soon as the U.S. Attorney's office relinquishes its claim and the court order is lifted. The board must approve the redistribution because it is the regulatory authority in Illinois, where Arlington is located.