11/01/2002 12:00AM

Panel formed to analyze tote security

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The National Thoroughbred Racing Association and Breeders' Cup announced on Friday that they had formed a task force to study the security of totalizator systems and make recommendations on how to protect the tote from fraud.

The formation of the task force came at the end of a long week for the two organizations. On Sunday, one day after the Breeders' Cup, the New York State Racing and Wagering Board launched an investigation into suspicious winning bets on the Breeders' Cup pick six. The case has dominated racing talk since coming to light.

Tim Smith, the NTRA's commissioner, said Friday that the task force would not focus exclusively on issues related to the pick six, which tote experts have said this week is especially vulnerable to tampering. He stressed that the task force has been asked to come to its conclusions quickly.

"This won't be an academic drawn-out study," Smith said. "It will serve to identify minimum [security] standards in this increasingly important area."

Investigators believe that one or more people were involved in tampering with the pick six pools. This week, a programmer who worked at Autotote, Chris Harn, was fired in connection to the Breeders' Cup pick six tickets.

The NTRA is hoping to avert a crisis of confidence in the parimutuel system, which has been attacked by racing fans this week. Many fans have called for boycotts of pick six races.

If that crisis exists, it has not affected pick six handle at Santa Anita Park, according to Sherwood Chillingworth, the executive vice president of Oak Tree, which runs a meet at the track. Chillingworth said Friday that handle at Oak Tree on the pick six on Wednesday and Thursday was higher than handle on the comparable days last year.

Oak Tree was scheduled to host a $1 million guaranteed pick six in conjunction with its California Cup card on Saturday. Chillingworth said that the track has installed security cameras in its tote room, changed the locks on its doors, and posted a guard outside of the room to protect against tampering.

"We're doing everything possible to make sure there are no abnormalities," he said.

The task force's oversight committee will include Smith; D.G. Van Clief, the president of Breeders' Cup; Chris Scherf, the executive vice president of the Thoroughbred Racing Association; Paul Berube, the president of the Thoroughbred Racing and Protective Bureau; Alan Marzelli, the chairman of Equibase; Lonny Powell, the president of the Association of Racing Commissioners International; Frank Lamb, the executive director of the North American Pari-Mutuel Regulators; and Jim Quinn, an author of handicapping books.