10/10/2001 11:00PM

Pick six guarantee reduced


The guarantee for the $5 million ultra pick six at this year Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Champion-ships will be reduced to $3 million because insurance companies refused to cover the bet, Breeders' Cup officials said Thursday.

The $2 million reduction will undercut the promotional intrigue of a bet that has drawn more than $5 million in wagers each year since first being offered in 1998.

In refusing to cover the guarantee, the insurers cited the uncertainties underlying the economy following the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington on Sept. 11, according to Ken Kirchner, Breeders' Cup's director of simulcasting. Insurers also cited the location for this year's event, Belmont Park in New York, Kirchner said.

"The insurance markets have taken such a hit that they are very cautious about writing any new policies," Kirchner said. "It's a conservative business anyway. And the events of Sept. 11 have made it all the more conservative."

The ultra pick six requires bettors to pick the winners of the final six World Thorough-bred Championship races - the Mile, Sprint, Filly and Mare Turf, Juvenile, Turf, and Classic.

In the first installment of the bet in 1998, $6.5 million was wagered, surpassing expectations. The next year, wagering dipped to $5.4 million, but a single winning ticket that year produced a record North American parimutuel payout of $3.1 million.

Last year, handle was down again to $5.12 million, and one racing official said that the fact that the bet was "trending downward" did not aid efforts to find insurers.

Another possible risk to insurance companies is the chance that another terrorist attack days before the event could result in dramatic reductions in handle. Insurance companies have already begun telling clients that they will not underwrite policies covering attacks as they have in the past.

Kirchner said Breeders' Cup did not elect to self-insure the bet any higher than $3 million "as a matter of risk management." He said Breeders' Cup had previously self-insured the bet to $2.5 million, with the insurance companies only taking on liability above that level.

"So we've actually upped our liability by $500,000," Kirchner said.