10/30/2002 1:00AM

Pick six investigation looks at computer tech

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NEW YORK - The investigation into the suspicious winning Breeders' Cup pick six ticket is beginning to focus on a 29-year-old Maryland resident who is a self-employed computer technician, racing officials said Wednesday.

The man, Derrick Davis, won $3.1 million last Saturday when a $1,152 bet he placed through a phone account at Catskill OTB in New York contained the six winning pick six wagers and 108 of the 186 consolation tickets. Although no evidence of wrongdoing has been found, Breeders' Cup has withheld payment, citing the investigation launched on Sunday by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board.

Investigators are hoping to question Davis about the wager, which was made in a $12 denomination and used only one horse in each of the first four races and the entire fields in the final two races of the pick six sequence. The issue for investigators is to determine whether the wagers could have been altered after the running of the first four races, just before the totalizator system routinely sends information on pick six bets that are still "live" into the merged parimutuel pools.

Although the values of pick six bets are transmitted instantly into the merged pools, the information about which horses are used in each bet is not transmitted until after the fourth race, to minimize traffic on the tote network.

Investigators said they believe a sophisticated hacker with access to the pools would have had time to alter the ticket so that it included the four horses who had already won.

Davis could not be reached for comment on Wednesday. A woman who answered the phone at a residence in Baltimore that was most recently listed for Davis said he "doesn't live here anymore." The woman declined to identify herself or comment further.

It was unclear on Wednesday afternoon if investigators had been successful in contacting him.

Davis has not responded to requests for an interview through Catskill's chairman, but comments attributed to him have appeared in the New York Post and on the Thoroughbred Times Web site. In those comments, Davis said he had intended to enter a $2 wager on the pick six, but mistakenly made a $12 wager. A $2 bet would have cost Davis $192, instead of $1,152. For the next 20 minutes, he said, he could not get through to Catskill to cancel the wager.

Davis said that he arrived at the structure of the bet by doing "a lot of research." He also said that he opened an account with Catskill after doing a search on the Internet.

"If you go to Yahoo and do a search for 'horse betting,' the first website name that popped up is Interbets," Davis was quoted as saying. "So I clicked on it, made a call, and set up an account. I didn't do anything wrong."

Racing and wagering experts have called the structure and denomination of the bet unusual, raising red flags with the New York Racing Association mutuel officials, who reported their suspicions to the board on Sunday morning.

"It's the stupidest bet I've ever seen," said Vince Hogan, NYRA's director of mutuels.

Tote officials continued to maintain on Wednesday that they believed the bets were legitimate and that their systems were not compromised.

John Corckran, the president of AmTote, which is the tote supplier for Arlington Park, the site of the Breeders' Cup races and the hub for all Cup wagers, said: "We are confident that it could not happen in our system," referring to manipulation of a pick six ticket. He would not be specific about the controls in the system that would prevent someone from altering a ticket and said the company had no plans to change any of its procedures.

Brooks Pierce, the president of Autotote, the tote supplier for Catskill, said earlier this week that technicians had reviewed the wagering data and found nothing wrong. Pierce declined to respond to a request for comment on security procedures that would prevent the alteration of a pick six ticket after it had been placed.

Both tote officials confirmed that investigators from the board have already contacted them. Investigators are also "poring over" documents at Catskill, Groth said. Board officials have refused to comment on any details of the case.

The investigation is more than likely being led by Tom Casaregola, the board's director of audits and investigations.

"Tom's certainly the best auditor and investigator the racing board has ever had," said Bennett Liebman, a former board member who is now the coordinator of the Racing and Wagering Program at the Albany Law School. "It's the first time that the board has had someone who is qualified to do financial investigations."