03/26/2003 12:00AM

Short-changed winners still in limbo


PHILADELPHIA - Now that holders of the real winning Breeders' Cup Pick Six tickets are going to get their money, who speaks for the players that were cheated out of more than $117,000 on Oct. 5, 2002?

You might remember that those wonderful gamblers, Chris Harn and Glen DaSilva, had the pick six at Belmont Park that day. You might remember DaSilva's Catskill OTB account increased by nearly $100,000 after the IRS extracted its money.

Harn and DaSilva were so omniscient that they had the pick six eight times. As brilliant deductions go, they don't get much better.

You also may have heard that Harn, DaSilva, and Breeders' Cup Fix Six accomplice Derrick Davis have all pled guilty and been sentenced. That $3.067 million was never paid out, so the rightful winners will get what they deserve.

So where is the money DaSilva got from Catskill? How much did he keep? How much did he give to Harn?

Why shouldn't executives from Catskill and Autotote be trying to answer those questions? And, if they can't get the money from the two convicts, shouldn't they make it good?

After all, it was on their watch that this happened. Shouldn't somebody from Catskill have noted that they were paying off on a pick six where one player had a $16 ticket and 112 consolation tickets? Shouldn't that have raised red flags from Catskill to Newark, Del.?

And what of Autotote? How could it oversee a system so obviously flawed that it was just begging to be exploited? Isn't this the same company whose president Brooks Pierce said Davis's score was "good for racing?'' Doesn't Autotote have some obligations?

Never mind the absurd sentences of the conspirators, where the patsy got more than three times as much jail time as the mastermind. That's an issue the government has to live with and try to explain.

Where is the Oct. 5 money?

What of the New York Racing Association? Does it care that many of its customers in New York and around the country have been cheated? Does NYRA plan to make it good? Actually, NYRA does care. And, apparently, it will try to make it good some way or another.

"Unlike the Breeders' Cup money that was frozen, this money was paid out,'' said NYRA vice president Bill Nader.

NYRA's legal counsel has petitioned the courts for the money. Getting it may not be so easy.

"We may have to do it our own way,'' Nader said. "We'll find a way. It's the right thing to do.''

I have a very good friend who had the pick six that day. He was attracted by a three-day carryover of $389,707. A Saturday card figured to attract big play and it did. The pool was more than $1 million.

There were 68 tickets with six winners. Each ticket was worth $13,070. There were more than 1,400 consolations worth $113 each.

Throw out DaSilva's eight fraudulent tickets with six winners and his 112 fraudulent five of six consolations. Then, one will notice that a player who had all six winners and, say, 20 consolations was cheated out of approximately $2,000, before the IRS withholding.

In contrast to the cheaters, who used every horse in the Beldame Stakes, my friend used only the winner, Imperial Gesture. He was smart. He took risks. He got cheated.

Nader said NYRA would continually assess the situation. There may come a time that NYRA itself will have to go after Autotote and Catskill to get the money.

Somebody better find a way to get this done. Otherwise, lawsuits can be expected. Money was stolen because of fraud and incompetence. All the real winners had to sign IRS forms. They can be found. Find them. And pay them.