Racing taking steps on betting

A national task force on thoroughbred racing plans to announce measures to boost security - including changes in the way bets are processed in computers - as early as today.

The group, one of several formed by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, met yesterday in Lexington, Ky., with some members participating by conference call.

It is exploring a variety of measures to restore confidence after revelations that wagers on the Oct. 26 Breeders' Cup may have been tampered with during transmission of data on the Pick Six bets.

Chip Tuttle, an NTRA spokesman, declined to comment on what, if anything, the group may announce today. But, he said, "The working group is looking at short-term, concrete steps to upgrade security and to enhance consumer confidence."

Baltimore attorney and NTRA board member Alan Foreman also declined to divulge details of the discussions, but said the self-styled league office of racing is "moving very aggressively and very methodically."

According to a source who spoke on the condition of anonymity, among the remedies likely to be announced today is an end to the two-phase data transmission of multiple-race bets, such as the Pick Six.

So far, three men have been linked to suspicious betting through a New York telephone betting service. One of them, Derrick Davis of Baltimore, holds winning tickets for the Breeders' Cup Pick Six that could be worth $3.1 million.

However, payment has been put on hold as investigators probe the circumstances of the bet. A former fraternity brother of Davis, Christopher Harn, has been fired from the company that processed the bets. The company, Autotote of Newark, Del., said Harn, a computer engineer, may have altered bets after the races had been run.

In addition to the Breeders' Cup race, investigators are looking into a Pick Four bet placed on an Oct. 3 harness race at Balmoral Park and a Pick Six bet made on Oct. 5 race at Belmont Park by another fraternity brother of the two men, identified by sources as Glen DaSilva.

"I think a Balmoral race might have been a guinea-pig race," John Johnston, president of Balmoral Park, told the Chicago Tribune. "We scrutinize every race every night. We had been reviewing this race. "

The three men are all 29 years old and attended, but did not graduate from, Drexel University in Philadelphia, where they were all members of the same fraternity.

None of the men has been Charged. Attorneys for Harn and Davis say they are innocent of any wrongdoing. Attempts to reach DaSilva, of New York, have been unsuccessful.

Suspicions were raised by the nature of the bets. In the Pick Six, a bettor tries to select the winners of six consecutive races. In a Pick Four, it is four consecutive races.

The bets being investigated consisted of single-horse picks for the first races, coupled with bets on the field (all of the horses) for the final few.

Investigators suspect this indicates the bettors may have been taking advantage of a little-known nuance in the way wagers are processed. After each wager is made, the dollar amount is instantly transmitted from the site where the bet is made to the hub where the race is run so odds can be calculated.

The identity and picks of each bettor, however, are retained by the host computer until after most of the races have been run. Then, only the data on winning bettors is transmitted. This avoids swamping the computer network with superfluous data on losing bets, which would slow the system.

Officials fear, however, that someone with access to the host-site computers may have altered the bets before they were send to the central hub.