Santa won't be bringing any $40,000 checks to the people holding consolation tickets in the Breeders' Cup Ultra Pick 6.
Everyone involved in the situation said they're eager to pay off the 78 "winners." But none of the organizations involved seem to know how to undo the Gordian knot that currently has the funds tied up.
"NTRA and Breeders' Cup, working with Arlington Park, are talking all measures within their power to ensure the rightful winners of this money get it as expeditiously as possible," NTRA spokesman Chip Tuttle said.
Tuttle said the NTRA is seeking a meeting with the Illinois Racing Board to determine how to proceed. Even if such a meeting is scheduled, it might not advance the cause very far. IRB assistant executive director Marc Laino said the board is powerless to do anything about the money until the U.S. District Court in New York authorizes its release.
The court got involved in mid-November after three men pleaded guilty to charges they illegal doctored six winning tickets on the Ultra Pick 6 Oct. 26 at Arlington. The fact all the winning tickets were sold through the same upstate New York off-track betting corporation raised immediate questions and prompted an investigation that led to the charges. As a result, the six-of-six winning tickets were never paid.
All three suspects have pleaded guilty. Legal experts said, however, their convictions are not completed until they are sentenced in March 2003, and it is unlikely the court will release the money before then.
Breeders' Cup officials argue the money that would have gone to pay holders of perfect tickets should be distributed as quickly as possible to the holders of consolation tickets. Each of those would be worth a bit less than $40,000.
"The Illinois Racing Board cannot order payment," Laino said, since the court has ordered the funds frozen. Laino said it is the IRB's position that NTRA/Breeders' Cup must petition the court to release the money. If that is done, he said, the board would then consider authorizing Arlington to pay it to the consolation ticket holders.
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the board is Jan. 21. It could, however, schedule an emergency meeting if it is needed to resolve the matter.