Can Rudy be the savior of racing?

Nov 26, 2002 6:11 AM

   Who is this Rudy Giuliani now being hailed as racing’s Man of the Year, the go-to guy in racing’s darkest hour of trevail? The guy hired for really big bucks to oversee the investigation of how the now infamous Drexel Boys trio could have conducted a year-long computer heist in horse racing and been tripped up not by vigilance but by a horse named Volponi? The guy anointed to restore respect and confidence to racing?

   Surely this is not the Rudy Giuliani who as mayor of New York was chased around Manhattan by the paparizzi as he galloped with a new lady love on his arm, while his wife, actress Donna Hanover, fumed and fretted at home in the official residence, Gracie Mansion.

   No, not that one.

   This is the Rudy Giuliani of the iron fist and cold eyes, the guy who won the heart of New York for firmness and resolve as mayor in the aftermath of the city’s, and the nation’s, worst disaster ever.

   Racing turned to him last week and announced that his new consulting firm, Giuliani Partners, would get to the bottom of all this, and make sure it didn’t happen again. For a very big number, unmentioned in the press releases but reported by other sources as $3 million. That’s possible for a guy getting $100,000 to give inspirational talks to salesmen and executives and others seeking fame and fortune.

   Why Giuliani as racing’s savior?

   One skeptic, writer Jim O’Donnell of the Chicago Sun-Times, suggested that Giuliani was hired “for one big reason: neither George Washington nor Abraham Lincoln was available.”

   Steven Crist, the skilled Harvard-trained writer who is boss of the Daily Racing Form, had a slightly different take.  He wrote, in a column titled "Why hire chameleon Rudy?", “It is hard to imagine a more unlikely person for the industry to have gotten into bed with, given Giuliani’s relationship with racing in New York during his two terms as mayor.”

   This was not the kind of coverage the National Thoroughbred Racing Association was hoping for when it laid out big bucks to anoint Giuliani as the industry’s white knight.

   Racing has been basking sunnily for a year or more in the souped-up, sentimental account of Seabiscuit, soon to be seen on silver screens everywhere in even more dramatized fashion. Now, as that pleasant prospect nears, it has to fight off scurvy doings by a guy who not only engineered a $3 million winning ticket trick, but turned hundreds of un-cashed tickets into payoff winners through more computer magic, sort of an electronic stooper who used automatic tellers, which read winning numbers, whether real or replaced electronically.

   Welcome to the computer age, and with it to sharpies who learn how to byte into almost anything.

   Chris Harn, the main guy in all of these Pick Six shenanigans, also was smart enough to get himself a very good lawyer. Knowing that his client faced 25 years in the slammer if the other two guys involved talked, the lawyer had Harn talk first. Blowing his confederates’ protestations of innocence out of the water, he broke the case and lifted the burden of a possible quarter of a century behind bars off his own shoulders and substituted what will be a relative tap-on-the-hand sentence when it is handed down in February.

   Now that the modus operandi is known, what will be accomplished by going back a year to see how many other times the magic was performed, which is what is planned. Will the big bettors, who supposedly were demanding this, now sue to recover monies they lost? Or will the grist mill simply grind on, keeping the story alive week by week?

   Stay tuned. Days of Our Lives, Racing Edition, will be with you tomorrow afternoon, and the next, and the next, and you won’t miss a thing if you skip an installment. It will be there next week and next month, too, courtesy of its sponsors.