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Pay the real Pick 6 winners and move on!

Jan 21, 2003 5:55 AM

There is $3.1 million lying in a bank in Illinois collecting interest, and 79 guys scattered around the country to whom it belongs, all growing increasingly upset about the delay in their getting it.

The money is what was won at the fraternity party held by the three Drexel Boys — frat brothers 10 years ago at Drexel University in Philadelphia — who engineered horse racing’s biggest heist on the Breeders Cup Ultra Pick Six last October.

The 79 guys are those who picked five of the six winners. They each got $4,606.20 for their skill, and the three guys from Philly got the $3.1 million. Or thought they did, until they were caught. They’re obviously not going to get the dough, but up to this point the consolation winners haven’t gotten it either. Each one is owed some $39,000.

The Drexel Boys are still on the streets, which may surprise you, but the wheels of justice grind slowly, unless you’re some poor black kid caught stealing a loaf of bread for a hungry family. Then they whir like pistons. The so-called mastermind of the Drexel trio, a guy named Chris Harn, was due to be sentenced next month, but the word now is that his Feb. 19 enforced vacation will be postponed until his two co-conspirators, who made the crooked bets he engineered and collected them, are sent away.

Their names are Glen DaSilva and Derrick Davis. The feds want Davis to spend three or four years in deep meditation, and DaSilva two or so.

No word on what they want for Harn, but I have an idea. Why not just turn him over to the 79 guys waiting for their money, and let them divvy him up in small pieces.

These three were pretty scurvy guys, although prior to their big heist they thought they were pretty cool. When Davis was nailed, he not only was indignant but downright dishonest, lying to authorities and the press repeatedly. On Oct., 28 he told the Thoroughbred Times, "The bet was supposed to be $2 and I kind of screwed up with their phone system. It was a $12 ticket that was the winning one. It was too late to cancel. I couldn’t get back to them."

A day later he said he went to Yahoo, looked up "horse betting," and clicked on it. "I made a call and set up an account. I didn’t do anything wrong. I’m the guy who won this, but I’m the last person to find out what’s going on."

Actually he was the first person to find out. He knew his buddy Harn was hard at work in the inner sanctums of Autotote, the totalisator company that processes the bets, fully aware that under the system as it then operated the bets were not transmitted until after the first four horses in a Pick Six had won. So Harn made sure he and his frat brothers had the first four winners by changing ticket numbers, then combined them with all horses in the last two races. They wouldn’t have been caught if a longshot named Volponi hadn’t won the last race of the Pick Six.

Phil Johnson, the trainer of Volponi, jokingly said he should have been in line for the rich rewards of the bet. "I think I should get an award," he said during their trial. "My horse sure exposed it." He was dead right.

One guy who wasn’t right was Don Groth, the president of Catskill OTB in New York’s resort mountains, where the Drexel boys wisely made their bets, since it had no telephone recording system. Groth adamantly insisted at first that the scam was "a lucky day for a lucky fan ”¦ there is nothing to indicate that this was anything but a very good day for our customer."

So now racing waits to see what these guys get. And the real winners wait for their money. The prosecutor in the case has filed a claim for the $3.1 million, calling it criminal proceeds. We doubt even a U.S. attorney would have the chutzpah to withhold it from the legitimate winners. One war at a time is enough for this country.