08/02/2001 11:00PM

DRF Letters to the Editor


Time to review 'go to the tape' result policy

Dick Jerardi's column in the July 20 Racing Form, "It's time to let race results stand," was right on the money.

Is there anything more ludicrous at the track than watching the board blink after a race as three guys in a booth make the decision who the winner should be after viewing an alleged infraction?

As everyone around the track knows, every single race at every track in the country is filled with horses bearing in and out, veering left, drifting right, bumping, brushing, steadying, etc.

Jerardi summed it up when he wrote ". . . nobody really knows why decisions are made. Nobody can say what is right and what is wrong because nobody really knows."

W. Richard Garrison, a steward from Prairie Meadows, responded in expected fashion in his July 29 letter "To eliminate role of stewards would be folly." Garrison defended the archaic rules and justified his position. Racing would not, as Garrison contended, turn into a Roller Derby without stewards having jurisdiction over a race's result. As Jerardi contended, it is the offending jockeys who should be penalized, not the owners, trainers, and bettors. If a rider is obviously risking injury to others in an attempt to win, penalize him, not his mount. This will take the judgment calls out of race results. Many times there is no clear answer as to whether a horse should come down or not.

I've been betting horses for 30 years and have owned horses for 12 years. I always cringe when I have a winner and the lights start blinking. At my local track you never know what's going to happen when Moe, Larry, and Curly start looking at the films.

It doesn't have to be that way. First one to the wire wins!Dave Lengel

Wernersville, Pa.

Stewards should have universal standards

The disqualification of Boston Brat in the first race at Belmont on July 21 is further evidence that there is a serious problem with stewards who answer to no one. The incident clearly did not warrant a DQ but the number came down.

My first thought was that the stewards were giving the riding title to John Velazquez. The chart caller clearly agreed that it was a horrible call, as his comment reads that the second-place horse "could not get by the winner then was given the win via a disqualification." If the stewards in a prominent racing jurisdiction are not above reproach, what hope is there for integrity in less-scrutinized states?

I regularly bet most of the Northeastern tracks, and when my horse faces an objection I immediately consider which stewards are making the call. In Maryland they take horses down for breathing on an opponent. At least they are fairly consistent. The Delaware stewards have a slightly higher threshold, but seem to reward jockeys for trying to go through holes that aren't there. I prefer the "no blood, no foul" criterion applied by the stewards at Philadelphia Park.

Obviously the lack of a universal standard is bad for racing. State racing commissions are generally populated with appointees with little knowledge of racing and stewards are free to apply whatever personal biases they bring to their profession. I'm sure most stewards try to do a good job, but the profusion of blunders makes it easy to call their competence or integrity into question.

Maybe Dick Jerardi is right and it is time to end disqualifications. I know that the only time I consider not betting anymore is when I see a bad DQ.Todd D. Vaughn

Millville, N.J.

Just say no to drug testing

Dick Jerardi's July 20 column all but advocated eliminating the role of stewards, but we cannot have a game without referees.

As a 30-year participant in Thoroughbred ownership, I have observed that racing's referees, the stewards, make the correct call almost every time. Once in a while they make the wrong call, as in the case of Futural in the Hollywood Gold Cup. But it is another matter altogether when an owner loses a purse because of what might amount to weeds in his feed.

To see Bob Baffert suspended over a micro-sample of essentially nothing hurts all of us in the industry.

When trying to hand out justice regarding postrace testing, the stewards cannot make the call. Jerardi can make his first-across-the-line wager in Ireland, but I cannot bring new young owners into this sport in this country if they read all the negative press regarding medication.

So, to play devil's advocate, why not eliminate testing entirely?

Let anyone try to beat, say, Point Given with an inferior horse and any medication on Earth. Point Given will always win.

Recently I had a conversation with a bright medical student from the University of Southern California who felt that Lasix is bad for horses. Every time I am among a group of non-racing people, attention always turns to my involvement in racing. Everyone is fascinated by horse racing, but most people are concerned that horses are all given dangerous drugs to run on.

If we had no postrace testing, the sports pages could have headlines about D. Wayne Lukas, Gary Stevens, Laffit Pincay Jr., and Point Given instead of the latest scandal about a positive test.Ray Hussa

San Gabriel, Calif.

Delay over flag turned fair into fiasco

Many offenses to the public were perpetrated at the Alameda County Fair on Friday, June 29 ("Missing flags delay race; horse, riders hurt," July 3). To our knowledge, the stewards do not have the authority to hold races because the appropriate flags are not flying. They hadn't been flying for at least the first three races that day, or the two previous days. Why would stewards decide to hold everything until the flags were hoisted for that particular race?

It was exceptionally bad judgment on their part when it came to holding up a 2-year-old race. These babies are just learning the ropes, and any unusual situation gives them reason to act less than normal.

One horse getting loose - twice - and eventually getting scratched was one thing, but the delay caused another horse to rear in the gate, hurting himself and his jockey and winding up scratched. Yet another horse reared and hurt his rider. In this case, the saddle and gear of the original rider was left on the horse when a replacement rider mounted him, so the horse was allowed to race without a proper weigh-out.

Also, it was later disclosed to us that our own horse in the race, Mr. Endeavour, had started to tie up because of the distress. Had we known of this situation before the race, we would have scratched our horse as well. The whole happenstance had a ring of "bush league."

Curt and Lila Lanning

Los Altos, Calif.

Time has come for Delp to join Hall

I feel it would be spectacular if the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame would include trainer Grover "Buddy" Delp on its next ballot. It's a travesty voters have thus far kept him out.

What are the guidelines for a nomination? Training a Horse of the Year? Winning Triple Crown races? Delp has accomplished these and much more. Let's get past the petty differences and get Buddy into the Hall of Fame, where he belongs.Harry Leonard Jr.

Danbury, Conn.