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Letter to the editor
Not sparing rod in Belmont was unsightly
Congratulations to Afleet Alex and his connections, including new supertrainer Tim Ritchey and much-maligned jockey Jeremy Rose for putting a seeming lock on the 3-year-old championship in another scintillating victory in the Belmont Stakes. Seldom do you see that kind of turn of foot in the stretch in anything other than a mile grass race.
That being said, someone ought to let Rose know that when your horse has just blown past a Kentucky Derby winner and is drawing off in the stretch in response to nothing more than a small chirp and a little rein shake, it is entirely unnecessary to go to the whip with a widening four-length lead. Not only does it look more humane to the tens of thousands of novices looking on, but it's the right way to ride. Alex loves to run, but with every flick of his tail when he felt the sting of the whip - his reward for destroying the field - one had to wonder how long his love of being in front will last.
Granted, Jeremy did not take quite the windup and backswing Ramon Dominguez did aboard Scrappy T in the Preakness before he struck the blow that caused so much adventure, but the pasting of Alex on his neck as well as his hindquarters with a lengthening daylight lead can't be something for racing to be proud of.
An adopted son rises to Maryland's defense
The letter-writer of "Time to rethink classics for 3-year-olds" (June 12) made a valid point. Maybe the Triple Crown series is too demanding for young 3-year-old horses. But the letter's attack on Maryland racing as "entirely irrelevant" was totally unjustified.
I spent my first 45 years living in New York City and caught the Thoroughbred racing bug in my teens. I also lived for six years in a state (North Carolina) with no racing. Currently, I reside in Baltimore and am quite grateful for the racing product in the state of Maryland. Just like other racing venues, we have our share of dedicated horsemen, riders, handlers, and fans. Granted, we are not Kentucky, Florida, California, or New York, but our racing is anything but "irrelevant." If you have love and respect for horse racing, it is relevant wherever it may be found.
If anyone doubts the relevancy of Maryland racing, I will host a visit to Pimlico or Laurel, where you will see that not only is racing in this state relevant, it is still the kingly sport that it has always been.
Claim announcements bound to backfire
A June 12 letter to the Racing Form, "Bettors could benefit from knowledge of claims," stated that it would be helpful to horseplayers for tracks to announce before a claiming race which horses are being claimed, without divulging the purchaser of course.
Since trainers have ears and would also hear the announcements, I believe this would lead to more late scratches and even smaller fields (especially in California). How would that help the horseplayer?
The racing industry definitely needs overhauling, but the idea that bettors need to know beforehand which horses are changing barns after a race would create more problems that it solves.
North Las Vegas, Nev.
Temporary seating left lingering distaste
After attending the Belmont Stakes for the 16th consecutive year, I can honestly say that I have never felt as ripped off as I did that Saturday afternoon. It wasn't the $10 parking charge or the $10 grandstand admission fee. It also wasn't the prohibition against bringing beer into Belmont Park or the fact that you had to pay $6.50 for a 16-ounce beer (this despite assurances to fans earlier by the New York Racing Association that the cost of beers would be reasonable). The source of my frustration was paying $60 for a seat (including admission), from which you couldn't see the race.
These temporary seats were located on the second-tier level, an eighth of a mile from the finish, behind the permanent seating. The seats themselves were about the right size for kindergartners, and the temporary unit, consisting of four rows, was placed several feet behind the last row of permanent seating, allowing room for fans without seats to stand in front (not to mention the giant pole blocking the view of the far turn). So if you actually sat in your seats, you were blocked by people standing, and if you tried to stand in the third or fourth row of the temporary seats, your vision was blocked by the third tier of the grandstand sloping down directly overhead.
Euphemistically, these seats could have been described as "Obstructed View" (although "miserable" would have been a more appropriate description). Nowhere on the ticket application, however, was the possibility of obtaining temporary or obstructed-view seats mentioned, thus allowing you to opt out of such an arrangement. At the very least, these seats should have been offered at a discounted price.
The most embarrassing part of the afternoon was collecting $60 from each of my friends on whose behalf I purchased tickets. My only hope is that the terrible turnout of fewer than 63,000 fans (the worst showing since 1996) gives NYRA the message that the 2005 Belmont Stakes policies need further review.
Park Ridge, N.J.
Analysts sometimes overthink the obvious
Of the Racing Form's 19 so-called racing experts ("Analysis: Can anyone beat Afleet?" June 11), only six picked Afleet Alex to win the Belmont (though that was a significant improvement over the Preakness, where only three thought Afleet Alex would succeed).
It seemed pretty clear to many horseplayers that Afleet Alex was clearly the class of the Triple Crown series once Bellamy Road dropped out after the Kentucky Derby. So what do we average "two-dollar Joes" know that the professionals don't? Maybe that it doesn't pay to try and outsmart yourself when handicapping horses.
New York City
Simulcast focus should be on essential visuals
The camera work during most simulcast productions stinks.
A horseplayer would like a view of the animals who are competing in the upcoming event. A horseplayer needs to observe their composure, warm-ups, and gait, as well as inspect for washiness, kidney sweat, and other positive and negative signs. A horseplayer does not need extended views of the outriders, lead ponies, or the San Gabriel Mountains.
Also, some more time should be added between races, and track announcers should limit their commentary to only essential information regarding upcoming races, not carry on about an incident in the previous race.