06/07/2001 11:00PM

Letters to the Editor


Human interest enhanced NBC Derby picture

With all due respect to Andrew Beyer and his critique of NBC's Kentucky Derby coverage ("NBC at its best after race over," May 10), perhaps he is a little too close to the trees to see the forest.

The feature pieces - the horse tales - are what endear and humanize the owners, the trainers, and most importantly the horses to the general public, most of whom are casual racing fans at best. The majority of the millions who tuned into the Kentucky Derby probably have no idea of how to read the Racing Form.

The more technical aspects of the race, such as how fast the opening half-mile was run, absolutely are relevant, but it is the human interest stories that enhance the magic of the sport and help create new customers.

Most of our friends, who are not racing patrons, were particularly impressed by the NBC profiles, which left them with lasting favorable impressions. These stories, better than anything else, help educate the general public as to how magnificent, and how fragile, Thoroughbred athletes are.

Alice and Larry Wolf


Attitude on medication

is misguided

The lopsided viewpoint and lack of insight of Stan Bergstein's May 17 column "Drug policy bleeds sport of integrity" was absolutely appalling.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a major problem in the horse population, rampant in both the pleasure and racehorse populations.

Air quality in major metropolitan areas is hideous, yet where do we put our tracks? In proximity to major cities. Where should they be? Out in the country.

I have been in the Los Angeles area when the smog was so bad it was recommended that people not partake in any strenuous outdoor exercise, but the horses were working just as usual.

Do you want to know how to get rid of Lasix? Allow horsemen to use other medications, such as clenbuterol, or spearhead the effort to develop other, more effective means than Lasix to aid these animals.

Many breeders believe that some bloodlines are more susceptible to bleeding than others, and that those weed themselves out, because a great many horses are retired every year because they bleed through their Lasix for some reason. After 30 years in the business, I can confirm that this is true, just like serious respiratory problems tend to run in some human families.

The greatest dangers to the breed are absolutely legal, such as steroids, both systemic and joint-specific, which bring about many irreversible physical changes in horses. Steroids also do a tremendous amount of damage to the industry through the loss of valuable genes to the breeding scene via sterility, and can also be seriously detrimental to bone quality.

And Mr. Bergstein's comparison between Standardbred and Thoroughbred physiology during performance is erroneous. There is simply no comparison to the metabolic activity between the two, and the physical nature of the two activities is not the same.

What we need are some innovative recommendations, or an open forum in search of solutions that would do the bettors and the horses some good instead. What we don't need is flagellating an industry already exhausted from fighting real issues with an old, tired debate about Lasix that has been going on for 30 years.

Julie McMurry,

Royal Match Stud

Enumclaw, Wash.

Calling tech support

for Derby chart

How can two revisions (so far) be necessary to the chart of America's premier race ("Kentucky Derby chart revised again," June 6)? Surely there must be some way to monitor the horses electronically to get an accurate chart. The technology may not exist or may be prohibitively expensive, but every effort should be made to ensure an accurate chart. Who knows, if this works it may greatly improve race charts for all races.

David M. Fischer

New York City

Cup seating plan

snubs the faithful

As a racing fan of 35 years, I have watched with dismay as the sport I grew up on has deteriorated before my eyes: inferior horses the result of too many race dates, short uncompetitive fields with few betting opportunities, rising takeout and poorly administered simulcast programs, not to mention a decaying infrastructure at many racetracks.

The much-publicized changes promoted by the industry - such as working to broaden the fan base by listening to what regular patrons say and caring about what they think - have apparently been swept aside.

Witness this year's Breeders' Cup event, to be hosted by the New York Racing Association at Belmont Park. Having just received the 2001 Breeders' Cup seating application, I am left to wonder if industry promises are nothing more than empty words. With racing dying on the vine, it is hard to comprehend the logic of holding back 75 percent of Breeders' Cup seating from the general public, then charging them $35 to $100 for the worst seats at the track - yet that is exactly what is taking place.

The Breeders' Cup Committee, with its elitist and exclusionary policies, surely must be kidding, but sadly, it is not. Racing's leaders continue to demonstrate they are out of touch with the patrons who keep this game afloat. Rather than rewarding regular players with affordable seats, the committee would exclude these folks or sap every penny from their pocket.

Racing's officials have been fooled into believing they are in the entertainment business, and respond accordingly by catering to the wealthy. Problem is, racing is not in the entertainment business, rather the gambling business. The competition has names like Excalibur, Bally's, and Foxwoods. Racing's bread and butter comes from the people who pass through the turnstiles each racing day, not from VIP's or corporate guests who show up but once a year.

Last I looked, admission and seating at every casino in America was free. Can you imagine Caesars Palace charging players $100 (or even $35) to partake in their games of chance? While casinos choose to comp their regulars, racing directs them to a local simulcast site for the year's big event. Which industry do you think will ultimately enjoy success?

This latest blunder in a long series of miscues, may be racing's worst. Instead of cultivating interest in the sport, the Breeders' Cup Committee has chosen to forsake those who support this game day-in and day-out. That decision will inevitably come back to haunt them.Richard Dorfman

Shelburne, Vt.

Simulcast sightlines

shouldn't hide the equine

In this age of multiple-screen simulcast parlors, it is dismaying that patrons aren't given adequate opportunity to view enough of the horses before they race.

Tracks like Laurel, Penn National, Philadelphia Park, and others prefer to feature the betting pools, at the expense of those who would like to see the physical behavior of the horses about to compete.

How can we bet? Past performances are invaluable, but just as they are named - the past. The present is the here-and-now of a horse's appearance. Saddling, post parade, and warm-ups are all essential viewing for horseplayers.

California tracks are much better at presenting the complete prerace picture. Tracks along the Eastern seaboard should follow their lead.

Steven Silverstang

Carlsbad, Calif.