11/02/2001 12:00AM

Letters to the editor

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Toughest call: Quick diagnosis on fallen horse

As a fan of horse racing for 20 years, and an avid viewer of the few graded stakes that the "major" networks and ESPN decide to air, if there is one thing I continue to be annoyed with every year during NBC's Breeders' Cup coverage it is the rantings of Bob Neumeier and Mike Battaglia.

Not only did they insist on pointing out, over and over, that Bobby Frankel was 0 for 36, 0 for 37, etc., but then, when Frankel does have a winner in Squirtle Squirt in the Sprint, Battaglia brings it up again in the winner's circle! So much for letting the trainer bask in the glory of his win. No, let's remind him of how many times he has lost.

It seems to me that the biggest gaffes of the day were made by the men, and not the woman that Matt Hegarty chose to pick on in his Oct 31 piece, "NBC broadcast a success, warts and all."

In light of the proximity of Exogenous to the Belmont rail, and the fact that the camera angles from NBC concentrated solely on the filly's legs, it was, yes, a guess by Charlsie Cantey that the filly had injured a leg. But among the broadcasters, Cantey is the only one who has worked horses for a living (Has Neumeier ever been on a horse?). Cantey was making an educated guess based on over 30 years of hands-on experience.

Since there was no video at the time to counter that guess, and since every attention was placed on freeing Exogenous's legs, I too, even before Cantey spoke, was certain that any injury the filly had suffered would be to her legs. The terrible replay, which thankfully was only seen once, gave the first indication that the filly had slammed her head into the ground. Not even her jockey, Javier Castellano, knew initially what was wrong.

As a fan who cares more for these animals than the large amounts of money made on them, I was just concerned with the fate of a potential champion. I'm sure many watching the coverage on Saturday were more concerned with the filly's condition than who did or didn't guess it correctly from the beginning.

Angela Mehelic

St. Louis

Bravo, Castellano, for timely concern

I would like to commend the heroic actions of jockey Javier Castellano with the fallen Exogenous before the Breeders' Cup Distaff.

While the gray filly was lying on the track in distress it was Castellano who stepped forward, took control of the horse, and initiated efforts to calm her. She responded to him immediately and was noticeably still as efforts were made to extract her leg from the railing.

This was to be Castellano's first Breeders' Cup ride, and he must have been so excited to be aboard a major contender for the Distaff. But when that opportunity was so cruelly taken from him, his immediate and instinctive reaction was to demonstrate genuine concern and caring for the distraught animal, with little regard for his own disappointment or his personal safety.

Castellano did the selfless, right thing for Exogenous in her time of need, and his efforts in caring for her should not go unnoticed.

Thank you, Javier.

Brian Scott

Calgary, Alberta

Nowhere to run: Bias as a fact of life

Judging by Joe Cardello's Nov. 1 piece, "Well above average," bemoaning the dead rail at Belmont Park last Saturday, it seems that this year he witnessed his first Breeders' Cup card.

Churchill Downs is regularly criticized for playing games with the track surface (most recently this past May); the track surface in Florida is a nightmare at best (how many horses have trained at Hialeah so they won't break down at Gulfstream?); Skywalker won the Classic on a notoriously biased strip in California (just ask Turkoman's connections). Do I have to recount all of the other Breeders' Cup winners outside of New York who won because of a biased strip?

Track biases are part of the game, and if Cardello's views were applied across the board, there would not be a Breeders' Cup event. This year's event at Belmont Park was outstanding, and track management should be congratulated for pulling it off as well as they did.

Charles E. Boulbol

Brooklyn, N.Y.

Championship day derailed at Belmont

While the day of Breeders' Cup events is always my favorite day at the races and certainly the best opportunity to cash big, I think it was a travesty that the Belmont Park track crew couldn't get the dirt track to play fair.

With the inside a virtual bog, riders had to make ridiculous moves or face getting trapped where they had no chance to win. The only horse to handle it was the little filly Xtra Heat, who was probably light enough to skip over the ground. You could see bigger horses like Siphonic struggling down on the inside.

There is no excuse for the Belmont crew not to have had the track properly prepared. They knew the Cup races were coming, and the weather had been perfect, with no rain in the New York City area for at least a week before the event.

Pundits might dismiss the situation, shrugging it off with "that's horse racing," but I say it's unfair to the horses, the owners, the trainers and, most importantly, the bettors.

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association and Breeders' Cup Ltd. should do a better job in the future insuring that something this appalling doesn't happen again.

Morty Mittenthal

Pasadena, Calif.

Golden Ballet very much in Eclipse running

Lauren Stich, commenting on Eclipse Award candidates among 3-year-old fillies in her Nov. 1 column, "Eclipse thoughts after the Cup," wrote, "Santa Anita Oaks winner Golden Ballet was injured early in the year and didn't race enough to be considered . . . ."

Golden Ballet ran five times this season, culminating May 19 in her fourth win. It should be noted that six starts were accomplished in 2001 by Tiznow and Squirtle Squirt, while Val Royal had three. If the Breeders' Cup Distaff did anything, it surely opened up, rather than closed out, a bid by Golden Ballet for consideration for an Eclipse Award.

Mike Watchmaker had Golden Ballet atop his Watchmaker Watch divisional rankings in the Form until the middle of August, dropped her to second behind Flute for a few months, and only recently placed her third.

It is nothing if not hasty to dismiss the claims of Golden Ballet for Eclipse consideration, especially in light of her sterling record.

Barry Irwin

Team Valor

Barry Irwin is president of Team Valor, co-owner of Golden Ballet.

Don't blame the rider when fault lies elsewhere

I was appalled by comments made by trainer D. Wayne Lukas that appeared on drf.online. Lukas was totally out of line in blaming jockey Victor Espinoza for Spain's loss in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. Lukas is just not the same trainer he was five or 10 years ago. His horses are just not the same. For him to blame Espinoza is childish.

Grow up, Mr. Lukas. Take the loss like a man!

Albert Frias

Alta Loma, Calif.