03/15/2007 11:00PM

Letters to the Editor

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Ocala select sale claims its place in major leagues

I was surprised and disappointed that the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's March selected sale was not considered a "Major 2-year-old sale" in the chart that accompanied the March 4 article "As pinhookers spend more, prices skyrocket." Considering that last year's gross sales were over $31 million (more than twice Barretts and $13 million more than Keeneland) - with an average price of over $108,000 and a median of $75,000 - the OBS March selected sale certainly deserved to be included. Not only were the average, median, and gross records, the $1.8 million sale-topping Belong to Me colt set an all-time OBS record.

The sale has also been very productive. In the most recent 10-year study completed by the Thoroughbred Times, the OBS March sale is the only selected 2-year-old sale that had horses earn more than their purchase price (from 1996 to 2005, sales horses showed $187.9 million in earnings from a combined $172.7 million purchase price). Fleet Indian, featured on this year's catalog cover, won the Eclipse Award for fillies and mares. She is joined by three other Grade 1-winning graduates from the OBS March sale: Meadow Breeze, Swap Fliparoo, and Premium Tap, among the favorites in the Dubai World Cup.

Fasig-Tipton's sale should be featured the weekend before the sale, but OBS March should not have been excluded. The majority of the same buyers and sellers participate at our sale, including the top four 2-year-old buyers from last year. In addition to slighting OBS, failing to include OBS March also affects the consignors that have invested millions of dollars for horses entered in our sale.

Tom Ventura - General manager, director of sales, Ocala Breeders' Sales Company

New York program needs seasonal aid

I write in response to Steven Crist's March 11 column, "New Yorkers putting on a sorry show of late."

I have been training horses in New York on a year-round basis for more than 15 years, and every year we hear about the quality of racing at New York's inner track. The complaints are: small fields, New York-breds, maiden claiming, lower and lower claiming levels, inordinate amount of scratches, etc, etc, etc.

This year was in my opinion worse than ever. Here are the reasons:

1. A quarantine on horses from Mid-Atlantic states.

2. Competition from raised purses at Philadelphia Park.

3. A total of 258 racing dates, nine races per day with no break.

4. The most intriguing problem, that not all New York horsemen support year-round racing in New York. The largest stable in money earned in the country left only 10 horses in New York this winter. Another trainer didn't leave one horse here but found it convenient to race dozens at Tampa and dozens more at Gulfstream. Is this supporting New York racing?

What can be done?

1. Insist that trainers and owners who want to race in Florida leave 25 percent of their horses in New York.

2. Race four days per week - eight races on weekdays, 10 races on weekends - and bump up the purses.

3. Have uncoupled entries to increase the number of betting interests.

4. Most important, get slots up and running immediately. Once purses are raised, economics will force the owners to insist that their trainers leave horses in New York.

The New York Racing Association's racing secretary, Paul Campo, and his entire staff are to be applauded for the job done this year considering what there was to work with. Winter racing is not easy: bad weather, freezing-cold mornings, frozen water buckets. It's not easy on our stock or our help, and by the end of winter our horses are worn out, but smaller outfits don't have the good fortune to replace them like some of the mega-stables.

What racing really needs is more trainers like Gary Contessa, Mike Hushion, Bruce Levine, Rick Violette, and Tim Ritvo, and many more who make the sacrifice to leave the majority of their stock here to support New York racing year-round.

Eddie Barker - East Moriches, N.Y.

Winter blight leaves a fan cold

Kudos to Steven Crist for finally saying something appropriate, i.e. negative, about the New York-bred program.

It's bad enough as a taxpayer to see one's money given out in all kinds of subsidies to agribusiness (a sort of welfare for the rich) without having to subsidize mediocrity in the Thoroughbred breed via takeout in the mutuel pools. When folks used to ask me, "Why on Earth do you play the horses?" I could always answer, "To improve the breed, of course." Unfortunately, that's not the case today playing New York tracks.

I have been playing this wonderful game for 48 years now, and of course I remember when New York tracks were closed in the winter. I find not just the small fields of New York-breds that are dreadful - 12-horse fields of slow horses who aren't particularly interested in winning will also turn one off. I play mostly Gulfstream in the winter, with a sprinkling of Santa Anita, and zero Aqueduct.

Richard Helfman - New York City

Class-act barn houses champion

Thanks to Andrew Beyer for his March 14 column, "Big races all that matter to Nafzger," on trainer Carl Nafzger.

While I do not know Mr. Nafzger personally, I have had the pleasure to meet him. Some six years ago a former assistant of his arranged for me and my cousin the chance to spend a morning at Nafzger's Churchill Downs barn. As we are a couple of "city boys," we were a little worried that we would only get in the way (and I'm sure we did). Needless to say, though, we could not pass up this opportunity, and we came away incredibly impressed with the operation. The entire staff could not have been nicer, and the morning went by way too fast.

On subsequent trips to Keeneland, we would run into Nafzger assistant Ian Wilkes and were pleasantly surprised that he not only recognized us but took the time to talk horses for a while.

In sports, it is often said a team takes on the personality of its coach or manager. Judging by the way Nafzger's team conducts itself, I'd say that's one heck of a manager. Come Kentucky Derby Day, if anyone is a neutral observer, I suggest rooting for Street Sense. Racing needs more operations like this one.

Dave Marro - Troy, N.Y.