03/29/2007 11:00PM

Letters to the Editor

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NYRA beholden only to best interests of the sport

I respond to some of the negative points about the New York Racing Association made in the March 25 letters to the Racing Form.

I would just like to point out that NYRA is in bankruptcy proceedings while awaiting the slot machines that would have generated money that could have been spent to address some of the issues the letter-writers raised. It is difficult to see a paint job as a priority when you don’t have funds to get through a season of racing.

NYRA is a nonprofit organization with people at the top who want to do the best for racing, horses, and gamblers. The other organizations seeking the state racing franchise are for-profit companies that will be beholden to shareholders first.

I can imagine admission prices tripling at Saratoga and the price of admission to the Belmont Stakes rising to that of a Broadway show. I can’t imagine any effort to reduce the takeout or work out a new relationship with offtrack betting outlets, as any new management will be indebted to the state legislators.

I’m hoping our governor brokers a new agreement between NYRA and the state’s offtrack outlets while bringing the slots into Aqueduct as quickly as possible.

Playing the horses costs me enough as it is.

Larry Loonin - New York City

Numerous factors hurt New York

I agreed with some points in Steven Crist’s March 11 column, “New Yorkers putting on a sorry show of late,” but I felt it failed to mention some major underlying facts that have led to the problems occurring with the New York Racing Association.

1. Fair Grounds was closed in the winter of 2005-06. That certainly allowed Aqueduct, Gulfstream, and Oaklawn to have access to approximately 2,000 horses. They no longer have that luxury since the Fair Grounds reopened this winter.

2. Very few top New York trainers who wintered at Gulfstream in 2007 left horses in New York for the winter. With Gulfstream getting slots, I am sure this has a lot to do with it, since they did not have them in 2006.

3. After having more than 225 starters in New York during 2006, Scott Lake is dismantling his New York string in hopes of lessening his workload. That is a lot of starters for the racing secretary to replace.

4. The security barn has hurt New York racing, not helped it. The same trainers are winning now as they were before the barn’s inception. Trainers no longer want to ship into New York and race because of the inconvenience this barn brings upon them financially and personally. It also eliminates about 100 stalls that could be filled by running horses.

5. The new presence of slot machines at Philadelphia Park has had a major impact on New York racing. Many owners and trainers would prefer to run at Philadelphia against a weaker level of competition with purses on the rise.

The current executives and racing officials at NYRA were put into a tough position at a bad time. They are doing a damn good job with what they have to work with.

Nicole Stewart - Farmingdale, N.J.

Affronts hastened move to Bluegrass

After living on Long Island for most of the past 55 years, I recently moved, with my eldest son, to fulfill a 20-year dream. I had been traveling to Kentucky for Breeders’ Cups and Keeneland meets for about the same time, so I knew that, for me, it’s the most wonderful place in the world.

My despair at the erosion of racing in New York was growing yearly. Despite great meets at Saratoga, the cavernous emptiness of majestic Belmont Park and the deplorable condition of Aqueduct – especially when the inner-track meet runs – grows worse and worse.

A series of indignities – from the New York Racing Association’s turning an eye away from jockeys’ failure to make weight, to the lackluster, even uncivil treatment meted out to bettors by track personnel finally got the best of me. I sold my house and moved several years earlier than I anticipated.

The whole charade pertaining to slots at Aqueduct and the seeming impossibility that the decision-makers will ever make the right decision and save the track should stand as a cautionary tale to horse owners, trainers, and Joe Railbird. Delaware Park, Mountaineer, and tracks in other states should serve as examples to motivate the pikers in New York to get on the stick – and soon.

I still read the Aqueduct past performances, looking for a race to use as a vehicle to earn money, but I do not miss standing with my neck cricked as I watch the race outside on a monitor inside and wish I were at Gulfstream or Santa Anita or, heaven forbid, Turfway.

Steve Garbarini - Lexington, Ky.

Bay Meadows goes unlamented here

Now that it is final that Bay Meadows will be closing (“After 73 years, track will close,” March 24), all I can say is “finally.”

I do empathize with those who will lose their jobs, but as a race fan I find it way overdue. For too long fans have seen five-horse fields, whith two horses trained by one trainer who owns one of the horses.

The biggest beneficiaries will be the horses. Now the $4,000 claimers can retire, the 6-year-old-maidens can go home, and the horse ambulance will be able to get that 30,000-mile tune-up.

I hear many now lamenting the closure of Bay Meadows, but those that are now angry or upset didn’t fill the entry box with horses, nor did they add much, if anything, to the anemic wagering pool, so I am not clear on what their frustration is directed toward. It would seem they have no dog in this fight.

Greg Scherr - Monrovia, Calif.

Track’s demise part of bigger ills

I have gone to Bay Meadows for more than 40 years and have seen a decline in every aspect of racing in California, from the decline in field sizes to the high cost of training cheap horses who may or may not win one race a year. The small owner will never survive in racing.

As far as these new artificial surfaces go, in my opinion they will not save racing or the horses. There are not that many breakdowns considering the amount of horses who run every day, and you will never have great horses again with these phony surfaces.

I’m glad I won’t be around long enough to see this great sport go down the tubes.

Salvador Viola - Modesto, Calif.