05/03/2007 11:00PM

Letters to the Editor


New Derby bonus doesn't add up to a positive

The announcement this past week about the $1 million bonus to a horse in this year's Kentucky Derby who beats Barbaro's 6 1/2-length victory margin last year ("Yum! adds $1M bonus for win margin," May 2) is insane.

Even the thought of pushing a 3-year-old beyond enduring 1 1/4 miles to grab the loot is thoughtless and inhumane. They are trying to dress this up as a tribute to Barbaro. It's all about the math and the talking heads saying the word Yum on television, period.

The Racing Form reported that last year's Derby had a 7.0 rating, representing approximately 7.7 million households. So let's assume, at an average of three viewers per household, that roughly 23,000,000 people watched Barbaro win last year's race. Yum! is offering $1 million. That equates to roughly $0.04 per viewer impression.

But wait. Yum! decided to take an insurance policy out on this unlikely occurrence. Certainly the premium is less than 10 percent of cash value. The impression rate goes to $0.004. This is a great business decision, but morally flawed. It seems to me that simply donating $1,000,000 to the Barbaro Fund, and getting the attendant accolades, would be more prudent. Viewers would still get the Yum without this ridiculous carrot.

As for the possibility that the bonus incentive might cause a jockey to win by a larger margin than necessary, I applaud the president of Churchill Downs, Bob Evans, for his obvious hesitation in his statement, "I can't imagine anybody would abuse a horse in that manner." Evans understands the potential peril involved in tossing around bonuses like this.

Nothing yummy here.

Todd J. Stinson - Lincoln, Neb.

Backstretch staffers deserve their share

Okay, let me get this straight. The winning Kentucky Derby owner, trainer, and jockey - along with the Barbaro Fund - get to partake in a million-dollar bonus if their horse can exceed Barbaro's 6o1/2-length victory in the Kentucky Derby. It is nice that the Thoroughbred game has such thoughtful sponsors. It would also be nice if someone from Yum! Brands would have thought of a few other things before they made this bonus public.

What about the horses? Is Yum! or anyone else on the planet going to try and tell me that if a jock looks back after making the lead and is opening up, he or she is not going to go for the margin to get the bonus? Please.

Another thing to consider would include maybe giving part of the bonus to the groom, exercise rider, hotwalker, etc. who has something to do with the horse. Just maybe Yum! representatives should go into their KFC restaurant across from Belmont Park to see how many backstretch workers go in to buy their products, as opposed to whom the bonus is offered. The bosses get the money and the workers are shut out. Is Yum! assuming that the people that they give the bonus to will share it? Maybe, maybe not.

If Yum! doesn't include the backstretchers who work with the horse, at least send them a bucket of KFC chicken with a bottle or two of A&W root beer.

Anthony A. Stabile - Howard Beach, N.Y.

Words ring hollow in tribute attempt

Barbaro wins last year's Kentucky Derby, breaks down in the Preakness, heroically fights for his life, but sadly succumbs to his fate. Then in the May 2 Racing Form I read, "What better way to honor Barbaro than with this Yumfecta."

Those were the words of David C. Novak, the CEO of Yum! Brands, the Derby's presenting sponsor.

Let's see now, the three words: honor, Yumfecta, and Barbaro. I'm sure Barbaro and his owners would be very proud of this "tribute."

Bob Evans president of Churchill Downs, condoned this effort by claiming it will "force us to think about Barbaro and be a constant reminder of his greatness." Is this part of the "Integrity in Racing" mantra? It appears another example of the Chinese proverb "Honor dies where interest lies."

Douglas A. Lombardi - Monkton, Md.

Connecticut stance a double standard

The Connecticut attorney general's office has, on more than one occasion, decreed that it is illegal for advance-deposit wagering companies to take bets over the Internet from Connecticut residents. This past week, the attorney general's office put the New York Racing Association on notice that it would be breaking Connecticut law if it allowed Connecticut residents to bet with its account-wagering service (" 'Net delay for NYRA," May 4).

Never mind that this is an absurd law, given that the state has licensed Connecticut OTB to run a telephone wagering service. What makes this law more ridiculous is that Connecticut already in effect allows Internet wagering and seems not to know it.

An individual with Internet access can open an Internet telephone account with a service such as Net2Phone or Vonage. That account can be used to place a telephone call over the Internet to Connecticut OTB's automated telephone service. The user can speak with a human operator to place a bet, or can use the automated wagering service, wherein a computer keyboard can be used to punch bets at computerized voice prompts. The transactions are transmitted over the Internet.

By this method, it seems to me it is perfectly legal for Connecticut residents to bet on the Internet. It seems incongruent for the attorney general to say it is illegal for companies outside Connecticut to take wagers over the Internet from Connecticut residents and at the same time allow individuals inside and outside Connecticut to bet into Connecticut over the Internet.

John Swetye - Darien, Conn.

No accounting for bettor's hassles

In regard to the April 29 article "Account wagering battle leaves bettors out in cold":

Help! I'm an account-wagering patron who is drowning in a sea of mergers, takeovers, contracts, leases, and subleases no less.

I hired my wife to help operate the two computers I now need to wager, as well as keep track of multiple user ID's and passwords, not to mention which services carry which tracks.

She quit after one day, saying the pittance I was paying her was woefully inadequate.

Rick Higgins - Columbus, Ohio

Signal restriction self-destructive

This industry is so upside down. Something really needs to be done. How could Churchill Downs even think about restricting players from participating in the country's biggest race, the Kentucky Derby? The top individuals involved should be ashamed of themselves, caring more about their fiefdom than the industry in general.

If they don't watch out they will not have anything to squabble over.

Burnie Lenau - Carmichael, Calif.

California vote should be bellwether

In his April 21 column, "Small town sends big message," about the rejection by the town of Dixon, Calif., of Magna Entertainment Corp.'s attempt to build a racetrack there, Jay Hovdey concluded by writing, "The sport has forfeited its own identity."

How sad. How true. Everyday attendance at Gulfstream Park is "unavailable." As a casino, Gulfstream doesn't charge admission, so the figure is indeed unavailable. But it seems nobody goes to the races there.

In February, I explored the track. There were hundreds of very old people playing slot machines. There were a couple of hundred people in the restaurants and maybe 1,000 or so people in the seats around the paddock, in seats that face the racetrack, and at the betting tables on the first floor.

Thoroughbred racing as a participatory spectator sport in the wintertime in southern Florida is dead. There is great racing, but very few people. There is no grandstand. There is no clubhouse.

There used to be the great Hialeah. There used to be the great Gulfstream Park. Attention Thoroughbred industry: Heed the Dixon vote. Don't let Gulfstream happen anywhere else.

Thomas M. Murray - Fishkill, N.Y.