11/09/2001 1:00AM

Letters to the Editor


Paid workout betrayed game's rank and file

I watched the Breeders' Cup races when the newly anointed "superstar," Officer, ran up the track at Belmont Park. His trainer, Bob Baffert, then decided that it was necessary to wheel him back a week later at Santa Anita in the California Cup, running against a bunch of statebred crows.

Of course, the public went for the story that he was ready to run and the Breeders' Cup Juvenile was just a fluke. So when they bet their hard-earned money on the "superstar," lo and behold, Mr. Baffert decides he is going to experiment with him and take him back to second-last under a nice hold. Keep in mind that he is 2-5 in the wagering.

To make a long story short and painful, he makes his way through the field but flattens out through the stretch run and is out-finished.

But that's not the problem ? here is the problem: Baffert says he is done "messing around." He downplayed the loss, saying he wanted to teach Officer to come from off the pace ("Officer down ? again," Nov. 6).

Baffert said he still considers Officer a Triple Crown candidate. "We wanted him to learn something," Baffert said. "If he'll be a two-turn horse, we need to get him to relax. Unfortunately, he didn't win."

Isn't it time these guys tell the public what they are going to do before the race? Why couldn't Officer have run as a non-betting interest, for purse money only.

Nobody wants to bet on 2-5, especially when it's simply a learning experience. I was always under the impression that was what the morning was for.

Racing just sinks lower and lower each and every day.

Robert Newton - Cincinnati

Don't be fooled: Net bill will ensnare racing

Greg Avioli, deputy commissioner of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, and anyone else in the NTRA who supports Rep. Bob Goodlatte's (R-Va.) proposed ban on casino-type gambling over the Internet, should learn to pay attention to the bigger picture. ("Support for casino-type bet ban," Nov. 4.)

Does he not understand that these would-be prohibitionists are chipping away at all forms of gambling, which, by the way, includes horse racing. Once successful at banning casino betting on the Internet, then they will go after horse racing.

Every bit of ground that racing gives up for what is perceived as a short-term reduction in competition for the gambling dollar is going to just weaken the game's position when Rep. Goodlatte decides people should not bet at home or on the phone. For him, and others like him, the long-term goal is the elimination of gambling. And that, Mr. Avioli, is the industry in which you make your living.

Ed Hamilton - Alpine, Calif.

Guild's insurance dilemma has good guys in crossfire

As a horse owner, insurance agent, and friend of many of the former members of The Jockeys' Guild, I tried to be of some assistance regarding the Guild's health insurance program ("Cloak and dagger in Jockeys' Guild," Oct. 14).

I know the extreme difficulty of placing a program on a high-risk occupation group. It took me seven years to acquire health insurance for a statewide car dealers' organization. The program lasted only about four years. The reason: not enough premium to pay current and future claims.

I believe the Jockeys' Guild had approximately $5 million in claims and approximately $2 million in premium in 2000.

You don't have to be an insurance expert to see that $2 million doesn't cover $5 million. In my opinion, finding a new health insurance carrier isn't a viable option given the claims history of the program.

I believe that John Giovanni and his former staff were great ambassadors for the industry and jockeys. They always presented themselves professionally, to which Messrs. Bailey, Day, Black, etc. can attest. Unfortunately, politics and misdirected pursuits seem to have taken their toll on the good guys.

Donald C. Cappetta - Hershey, Pa.

Championship Day races need undivided attention

Thoroughbred racing's marquee event, the Breeders' Cup, now the World Thoroughbred Championships, has become an international celebration of the sport. It is the best versus the best ? horses, jockeys, trainers. It is the Super Bowl of horse racing, dwarfing everything else, including the venerable Triple Crown. In fact, it's got so much going for it, you'd think that even the perpetually clueless souls who run the game couldn't screw it up. Of course, you'd be wrong.

The day ought to be a special one as the culmination of the racing year: the best racehorses in the world, with $13 million in purses at stake. And that should be it. The eight races that comprise the Breeders' Cup card should be the only races run that day, period.

You don't see the NFL scheduling any other games on Super Bowl Sunday, do you? Or Major League Baseball contesting meaningless games during the World Series. Nor other pro basketball games take place during the NBA finals. But, even on Breeders' Cup Day, there's a full schedule of racing ? both Thoroughbred and harness ? taking place at racetracks and offtrack betting sites. Business as usual. There's even a good chance that another racetrack will be running a race at the very same time as a Breeders' Cup race. It's just flat-out dumb.

If the industry itself doesn't do a good job of presenting its biggest day, why should anyone else think it was such a big deal?

Stephen Schwartz - Medford, N.J.

No better setting than autumn in New York

After correctly lauding the horses and their performances in the Breeders' Cup races ("Well above average," Nov. 1), Joe Cardello stated that the horrible "dead rail" bias and the terrible fall New York climate lead to only one conclusion: "No more Breeders' Cups at Belmont."

Such logic would also eliminate Churchill Downs, where the track was ridiculously souped-up and biased for last year's Kentucky Derby; Gulfstream Park, which consistently favors front-runners; Woodbine and Arlington, where the autumn chill is worse than in New York; as well as all Southern California tracks, where the hot weather always compromises the chances of the Europeans.

Except for the "seemingly inevitable Belmont accident" involving poor Exogenous, this might have been the best Breeders' Cup card ever, and maybe the greatest collection of horses ever gathered at one place. And I think the host site was a significant reason for this ? the Europeans are more inclined to ship to Belmont because of the climate and track layout. And is there a more spectacular setting for great horses than Belmont Park on a fall afternoon?

Robert J. Anderson - New York City

Next summer, a date with a doll

In Friday's Racing Form, Byron King guessed that the Jerry Bailey bobblehead doll may be coming soon ("Fans followed the bouncing head to the track," Nov. 9). Good guess.

The tentative date is July 28 at Saratoga Race Course. At the beginning of this year's Spa season, the New York Racing Association announced that the meet's leading jockey would win a piece of promotional history and become the first Saratoga bobblehead.

Bailey then went out and won his third straight Saratoga title, his seventh in the last eight years. Bailey and Saratoga: It's sure to put a little extra bobble in our bobblehead world. Only at Saratoga, where Angel Cordero may have been king, but Bailey is the doll.

Bill Nader - Vice President, New York Racing Association