05/17/2007 11:00PM

Letters to the Editor


Loving of the sport means risking a broken heart

The Thoroughbred sport I fell in love with nearly 30 years ago is dangerously close to becoming a footnote in American sports history.

We run on synthetic surfaces that to my mind have never been properly researched. We blame the fragility of the Thoroughbred racehorse on dirt surfaces that for hundreds of years had been more than ample. We turn a blind eye to the ridiculous use of drugs on our beloved Thoroughbreds. We retire racehorses before their prime for the almighty buck. We have racetrack owners who have forgotten the racing fan as they build, rebuild, and tear down racetracks.

When will the powers that be in this amazing sport we all love stand up and say enough is enough? When will they admit that it was not the dirt in the racing surfaces that were harming the Thoroughbred? When will they actually do the right thing and outlaw all the drugs? When will they properly penalize trainers and owners for drug positives? When will more owners step up and race sound champion colts beyond their 3-year-old season? When will racetrack owners actually think about the racing fan?

The reality is that those are just a few of the problems. I didn't even touch on horse slaughter, takeout rates, the still-ridiculous fact of odds changing during the running of a race, or the inability of the various online race-wagering companies and racetracks to work together for the good of the sport.

I don't know about anyone else, but the state of affairs in which we find our beloved sport makes me not just sad but upset. I can only hope that one day those in the position of power actually to make the decisions wake up - and do it before it's too late.

Robert Huweiler - San Diego

Cup costs drive fan back home

I'm 56 years old and have been attending races for a long time - long enough to remember 1:30 p.m. post times at Aqueduct and having to get there by 12:30 to get a seat.

I moved to New Jersey more than 20 years ago and switched my allegiance from the New York circuit to New Jersey and Monmouth Park. Before simulcasting was available, I would drive to Monmouth Park every Saturday and Sunday to attend the races. The trip is 64 miles, so I drove 256 miles every weekend to see the races.

Recently I received my seating package from Monmouth Park for the Breeders' Cup. I was looking forward to attending the races. The section that I have been sitting in for more than 20 years would cost me $225 for the Saturday card. Friday that seat would cost me $60, and on Wednesday and Thursday, it would cost $15. (I don't know what is so special about those two days.) That's $315 for the four days. I'm not even going to go into the parking fees, and I can't imagine what the prices at the concession stands will be.

They are offering general admission at $50, which is for standing room only. I guess for the biggest day of racing I would go for that. But looking at the seating I see that every section on the ground floor has been designated a paid seating area. So for my $50 I could look at the horses in the walking ring and then watch the races on a television in the grandstand, because I would not be allowed onto the apron of the track to watch the race.

Thank goodness for account wagering. I guess I'll be sitting on my couch as if the races were on another planet, not 64 miles away.

When the dust settles and most of the people attending on Breeders' Cup Day don't go back to the track again until next year, I will be receiving mailers from Monmouth. They will be offering free hats, shirts, towels, mystery vouchers, and anything else they can give away to get me to go back to the track. In the end, I'll make my 64-mile trip, get free parking, and I'll sit in the $225 seat that will cost me only $2. I will enjoy myself even watching claimers struggle to get around the track, because I just love the game.

Joe Kilka - Flanders, N.J.

Slots money really fool's gold

Regarding the April 29 letter to the Racing Form "Vegas success doesn't translate into a cure for racing," never was a truer pronouncement made.

The whole casino-slots dream that was supposed to save horse racing is turning out to be nothing more than a mirage. It is about time that people reflected upon what has been said and what has actually transpired.

Slot machines were championed as the vehicles that would introduce the general public to the sport of kings, thereby increasing purses, betting, and both live attendance and television audiences, which would create new owners, whose investment would encourage breeders.

Only one of these predictions - increased purses, which affects only existing owners - has actually happened. Everything else has gone into decline, most notably media coverage, which is now virtually nonexistent, confirming the moribund status of the sport.

Seemingly oblivious to this, racing's administrators continue to refute, fudge, spin and deny. Last year's Breeders' Cup television ratings were down 4 percent from the previous year, but Cup officials were happy that the handle was up ("Handle a high, TV rating a low," Nov. 8, 2006).

That increased handle, though, may have been only because U.S.-based bettors with offshore wagering accounts were temporarily betting into North American pools while they figured out how to circumnavigate legislation that is currently restricting their normal betting activities.

That excellent April 29 letter stated that slots are not the answer and racing is "losing the war." So why do racetrack owners keep on putting their faith and hopes for survival in these iniquitous devices? Hasn't anyone got a better idea?

Robin Dawson - Toronto