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Letters to the Editor
Belmont Day left memories pleasant and not
Some Belmont Day observations:
1. I think any sharp gambler knew that Garrett Gomez would completely err on the side of caution and deliver the basically unexplainable ride he did on Hard Spun. Not wanting to make the same "mistakes" Mario Pino had been criticized for, he proceeded to give Hard Spun no shot to win in one of the worst big-race rides in recent memory.
Pino did the only thing he could have done in the Preakness. Should he have sat behind two dead horses and let Edgar Prado run around him on C P West and then tried to follow him? If you're going to criticize, at least give a plausible alternative. How come Prado wasn't criticized for moving too early?
2. I'm not 100 percent sure of the rule, but if Papi Chullo had run fourth (or even second) in the third race instead of first, wouldn't he have been declared a non-starter? The assistant starter clearly had a hold of his head for at least two strides after the field had left the gate. I have seen numerous horses over the years be considered non-starters for the same reason. Do the rules change when you win? Or do they change on days when the handle is $60 million? (For the record, I bet on Papi Chullo.)
3. I was totally disappointed in John Velazquez's post-Belmont comments. He thanks Garrett Gomez, of all people, for his win? Isn't this the same guy who first snaked Pino out of his mount and then tried to re-snake Velazquez out of his? How about thanking trainer Greg Fox for being a stand-up guy and letting you out of a commitment to ride Slew's Tizzy? Kudos to Mr. Fox for being a total class act. It was totally classless that his generosity wasn't acknowledged by Velazquez.
Rob Clayton - Wilmington, Del.
Filly's victory anything but a fluke
Too many pundits have credited Rags to Riches's five-pound weight allowance for her Belmont Stakes victory over Curlin. Admittedly, the five pounds did provide an arguable advantage. But that is only half of the argument. I'd like to add some statistical substance to the dispute and to conclude that Rags to Riches is the better horse - period.
The official chart for the 1 1/2-mile race documents that while Curlin saved ground leaving the first turn (and drafting behind other horses), Rags to Riches was carried out (perhaps four wide) in the first turn and was "six wide along the backstretch" (presumably to keep dirt out of the face of the filly). Curlin "saved ground on the far turn" and "split rivals to launch his bid." Rags to Riches "launched her bid in the four path midway on the turn."
I proffer that summarizing the race dynamics quantifies that Rags to Riches's outside trip was significantly longer than Curlin's inside trip. Geometry determines that for each "path" wider a horse races on a turn, it must run approximately one length further than a horse with a "rail" trip. Personally I advocate 0.8 of a length per path. Thus, on the first turn, Curlin was close to the rail while Rags to Riches was four or perhaps five wide. Credit the filly with 3.2 lengths (0.8 x 4 paths).
On the second turn, Curlin seemed to average the 1 1/2 path while Rags to Riches was clearly in at least the four path. Credit Rags to Riches with another 2.0 lengths (0.8 x 2 1/2). Total extra distance run by the filly equals a conservative 5.2 lengths and could have been as many as 6 1/2 or seven.
My own computations quantify Rags to Riches's superiority at 5.2 (for race dynamics) minus 1.9 (for weight), or 3.3 lengths. Arguments supported by the above could result in a range of between 0.7 and perhaps as many as eight lengths. The bottom line is that Rags to Riches is faster than Curlin. Horse maturation tables infer that the still-improving speed of 3-year-old colts will soon offset any filly weight allowance. Nonetheless, I'm looking forward to betting on the race when Rags to Riches next runs against the boys - and beats them.
Walter Seip - Las Vegas
Richer Cup coffers might extend careers
Steven Crist noted in his June 2 column, "Different path, but the same target," how this year's Triple Crown has accented the "undue influence of the commercial stallion market on racing decisions." Until the sport can find ways to persuade owners to race their horses past age 3 rather than retire, that influence will continue.
There is a simple solution involving the Breeders' Cup: Make it a nighttime event. Breeders' Cup Ltd. could take advantage of a potentially huge windfall from Asia and Australia (where it would be Sunday morning), with a handle as high as $1 billion.
The cut from that would allow the Breeders' Cup to become a
$50-60 million night, with lesser Cup races on Friday night (Saturday in Asia and Australia) worth another $10-15 million. These could potentially include a
$15-20 million Classic, a $12-15 million Turf, a $10 million Distaff, and so forth, along with funds left over to do what really would help keep top 3-year-olds racing at 4 and beyond: Supplements of $2 million to $5 million for many major races for older horses like the Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup, Met Mile, and so forth.
Having such races worth $4-5 million (to BC-eligibles) would be a big enough reason for many to continue racing past 3 and not cash out.
Walter Parker - Philadelphia
Purse value should reflect field size
Part of the reason the handle was so low for the Belmont is the number of horses in the race ("Belmont numbers decline," June 13). If it were mandatory to have a minimum of 12 horses in a race whose purse exceeds $50,000, there would be much more betting.
When a big race has seven horses in it, the average fan knows there will be no large payoff like a 20-horse Kentucky Derby can have.
There are way too many big-payoff races for owners, trainers, and jockeys that have fields of five to 10 horses. If you have a $750,000 race and only five or so horses enter, it should be scaled back to a $100,000 race.
It brings people back out to the races when a complete stranger wins a $40,000 superfecta. It lets them know it can happen to them, unlike the $242 super of this year's Belmont.
Robert P. Maloney - Miramar Beach, Fla.