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Letters to the Editor
Tiznow's feat shines brighter than two jewels
I am baffled by Mike Watchmaker's statement in his Nov. 14 column, "Who captures your fancy?" that Tiznow's two consecutive Breeders' Cup Classic victories "in time may very well prove to be every bit as difficult as taking two-thirds of the Triple Crown."
During the 18 years that the Breeders' Cup has been run, there have been 11 horses who have won two-thirds of the Triple Crown, but Tiznow is the only repeat winner of the Breeders' Cup Classic. Out of these 11 dual Crown jewel winners, only two (Alysheba and Sunday Silence) have managed to win even one Classic. Although winning two-thirds of the Triple Crown is a major accomplishment, it is clearly not an accomplishment on a par with winning consecutive Classics.
It is much more realistic to think that in time Tiznow's accomplishment will be seen as comparable to sweeping the Triple Crown. During the 53 runnings of the Triple Crown since Citation, only three horses have won all three races. This works out to just less than one winner per 18 years and represents the lowest density of Triple Crown winners over any extended period of time. Overall, there have been 11 winners starting with Sir Barton in 1919, which works out to one winner per 7.5 years. In either case, the current density of one repeat Breeders' Cup Classic winner in 17 opportunities indicates that Tiznow's accomplishment is at least similar in difficulty to winning the Triple Crown. Tiznow's repeat win in the Classic is clearly the greatest accomplishment in racing this year, and the heart that he showed as he prevailed in a gripping stretch battle captured the imagination of much of the racing public.
'Common man's trainer' deserves fanfare
When it came to horses, "Eats, sleeps, and breathes" describes the late Guy Lyon to a T. If quizzed about the birthdates of his four children, he would be a longshot to get them correct, the exception being Shannon, who was born on his 48th birthday. Yet, asked about any horse he had ever trained, he could recall right down to what blinkers the horse ran best with. Still, his kids knew well of his love.
Guy made many friends in his 54 years at the track. He never discriminated against anyone. He was always willing to give someone a chance, and in some cases a second or third chance to get their lives back on track. He lived by the credo "If I've got a dime, you've got a nickel." Thousands of times he loaned friends, coworkers, or even strangers $20, $50, or $100 to get by until payday.
Guy loved playing pranks on friends or green stable hands. Just ask his groom Rosie about the "saddle-stretcher" incident. He set her up for a two-mile hike to retrieve his saddle-stretcher. Realizing that she had been duped, she returned to Guy's barn, swearing and chasing him all around.
Guy Lyon, my father and a horseman for decades, died Nov. 2 after heart surgery at 68. He may not have reached the same pinnacles of success as other trainers, but he trained and loved his horses with the same passion. He was the common man's trainer. The Guy everyone knew and liked, he will be dearly missed by all.
Lee (Lyon) Keyser
St. Cloud, Fla.
Two-point foul called on Kentucky panel
After having voiced my appeal to the Kentucky Racing Commission ("Keeneland seeks new exotics," Sept. 13) I came away with the feeling that they couldn't care less about the player. Two issues are paramount:
1. First-time geldings. Here in Kentucky we don't have a suitable disclosure rule, and all players know that this the ultimate equipment change.
But this crucial information is never printed on the program or announced anywhere. After several starts it finally finds its way onto the Racing Form pedigree line, but it's too late.
California has had a rule for years that a vet has to report the gelding of a horse at the time he does it to the racing office and the information put on the program or in some way gotten out to the public.
2. Workouts. The workout rule here states that a horse who has not started must have three published works and one of them must be from the gate. It is a good rule, but it is not enforced.
Time and time again a first-time starter will have no workouts, and he will be allowed to start, as the trainer is contacted and he may tell the officials whatever he wants them to announce.
This is a disservice to handicappers, as we deserve better. If the commission doesn't care enough to provide vital and accurate information, then they shouldn't be wondering why the ontrack handle and attendance are falling.
All we ask is some information that shouldn't be a big problem to produce. Also, if there is a rule in place, enforce it.
Although racing is a game I love dearly and will continue to play, the sport is getting the credibility of the Worldwide Wrestling Federation, without the same fan base.
Healthier environment should be a burning issue
Tonight my eyes burn, my lungs ache, and my clothes reek of acrid smoke. No, I haven't been helping clean up at ground zero in New York City. I have simply been out for an evening of handicapping at my local betting parlor.
Here in western Pennsylvania, horseplayers have learned to endure the hellish environments that prevail inside all betting venues. Most are dark as caverns, and all are smoky as waterfront dives.
In light of these conditions, I find it ludicrous that racing executives bemoan falling attendance figures and whine about how to attract new customers.
Smoking is allowed in all but a tiny corner of the offtrack parlors now run by Magna Entertainment, while at Mountaineer Park, they don't even bother to designate a non-smoking area.
Of course, I find the concept of a non-smoking area to be absurd. Why should the non-polluters be shunted off to a tiny corner while those who foul the air get free run of the building? This turns logic on its head.
Does racetrack management in this country fear that limiting smoking would cause a decline in attendance? If so, I suggest they review the figures from the past season at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, where smoking is forbidden. A record number of fans turned out at PNC to watch one of baseball's worst teams play in a smoke-free environment. Other major sports have seen similar attendance increases after banning or limiting smoking.
Perhaps racing's decision makers fear a drop in handle if it outlaws smoking. This is groundless, because a young non-smoker with a substantial income surely would bet more than a wheezing old geezer who spends half of every retirement check on cigarettes. Under the present setup, however, that young wage-earner will never become a racing fan, because the environment at the betting parlors is too unwholesome, in some cases being downright deadly.
It is time for Thoroughbred racing to enter the 21st century. Industry executives must join the leaders of other sports in banning smoking - or at least severely limiting it - at all venues.
Beaver Falls, Pa.