07/26/2007 11:00PM

Letters to the Editor

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Racing legislation handed power to the wrong party

With all due respect to the late Michael Shagan (whose career in horse racing and involvement with the Interstate Horse Racing Act of 1978 were remembered in Stan Bergstein's July 26 column, "Shagan was a man ahead of his time"), I beg to differ about the legislation he was instrumental in creating.

Is it a coincidence that the decline of horse racing's fan base started about the time that the Interstate Horse Racing Act went into effect? No, the two are very much related.

That legislation gave local horsemen's unions (often packed with protectionists) de-facto veto power over simulcasting, racing's biggest growth area. They got this power even though these unions, in most cases, do not own the tracks and pay a minority of the expenses to put on live races.

Racetrack owners have lost control of their product. The knee-jerk protectionism of these unions has caused horse racing mostly to disappear from mainstream television, beginning a long erosion of the sport's fan base. Horse racing, kind of like comic books, has gone from a mainstream sport to a cult following, little written or talked about in the mainstream media, except for the Triple Crown.

This needs to change. The power of these unions must be curbed in order for horse racing to return to its status as a major sport. Track executives must have authority to send the product to wherever it is likely to generate an audience for horse racing (like in sports bars such as Hooters) without horsemen threatening the track's business because of protests about where "their" (as horsemen's false claim of ownership would have it) television broadcast is going.

Horsemen should not feel threatened. Every race seen is a free ad for racing.

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association has foolishly endorsed the standing law. This must change. To leave the situation as is would be akin to giving the United Auto Workers power to tell General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler where they can sell cars. Until horsemen's unions begin paying a majority of the expenses to put on live races, they shouldn't have control of the product.

James Mosher - Newport, R.I.

One fan asks to see the photo

Whatever happened to the photo-finish camera?

We needed to see it in this year's Belmont Stakes and Hollywood Gold Cup. Both races had extremely close finishes, and the photo wasn't shown on telecasts or in Daily Racing Form.

In the first Arlington Million, the photo-finish shot was a classic, showing John Henry's nose hitting the wire to beat The Bart.

There have been many technical advances in video and photography, but it's still "the photo" that proves who won and who lost.

Duane Dow - Palatine, Ill.