08/17/2007 12:00AM

Letters to the Editor

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Yesterday’s heroes serve to remind of today’s needs

I enjoyed reading Steven Crist’s Aug. 12 column, “Fond farewell for two working-class heroes‚” that noted the passing of Gato Del Sol and the retirement of Funny Cide. It was interesting to see the correlation between horses who have done something for the fans of racing also being horses who are helping the lesser-known stars of racing.

The gesture extended by the Hancock family in bringing back Gato Del Sol from Europe stands as an inspiration to those working to save the lives of other horses cast off from the track or stud farm. And Sackatoga Stable has been a class act in its campaign of Funny Cide, and even more so in his retirement, which has been used to raise badly needed funds for Thoroughbred adoption and retirement.

Recently another horse was rescued from a “kill” pen located not too far away from the storied track at Saratoga. This 9-year-old gelding had raced 96 times, notching up 17 wins. As a 3-year-old, he was classy enough to compete in the Wood Memorial. But instead of cheering fans celebrating his retirement, he stood sore and confused in a pen waiting for his final ride. This horse was pulled from that pen by Another Chance 4 Horses with help from the Fans of Barbaro.

And in a location very close to the track that saw Funny Cide’s last victory, the fate of another 9-year old gelding hung in the balance. He earned $99,000 the hard way – by running in the staggering number of 138 races. And staggering is about what he did in his last race at the same track that saw Funny Cide’s victory lap. With no one interested in purchasing him as a sport or pleasure-ride prospect, he was soon scheduled to go on that last ride. The Exceller Fund was able to secure his future, and he is now resting at a rehab farm and learning what it means to be a horse.

Stories like these occur almost every day with rescue volunteers at or near many of the lower-level tracks. While a lot of these horses may not be “famous,” I will bet dollars to donuts that many of them have probably completed a trifecta or superfecta ticket that paid quite handsomely. These are the horses who are the bread and butter of the everyday reality of this sport. These are the horses who reward the astute handicapper or even the lucky $2 player. These are the horses who deserve so much more than many of them get. That is why it gladdened my heart to read an article that celebrates the “blue collar” horses among the Kentucky Derby winners!

Bonnie Mizrahi - President, The Exceller Fund

Grim problem needs positive approach

The July 25 advertisement placed by the National Horse Protection Council, attacking groups who support horse slaughter in the United States, was offensive to me as a member of the American Quarter Horse Association. The letter sought not to inform, but to inflame.

The fact remains that our country has an estimated 90,000 unwanted horses each year. Laws were enacted and enforced to ensure these horses were both transported and killed humanely. While horse slaughter for human consumption may have stopped, these unwanted horses still exist. They now are being transported to Mexico (and to a lesser extent, Canada), where laws are not so stringent. They are traveling farther, stressed more, and killed in a most inhumane way.

Those horses have the Horse Protection Council and other shortsighted, vocal groups to thank.

Rescue groups provide a wonderful service and alternative to horse slaughter, yet they are overwhelmed and are just a stopgap measure. Making horse slaughter legal in no way negates their necessity, but it is unrealistic to expect these groups to absorb 90,000 horses each year, and keep them until each dies of natural causes. It simply isn’t realistic or plausible.

The American Quarter Horse Association, along with the Jockey Club, National Thoroughbred Racing Association, the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, and others, has helped fund the American Horse Council’s Unwanted Horse Coalition (www.unwantedhorsecoaltion.org). That organization, unlike the Horse Protection Council, offers long-term solutions to unwanted horses by redirecting horses into different careers, coordinating adoption processes, and even more importantly, decreasing the number of horses bred by educating prospective horse owners about the long-term implications and responsibilities of horse ownership.

The Quarter Horse association also has a helpful downloadable brochure, “Understanding Your Options for the Unwanted or Unusable Horse.” It lists many resources and horse rescue organizations.

This is an issue that needs open discussion, facts, and compromise. Until we deal with facts and offer solutions instead of “open letters” trying to shame people and organizations, we cannot move this issue forward in a positive manner. I encourage the National Horse Protection Council and its members to address this difficult topic in a rational, not emotional, manner and consider consolidating their talents and energies with the Unwanted Horse Coalition.

Lori Allen - Mansfield, Texas

South Florida jewel could shine again

The two largest operators of racetracks in the United States – Magna Entertainment Corp. and Churchill Downs Inc. – both run racing facilities in the south Florida area, Gulfstream and Calder. Magna and Churchill have shown absolutely no interest in any plan to open Hialeah again for racing. This is a classic example of the shortsightedness and lack of vision within the racing industry.

A short, boutique meeting at Hialeah in March would be a natural in the simulcasting era. It doesn’t matter anymore that affluent south Floridians may not want to venture to Hialeah. Ninety percent of the money wagered will be offtrack anyway.

Hialeah is a racing treasure that legitimized winter racing and was the foundation on which Florida horse racing was built.

Here’s an idea. Seek sponsorship from Sheikh Mohammed, Juddmonte Farms, Florida breeders, and/or Keeneland for the meeting. Get the state involved for alternative gambling – there’s more than enough space. Run half the races on the turf. Restore the Flamingo and the Widener.

This can be done, and I urge all to support this effort to preserve the past and protect the future of horse racing by revitalizing racing at Hialeah Park.

Tim Peterson - Edina, Minn.