08/31/2007 12:00AM

Letters to the Editor


Baze incident an unfortunate one for all concerned

Horse racing is a sport that suffers black eyes so frequently, it's easy for its followers to grow accustomed to negative publicity. Nonetheless, the recent suspension and $2,500 fine handed to Russell Baze was an eye-opener for more than one reason ("Baze draws 15-day suspension," Aug 29).

Baze, who had earned a stellar reputation during his three-decade riding career that not long ago saw him become North America's all-time leading rider, put a new and awful spin on the old saying "beating a dead horse," and watched his public persona go down the drain in the process because of his actions aboard Imperial Eyes in the first race at Bay Meadows on Aug. 23.

Even though his mount had taken a bad step in deep stretch, slowing to a crawl in the process, Baze chose to continue whipping. Imperial Eyes suffered a leg fracture and was euthanized shortly thereafter. In a judgment call that gave Baze every benefit of the doubt, Bay Meadows stewards settled on a penalty that was very light considering the horse's fate.

One is left to wonder what punishment would have been given if a less-celebrated rider had been involved, if the rider's name had not been Russell Baze. Earlier this year, Philadelphia Park stewards gave a rider 30 days for kicking a horse in its stomach. That horse lived to race another day - Imperial Eyes did not.

Baze can consider himself fortunate on one count. Track stewards had jurisdiction in the matter, not law enforcement. Bay Meadows stewards considered animal cruelty charges but declined to go forward. If the San Mateo County District Attorney's office had been involved, Baze very well could have faced criminal charges.

Should Baze be coupled with the dog-abusing Michael Vick in the court of public opinion? Of course not. No one, however, can deny when even a good guy like Baze makes a mistake like that, the sport suffers greatly.

Dennis Bart - San Francisco

Punishment ignored reality of moment

I guess the stewards at Bay Meadows have forgotten what it is like for a jockey to be on a Thoroughbred going full speed and having to make a split-second decision.

Russell Baze may have to answer questions regarding whip use and cruelty to animals, but perhaps the stewards at Bay Meadows should look back at the number of breakdowns that racing surface had last year.

Baze is one of, if not the most respected riders in this industry. He should be treated as such.

Eugenia Polos - San Francisco

Laurel menu offers slimmest of pickings

Apparently takeout does not affect the decision of which tracks the normal handicapper will choose to wager on, or at least that is what the chief operating officer of the Maryland Jockey Club believes ("Takeout cut has little effect," Aug. 30). What a joke. The reason handle at Laurel Park was not up this year, aside from the lack of wagering from International Racing Group and Youbet.com over contractual issues, is because of the wagering menu.

Laurel Park offers what can only be described as a prehistoric wagering menu. Only two daily doubles and three, maybe four pick threes are offered each day. Yet management sees fit to offer a pick six that does not attract enough handle to merit its continuation. A six-day carryover produced one winning ticket of a measly $16,000 this meet.

Small tracks simply cannot attract enough money to make the pick six worthwhile. The bet is best left to New York and Southern California. Instead, small tracks, such as Laurel, should focus on wager types that would attract more interest. Maybe handle would increase with the addition of rolling daily doubles and rolling pick threes. It also would help to offer wagers such as the pick four on the same four races each day. I have, on more then one occasion, put together a pick four play only to find out the pick four began one race before or after. Choose a race to start the pick four or just make it the last four races each day. Confusion leads to frustration and frustration leads to dissatisfaction.

When handicappers are not satisfied, they will take their business elsewhere. And if management must have one "jackpot" wager type, why not bring back the twin trifecta?

Lenny Moon - Glen Burnie, Md.

Even track regulars often bet blindly

Regarding Laurel's "experiment" of reducing the takeout at its recent fall meet: Would you like to try an experiment? Go to the local offtrack betting parlor, racino, or racetrack and ask some of the regulars to explain takeout to you. You will be surprised at their answers.

One day, in a rare appearance at the window to cash a ticket, a regular bettor in front of me said that the track was taking a real hit today, as longshots had been winning all day. He had no idea how the parimutuel system functioned.

Few, even among my group of sharpies, know what the takeout rates are on the various wagers, and few bettors understand that the vast majority of bettors lost when a horse pays huge. Nor do they fully realize that when they wager $100 on an exotic bet they have already paid a surcharge of $25 or more, that, in fact, they have only $75 "working."

Simply stated, most bettors can't wait to lose their money from excessive takeout and wagering on the wrong horse. Must be something in the beer, er water.

Wendell Corrow - Barkhamsted, Conn.

Foes of new surface ignore what's best

I found some Aug. 26 letters to the Racing Form, such as "Synthetic tracks lead to confusion," laughable.

After watching California racing for the last 13 years, I became fed up with inconsistent racing surfaces leaning toward a speed-biased, "souped-up" surface. A fair, consistant surface should be a dream come true for handicappers, trainers, and owners. Not only does it produce better betting opportunities through bigger, more competitive fields, but owners should have better protection of their investments with the kinder surface.

Save the speed for the Quarter Horses. Let the fittest, finest, and best-trained horse win.

Anthony Payne - San Diego