09/07/2007 12:00AM

Letters to the Editor


Sympathy for Baze invites comparison with better example

Two Sept. 2 letters from Racing Form readers lightly criticized the actions of Russell Baze in regard to whipping a broken-down horse at Bay Meadows, and in fact one or them, "Punishment ignored reality of moment," criticized the racing surface that has created numerous breakdowns at Bay Meadows.

Here's the point: The horse might have survived the injury were it not at least being whipped about five times to the finish line, in an attempt to win a purse worth about $5,000, of which the jockey gets 10 percent.

While Baze's action didn't mirror the numerous abuses that Michael Vick inflicted on pit bulls, the fact is the jockey owed a duty to the horse and owner to slow the horse in an effort to keep the horse out of harm's way

By the way, when comparing great jockeys, remember the action of Chris Antley in the Belmont when he pulled up Charismatic and held his leg until the vets arrived to save the horse's life.

Gary Zweifach - West New York, N.J.

Modern-day NYRA dilutes the product

Steven Crist's Sept 2 column, "What a difference two decades make," comparing the current status of New York Racing Association policies governing daily programs was excellent and timely. As a onetime vice president of NYRA, I can think of two other differences between past and present policy:

1. There were no claiming races offered for New York-breds from 1979 until 2006 at NYRA. New York-breds ran in open claiming races. This was done with the cooperation of the New York breeders and the New York State Racing and Wagering Board in the best interest of quality productions and the premium development of statebreds.

2. Purse payments were made only to the first four finishers in a race. Now, shares are paid to all runners. This is not a bad policy, but one that can easily be abused by placing a premium on mediocrity.

Unfortunately, present policy, as discussed in Crist's column, is at odds with appreciating pedigree and accelerating the development of stakes horses through allowance conditions. It is also at odds with private and commercial breeders and sales companies involved in perfecting the breed.

Not many understand the effects of policy changes and the impact on quality and the industry. Policy changes relative to herd management demand more than random interpretation by changing administrations. Horse racing's history is its greatest asset.

Dave Stevenson - Sunny Isles Beach, Fla.

A well-kept surface surpasses all others

A good, safe, and fair dirt racetrack depends upon skilled maintenance. But unfortunately, in North America such stewardship seems to have become a dying art. And, as a result, artificial so-called all-weather surfaces have been installed at racetracks across the continent, to cut costs and supposedly make the sport safer for horses. The problem is, though, that they are not living up to advanced billing or expectations.

In the Aug. 1 article "Zayat says he's leaving grounds," owner Ahmed Zayat was quoted as bemoaning the fact that the Polytrack at Del Mar was altogether a very different proposition for his horses under the hot afternoon sun than during training in the cool of early morning. So much for an "all-weather" or even "all-day" surface.

As has been discovered at Woodbine, what works under temperate conditions in England, at Lingfield Park for 300 horses a week, certainly is not robust enough to handle 1,000 or more a day, training and racing in a variety of different climates.

Before any more racetracks are ruined by the rush to embrace new technology that has been found seriously wanting, perhaps their owners should consider investing more money and time in recruiting good old-fashioned trackmen to look after their existing dirt tracks. For example, Saratoga has a classic old-style dirt track, with a superb cushion, off which there barely comes a sound when a horse gallops by. Long may it last!

Robin Dawson - Toronto

Dirt tracks weren't culprits

The decision by the California Horse Racing Board to install quicksand at its premier racing venues dooms the sport of Thoroughbred to being inconsequential.

Anyone with a brain who follows the sport knows the spate of breakdowns over the past couple of years at Del Mar is more because of over-medication by trainers and inbreeding for speed that has taken the stamina element out of horses.

The desperate desire by trainers to please anxious owners who want a picture taken at Del Mar has spawned a whole new industry of chemistry designed to get an infirm horse across the finish line by any means.

In the future I will bet only grass races in Southern California, as the spectacle of animals slogging through Polyclaptrap is of no interest to me.

Steve Orton - Los Angeles