10/19/2007 12:00AM

Letters to the Editor

EmailSoftening the blow in Biancone case defangs new rules

In regard to the Oct 20 article "Biancone accepts penalty," I had been pleased that the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority was leading what I had hoped would be a serious endeavor to rid our sport of some of the more undesirable aspects. In the case of trainer Patrick Biancone and three vials of cobra venom, this is beyond undesirable - it is dangerous. This is not an accidental administration of a drug or a misinterpreted rule. Cobra venom has no legitimate purpose in his barn.

Giving the "mitigating factors" (i.e. that he had no knowledge that the cobra venom was in his barn and that he had not directed a veterinarian to use it), any credence would require some semblance of credibility on Biancone's part. This strains all sense. The man came to the United States in 2000 after serving a nine-month suspension in Hong Kong after several of his horses tested positive there for prohibited substances.

A six-month suspension and the requirement that Biancone withdraw his name as the trainer of record for any horses entered in the Breeders' Cup and start them under the name of his assistant is not serious punishment. He will still be able to earn purse money or bonuses based on the horses' performances. Kentucky's tough new rules that prohibit a trainer from benefiting financially from his horses while under suspension for a Class A medication have been neutered. If this case is not the poster child for the illegal use of drugs in horse racing and one that should be prosecuted mercilessly, then we shall never be freed of this scourge.

Gregg Thomas - Flower Mound, Texas

Breeders' Cup week ought to be time for reflection

Once again the Breeders' Cup is upon us. We are all looking forward to this highly anticipated event that tests our handicapping skills to the utmost while promising exceptionally lucrative rewards, judging by past results of the greatest betting day in Thoroughbred racing.

Most bettors, however, are unaware, or refuse to acknowledge, that nine horses have died in only 169 races since the Breeders Cup began in 1984. All of us (and I include myself as an avid bettor) must admit that this is an inordinate amount of catastrophic occurrences in so few races. It is much higher than the normal amount of deaths that take place on the racetrack during the course of the year.

The main concern of bettors, public, handicappers, and racing writers often seems to be whether or not the deaths affected their wagering. In the couple of years that Polytrack and other synthetic surfaces have been installed, we complain about how it muddles and complicates our handicapping efforts, even though these tracks have been proven to be safer. Of course, when a high-profile horse like Barbaro dies because of a racetrack accident, we all cry crocodile tears for a few days and then go on without addressing the problem.

Our concerns should be directed not only at building safer racetracks but also at strictly enforcing regulations related to the use of drugs that mask the true condition of a horse. Even so-called legal drugs used in the United States should be outlawed (as they are in Europe), and trainers should be monitored more closely to ensure that the horses they enter to race are sufficiently fit to compete. At least in one instance, a horse (Landseer in 2002) who competed successfully in England without the use of these drugs had a fatal breakdonw in a Breeders' Cup race while racing on the diuretic Lasix.

Until we get our priorities correctly sorted out, we will continue to support a sport that has no regard for the animals who make it possible.

Vincent Grabinsky - North Babylon, N.Y.

Racing's offenders need recognition

Ever since the NFL's New England Patriots were caught cheating in their infamous videotaping of their opponents' signals, the New York Post has been using an asterisk next to the team's name where they show the point spreads for the upcoming week's NFL games. Their explanation of the asterisk is simply: Caught cheating.

Why not do the same for trainers caught cheating in all publications where their names appear? Use the asterisk for the rest of the year they were caught cheating. I think this form of punishment would help greatly as a deterrent to stop what we all seem to feel is going on.

Bill Hirsch - Floral Park, N.Y.