10/25/2007 11:00PM

Letters to the Editor

EmailStatebred program has its benefits for only a few

I was touched by Steven Crist's inspirational Oct. 20 column on statebreds, "Old friends from back home," herewith awarded first prize in the "When life deals you lemons make lemonade" category. While acknowledging that most statebreds are little more than dray horses, Crist pointed with pride to the handful who have upon occasion captured an open event. It does happen. As Bing Crosby reminds us, there's a winner in each race.

In reality, the whole statebred business is a colossal boondoggle conducted for the benefit of a few owners and breeders. In a maneuver that economists call "rent-seeking," these parties have prevailed on state legislatures to siphon off taxpayer money for the purpose of fostering an inferior strain of Thoroughbred that is shielded from having to compete with the best. New York Showcase Day, a complete travesty of the now-outdated notion of "improvement of the breed," bears lavish witness to this distortion.

For my part, I long ago concluded that sifting through thousands of past performances to find even one statebred who can get the last quarter in under 24 seconds is a fool's errand. While dedicated punters are studiously trying to winnow out the least-bad in each race on statebred day, I'll be golfing.

Kenneth M. Steele - Bensalem, Pa.

Northern exposure can shed some light

It was with dismay that I read in Jay Hovdey's Oct. 21 column, "The grand lady of the game," that Woodbine was some kind of head-scratching aberration as a location for a Breeders' Cup location. The starting point for the careers of Northern Dancer, Dancer's Image, Sunny's Halo, Dance Smartly, and the glorious Glorious Song - not to mention the site of the career finale for the incomparable Secretariat - was lumped in with Texas as some kind of oddity as a place to hold a championship event.

Not to take anything away from Monmouth Park, which has an admirable history, once the Breeders' Cup is over it will revert to being yesterday's news. Woodbine, in adding to its racing heritage, is now the best-run racetrack facility on the continent, with the best turf course this side of the Atlantic and purses over an eight-month meet that other circuits can only dream about.

I know it is unusual for Americans to look northward to see how it should be done, but perhaps New York and Maryland should consider it? While we might not get another Breeders' Cup as it continues the same tired cycle of New York and California, we'll just have to settle for days like last weekend's Canadian International card with purses totaling $3.98 million (more than $4 million U.S.) and a stellar European contingent.

Come on up and have a look at the future, just as so many Canadians enjoy a visit to the current jewels of American racing, Saratoga and Keeneland.

Jerry Murphy - Toronto

Eyewitness reports the future is here

I have been a head clocker for 34 years in both Northern and Southern California, currently at Golden Gate Fields. The earliest responses to the installation of the synthetic Tapeta surface at Golden Gate were nothing less than miraculous.

That is a very strong and rare declaration today, yet never more appropriate. I have held up many broken limbs, and witnessed more catastrophes than I care to recall. I have rehabilitated many damaged horses over the years, found homes for more. When a life-or-death situation arises over an injury, horses come to man for assistance. That is what they have been taught, that man provides sustenance, schedules their lives, and stops the pain. It is only right that we provide maximum care for the returns we receive, for many profit through their toil.

It is unprecedented that such a large expenditure as a synthetic surface be provided just for the well-being of the horse. The investment is being provided with no monetary return expected. It is strictly for the preservation of the stars of the show, as it should be. It has not been done to attract new fans, or to appease the old ones. Both, however, will profit and save themselves from having to witness the most tragic aspect of our industry.

Congratulations to both Magna Entertainment Corp., Golden Gate's owner, and the California Horse Racing Board for their dedication and consideration.

Unexpected attributes arise daily. Besides the paramount issue of animal protection, the surface requires little renovation. It is these renovations that present a major problem for clocking crews. Most honest clocking misjudgments occur immediately following these renovations, when masses of mingling horses enter the stretch simultaneously.

There are no more dirty legs and tails; less chance of dirt infection; less stumbling; no tail-wraps required during inclement weather. There is consistent footing in all weather conditions, better observation of leg markings during workouts. I have even had an ex-jockey tell me that it is kinder to his own knees, which have suffered over years of abuse.

I realize that problems may arise regarding the new surface. That is to be expected, but we will be able to see them through as a united industry, with the same result in mind. These new lifesaving surfaces provide a bright light to a darkened reality in our sport.

Lafe Bassett - Livermore, Calif.