01/17/2003 12:00AM

Letters to the Editor

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Delahoussaye leaves behind thrilling legacy

Going to the races will never be the same. Eddie Delahoussaye's retirement from race-riding (Jan 16.) has left a void in the world of Thoroughbred horse racing that cannot be filled.

The thrill and excitement, that feeling of the intense rush of euphoria that surrounds a race fan when he stands up and cheers with all his might, "C'mon, Eddie D.!" is an experience, an indescribable pleasure, that all race fans will truly miss, but definitely never forget.

No rider has ever ridden with a style comparable with Delahoussaye's. Take the hands of Bill Shoemaker, the patience of Pat Day, the power of Laffit Pincay Jr., the poise and vision of Chris McCarron, and the intensity of Gary Stevens, wrap them all up into one jockey, and you are left with the one and only Eddie D.

Whether he was winding up a charge from 15 lengths out of it only to nip the unsuspecting leaders right at the wire for an impeccably timed victory, or saving just enough gas in the tank to wire a field from gate to finish, Delahoussaye stylishly stamped each of his 6,384 victories.

Delahoussaye had the uncanny ability time and time again to leave his comrades, clients, and fans scratching their heads in utter amazement as to what he was capable of doing on the back of a horse. There has never been a better big-money rider. Turf or dirt, long or short, filly or colt, 2-year-old or 6-year-old bandaged gelding, Eddie D. did it all, and he got the best out of all of them, usually without so much as even cocking his whip. Just a scrub of the hands and a chirp of the lips was all he ever needed.

Delahoussaye's final victory came aboard a mare by the name of Real Paranoide, but it would have been far more fitting had he visited the winner's circle for the last time aboard Composure or Flawlessly. The racing gods have always had a peculiar sense of humor, especially when it came to their champions.

It is a shame that Delahoussaye was unable to hang up his boots on his own terms, but it is a blessing that he walks away on his own two feet. I thank him on behalf of all race fans across the world for providing all of us with countless unforgettable thrills. He is the consummate professional and a gentleman who has conducted his life and his career with the utmost integrity and class.

Delahoussaye, one of the greatest and most purely talented and captivating jockeys, will be truly missed. The game will never be the same.

Aron Wellman
Los Angeles

Eclipse is for training, not shopping prowess

The Eclipse Awards are a popularity contest and in need of a certain set of criteria for voting. Right now the Horse of the Year category is a muddle, with a debate on whether Azeri deserves the top honor without having faced males all year. And some people are dismayed that Bob Baffert was not among this year's finalists for the training Eclipse, as voiced in the Jan. 12 letter "List of trainer finalists reveals voting problems."

If the pro-Baffert argument is centered on his winning two-thirds of the Triple Crown with War Emblem, suffice it to say the voters took into account that Baffert had very little to do with the training that led to that stunning upset. What could a trainer do in three weeks, anyway?

Baffert's best training move during Derby week was entering Dantheblugrassman and scratching him.

The fact is that Frank Springer had more to do with War Emblem's training and development then Baffert ever did. Even Baffert's die-hard fans would find it hard to give him full credit for this one. Plain and simple, War Emblem's connections bought the Derby and Preakness - training had very little to do with it. In fact, War Emblem did not improve under Baffert's handling last year. The Belmont, Pacific Classic, and Breeders' Cup Classic were all colossal duds.

Should a trainer be considered for the honor as the year's best on strictly two performances from his top 3-year-old, Vindication's campaign, and the one monster performance of Congaree in the Cigar? Is that enough?

Even Baffert fans should have a tough time justifying arguing for those accomplishments over the course of a year when Bobby Frankel could match them on a weekly basis.

Barry Mark
Toronto, Ontario

Omission of Orientate makes top spot a farce

I have had it with the people who pick the Eclipse Award finalists. How in any way could Left Bank or War Emblem be up for Horse of the Year and Orientate be left out? War Emblem showed in his last two races that he didn't have what it takes to face older horses, and Left Bank had his career cut short because of his illness. Not to make Orientate a finalist was just sickening.

Here is a horse who beat the last two Breeders' Cup Sprint champions, and closed out the year winning five in a row. For him not to be considered the best is a travesty to horse racing.

What irritates me even more is how he is not considered the outright winner as best sprinter. I don't think I have ever seen a sprinter as dominating as Orientate was this year.

Ted Cifaldi
Howell, N.J.

Championship selection a Grade 1 concern

Every year there are the annual arguments about the Eclipse Awards. Horse of the Year and best trainer usually draw the most discussion. This year is no exception.

But why should such uncertainty exist in an industry guided by statistics? After all, there is always a winner in every race. Why must the results come from a strange, three-pronged voting process filled with subjective selections? The Kentucky Derby victor is not selected by a vote.

There is a way to correct this problem by narrowing some of the categories and making a statistical horse race out of all of them.

Who wins? Let the horse with the most Grade 1 wins in the calendar year be each division's champion. Yes, not all Grade 1 races are the same, so some extra points can be given to the few more important ones, like the Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup. If there is a tie, use the most second-place finishes in Grade 1 events. The main point here is that the champion of each division must be determined in a quantified way.

Next, split the Horse of the Year award into three parts: male, female, and foreign. Use the same qualifications already mentioned to determine these winners. Trying to pick only one horse of the year is difficult when horses do not always compete against each other.

Going with the same selection method, all the human winners would earn Eclipse Awards using similar rules, as in most Grade 1 wins.

With these conditions in place, there should be little argument about as to who wins their divisions.

Some people may miss the suspense of the announcements. Others may say such a system would not measure the intangibles of a horse or person. There is no rule against inventing special, non-Eclipse awards, like for a trainer with the most wins or a horse with the best performance in a race. If an award is to be subjective, let it be decided by only one group of turf media, or a single group that represents most of the fans.

This Eclipse solution is probably too simple for the powers of racing, but everyone would certainly know who first crossed a real finish line to Eclipse glory. Isn't that what professional recognition is all about?

Dan Gaydosh
Crystal Lake, Ill.