02/07/2003 12:00AM

Letters to the Editor


Industry needs a fresh start on drug policies

The Jan. 29 article "Drug uniformity hampered by infighting within industry" brought to light a major stumbling block to a uniform medication policy that has not been discussed openly: the philosophical division between the groups of racing chemists. As a horse owner and member of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, I find it preposterous that the effort to develop a uniform medication policy can be held hostage or even derailed by differences among chemists.

Uniform rules have been and will continue to be the battle cry in the industry. Every fan, every bettor, and every owner supports and endorses a level playing field for all participants.

Medication rules have been a cause of inequality and unfairness between regions, states, and racing organizations for 30 years. Rules in some states are supported by some chemists and disputed by others.

The entire sport is threatened if we do not find common ground that we can all support and endorse. Personalities, prejudices, opinions, and theories must all be replaced by concrete facts that can be obtained only by extensive, independent research.

The article noted that some groups are trying to undermine and discredit those who have performed research supporting liberal medication use. While I will not comment on the validity of this research, I do know the statistics are all trending the wrong way in regards to the horse's performance on the racetrack. As I pointed out at The Jockey Club Round Table last August, every statistic pertaining to the racing horse's longevity and durability is dropping dramatically while we argue over how much medication we can use.

The horse doesn't get much say about the needles, drugs, and unknown potions that may be administered. Countries around the world are astounded at what we permit, and what owners are willing to pay in vet bills either to improve performance or at least make the next race. It needs to be reversed. Thirty years of differing rules enforced by inconsistent testing needs to be halted. We need to start over on a new premise, a premise based not on opinion, but on solid facts. There are many drugs in use that must be thoroughly researched before we understand their long-term effects on a horse's fertility and soundness and whether or not infirmities masked by these drugs will be passed on to future generations.

The consortium needs permanent financing for long-term independent research programs to develop facts, not opinions. Every owner, every racetrack, and every racing organization should contribute and be eager to contribute to this funding. The Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association has taken the lead and created long-term funding in Florida. We should follow across America.

We must win this battle, and the consortium must achieve its goal of a uniform medication policy in spite of the infighting, no matter how long it takes. As a member of the consortium, I challenge all participants to get objective and face the reality that the public demands integrity, honesty, and fairness.

We can do it - we just need to stay committed and put the egos and personality issues aside.

Gary E. Biszantz, chairman - Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association

IRS withholding policy crosses the border

Steven Crist's Jan. 26 column, "Reform this tax system," was right on the money in its call for reform of the unfair taxation of horseplayers. It is high time that the the U.S. Internal Revenue Service gets out of the stone age and revises its withholding tax policy on large wins.

First off, the IRS must know that most racetrack gamblers do not make money during the course of the year.

And then, in order for a gambler to get his or her money back, the IRS makes it very complicated to keep the proper books (if done honestly). In fact, they promote dishonesty, which is a shame.

I'm from Canada, and my country's Revenue Canada seems to be way more realistic. There are no withholding taxes here. The downside is that we can not commingle our money into U.S. pools because the IRS will not allow us to bet into U.S. pools without a withholding tax. The result is small Canadian pools and a larger takeout.

My suggestion is to either lose the withholding tax altogether, or charge maybe 5 percent on 800-1 comebacks as a tax surcharge (nonrefundable).

Personally, I like betting exotics, and have not made a wager since the Woodbine Thoroughbred season closed in December. I am considering opening an offshore account, but why does it have to come to this?

Maury Ezra - Fort Erie, Ontario

A seat's a seat, grandstand or stock exchange

Steven Crist certainly stepped into the breach for horseplayers with his excellent and long-overdue Jan. 26 column on much-needed withholding tax reform.

Even though Crist articulated common sense in terms even our politicians might understand, I have to agree that there will be no relief in sight until the establishment views horseplayers as investors rather than gamblers.

Steve Abelove - Lawndale, Calif.

Home viewers depend on shows to be their eyes

A student wrote in the letter "TVG worth giving the old college try" (Jan. 12), "So what's to complain about?" regarding the Television Games Network hosts and analysts.

Well, those of us who have been serious students of handicapping for more years than most college students have been alive want to be able to see the horses in the paddock, the post parade, and the prerace warmups, as well as the odds and exacta prices. We don't want that limited and valuable prerace time taken up looking at analysts telling us things we already know, or giving us information that anyone can find in the day's Racing Form.

Since most of us find it quite difficult to be at Aqueduct, Gulfstream, Fair Grounds, and Santa Anita all at the same time, we simulcast players are dependent upon intelligent use of the live broadcast time before the race to view the participants. We can do without viewing analysts who want to be broadcast personalities while giving us information that we already have.

Ed Loeffler - New York City

If wishes were horses, they'd all be winners

I wish all racetracks would . . .

Stop charging for admission and parking. Bettors should not have to pay for the privilege of wagering on live races.

Market the sport to create lifelong fans rather than short-term gamblers.

Offer reliable, comfortable shuttle service for the physically challenged and elderly.

Tenaciously scrutinize races where do-not-figure longshots finish second behind odds-on favorites.

Reward loyal fans with more than a $50 voucher after they have wagered $10,000 (as is the case with the Golden State Reward Program in California).

Make the pick six a $1 minimum bet so the little guy has a chance against the syndicates.

Offer uniform betting menus.

Provide high-quality, low-priced concessions.

Uniformly agree when betting is to close.

Pressure the Internal Revenue Service to change its archaic policies, especially pertaining to the exotic windfalls of the $2 player.

Safeguard the integrity of the game by utilizing the most advanced computer technology available to protect every parimutuel pool.

Glenn Alsdorf - Chino Hills, Calif.