Updated on 09/17/2011 9:55AM

Letters to the Editor


I have been following the winter meeting at Gulfstream with intense interest, as well as articles such as "Claiming game may heat to a boil" (Jan. 11), generated by the success of the current leading owner, Michael Gill, and trainer, Mark Shuman. The question I have for some rival trainers, especially Peter Walder and Allen Iwinski, is: Do you want some cheese to go with that whine?

The only thing Gill and Shuman are doing that others aren't is spending a lot more money. Their tactics - to claim, be as aggressive medically as one can, and then jam the horse back in your face for the same or a lesser price - is the reason they have such a gaudy winning percentage.

Gill and Shuman stand accused of "claiming horses without bothering to know any thing about their physical problems," ("Winning - the Gill way," Feb. 6), yet it was Walder who spent $50,000 to claim one of Gill's horses who was then subsequently delivered by van (see the case of Carney's Prospect in the eighth race of Jan. 12). Perhaps it is Walder who should be paying more attention to the physical condition of the horses, especially when spending someone else's money. If you don't want people to claim your horses, don't run them in claiming races.

Gill should be commended for bankrolling such a huge operation which he freely admits loses money. Yet he so thoroughly enjoys winning - who wouldn't - that he is willing to forge full steam ahead. He should be applauded for his success, not vilified for it.

In any claiming stable there are plenty of horses who don't work out. For every Native Heir or Boston Brat, there may be 10 acquisitions that they must drop in value to get to win, if they get them to win at all. Such is the inherent risk of playing the claiming game.

People, take note of Gill/Shuman's success, maybe you will learn something.

Jason Feldman
New York City

Envy of others as green as Gill's money

Being an owner and seller of horses, I welcome someone like Michael Gill. He puts his money up like anyone else to play one of the toughest games in the world. There are many of us who wish we had the resources to buy or claim any horse we feel like, dominate a race meet, and win a race almost every day.

For those who are scared to run horses in fear that Gill will claim them: You must be in this business as a hobby - don't kid yourself. I couldn't care if Gill claimed all my horses. I'm a big boy and understand what the condition of the race is when my horse is entered and the reality it might be claimed. The last I checked, Gill isn't the only one claiming at Gulfstream.

As for those who believe Gill is claiming horses without regard to their physical condition, if these horses have such physical problems, why are these other trainers bringing them over to race? If and when Gill should claim any of these horses, these trainers and owners should thank him and not criticize him. Gill will have his share of bad claims like anyone else.

As for the breakdown of his horse the week before last, it is likely that if you run the most horses, especially claimers, you will have the most injuries and, unfortunately, the most breakdowns.

As for the stories that some tracks don't want Gill and his stable ("Gill's style rubs Delaware wrong way," Jan. 9), that's ludicrous. Gill and trainer Mark Shuman fill the entry box numerous times every day. When some tracks can't close entries until late in the afternoon, Gill's horses should be a welcome sight to a racing secretary.

The only negative thing I can see is if Gill claims a whole condition, which some say he has. But Gill has the most to lose, since he could have a barn full of horses without a race in which to run.

Now Gill has moved into trying to dominate the 2-year-old sales. Last week at the Ocala Breeders Sales offering, he bought more than one-quarter of the horses sold. Most sports seems to have a dominating franchise, and racing's might be Gill and Shuman.

Gill may be losing money, but at least he is having fun.

Aron Yagoda
Jericho, N.Y.

Claiming purse structure invites buy-and-drop tactics

The claiming game in American horse racing is messed up because the purses are too big for the claiming prices. Throw in the fact that most states have thrown out the "30-day jail" rule restricting running for a lower claiming price, and you're going to have folks claiming and jamming like Michael Gill.

A horse who can win a $34,000 purse ($20,400 winner's share) in a claiming race is worth $40,800 in my mind, and that's what the game used to be. At Delaware Park last September, a race for $25,000 claimers carried a $34,000 purse. That same day, a $5,000 claiming race carried a purse of $16,000, $9,600 to the winner. It doesn't make sense not to claim a decent horse for $7,500, and run him two weeks later in a $5,000 race where the winner's share of the purse is $9,600.

The rules need to be changed to adjust for the increases in purse monies available. We should be concerned about the problem with the claiming game, not just about the people who exploit the situation.

Andy Sharpe

Trainer objects, saying he errs on side of caution

In regard to the Closer Look comment about Dazzling Copies in the past performances for the third race on Feb. 12 at Golden Gate Fields:

The statement "that Chuck Jenda likes to give them a start" to me implied that I am telling the jockey not to ask the horse for his best. This is patently false.

I cannot argue with statistics, but the comment showed a misinterpretation of their meaning. The reason most horses get beaten is that they run over their heads. I may be guilty of being overly cautious of where I place first-time starters, but I want to be as sure as one can be of their value before I drop them down.

In the future, I would appreciate reading that my win percentage for first-time starters stinks as opposed to that I am asking a horse not to do his best.

Chuck Jenda
Castro Valley, Calif.

Columnist taken to task for his contributions

Over the past few months I have noticed obvious resentment on Jay Hovdey's part toward some of the great people in our industry. He referred to two of the most visible and influential men in racing as "two dead guys." He ridiculed and mocked a man who is undeniably one of the greatest ambassadors of our sport. But yet he doesn't seem to have much to say about those people with whom he shares close, personal ties.

Hovdey should be held accountable for what he says and for the repercussions his words may have on the people he so recklessly attacks. Just last month, he ridiculed Satish Sanan for forgetting to thank Mike Smith in his acceptance speech at the Eclipse Awards ("Eclipse story: Stars and more," Jan 31). While he did make mention that Bobby Frankel regretted not thanking one of his key assistants, Hovdey also gave Frankel a chance to explain his omission. Why didn't he afford Sanan the same opportunity? In his haste to reprehend him, I wonder if he even took the time to find out Sanan hugged and thanked Mike Smith that night for a job well done? If he did, he certainly didn't relay that fact to your readers.

It seems to me Hovdey should stop playing favorites and realize what drives this game. It's people like Satish and Anne Sanan, Bob and Beverly Lewis, and the Phipps family who put millions of dollars into the game and devote countless hours to the promotion and betterment of a sport they love. I can't say the same for Hovdey.

Bob Baffert
Arcadia, Calif.