03/14/2003 12:00AM

Letters to the editor

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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Honor system shouldn't apply to workouts

When will racing's regulators learn that shortcuts should never, never be

taken when the sport's integrity is at stake?

Andrew Beyer wrote in his March 13 column, "No betting coup - this time,"

regarding the recent fast debut win by Grand Hombre at Gulfstream Park after

his slow published workouts at a training center in Ocala, Fla., that "the

system for reporting workouts at these facilities is made to order for a

trainer who wants to deceive the public. Much of the time there are no

clockers present, and the trainer is responsible for reporting his horse's

time to the racetrack." The reason? "As private training centers have

proliferated, the racing industry can't afford to hire clockers to report

every workout."

Trainers reporting their own workout times? Why should the racing industry

stop there? Even more money can be saved by doing away with other jobs. For

instance, think of all the money that could be saved if we did away with the

stewards. Why not? I'm sure we can trust the game's participants to police

themselves.

Allowing trainers to determine the official times for workouts by their own

horses makes about as much sense as leaving it to the jockeys to decide if

there should be a disqualification in a race.

Jon White

Monrovia, Calif.

Denying a coup is defying logic

Please spare us nonsense like Andrew Beyer's column about Grand Hombre's

first-out maiden victory at Gulfstream.

Even to imagine that this wasn't a betting coup is absurd to the point of

being downright silly. The horse had no track works and little breeding, yet

went off a quiet (but consistently played) sixth choice in a 12-horse field

loaded with high-priced and apparently talented maidens. Who bet all the

money that was on the nose of this horse? Fans of old Paul Newman movies?

Moreover, if this wasn't a betting coup, how do you explain the rather

bizarre pick three payoff for this race and the following two? That pick

three - a $954.40 payoff on winners paying $30.60, $19, and $21.20 - paid 40

percent less than a win parlay's $3,081.42. Since there was a taxable payoff

subject to withholding on this pick three, it would be very interesting to

know exactly who collected.

The honor system used for workouts at private facilities, and the inability

of horseplayers to know what they mean, makes a mockery of the whole system.

Glenn W. Magnell

Cornwall, N.Y.

Races for first-timers might lessen the mystery

In his March 13 column, Andrew Beyer wrote, "Ever since Eclipse was preparing

for his career debut in the 1700's, Thoroughbred trainers have been trying to

conceal the ability of first-time starters. Bettors . . . will always assume

they have been deceived when they see a horse win after a dismal string of

workouts."

I for one do not, as Beyer claims most horseplayers do, "feel a grudging

admiration for a trainer who can hide a horse capable of running in 1:08.66"

for six furlongs. Anger is more like it.

Bettors in the United States might not realize that this is not the way the

game is played everywhere else in the world. In France, maiden races on the

Paris circuit are for true maidens - first-time starters have their own

races.

It's time to ask why first-time starters in the United States are not given

their own races, which ideally would be non-betting events. This would create

two distinct types of maiden races - one limited to horses who have yet to

race, and one where the horses have raced but without an official winner.

The first type of race would in effect be a public workout, providing the

public with far more reliable information than workouts run in the wee hours

of the day. While it's true that owners and trainers who are intent on

chicanery may still find ways of disguising a horse's form, it would be much

more difficult to do in a publicly run race.

David Kilmer

Los Angeles

Champion's death came when she deserved better

The death of Lady's Secret highlights something that is incredibly obvious to

even the casual Thoroughbred fan: Mares at or above age 20 have no business

delivering foals in order to satisfy the demand for high-quality foals from

champion mares.

When I read "Lady's Secret dead at 21" (March 6), I immediately thought of

Exceller. Exceller eventually became no use as a stallion so, since he could

not be pimped out anymore, he was slaughtered.

Lady's Secret was about the human equivalent of age 65. Her apparent

usefulness rested in her ability to produce a valuable foal. I'm sure that

her owners loved her and provided her with excellent accommodations and care,

but were they so naive as to assume that a 21-year-old mare's giving birth

would go so easily? Is the industry so in need of valued foals that it will

sacrifice its champions in the name of fertility? When a champion stud cannot

perform anymore, the Thoroughbred industry is now spooked enough by the

Exceller incident to ensure that that stallion is safely pensioned. Isn't it

time to consider voluntarily banning the impregnating of any mare over age 18

in the name of decency?

Lady's Secret deserved to die in her sleep at a nice old age (as did Lead

Kindly Light, whose death after foaling at age 20 was reported March 13). She

didn't deserve to die from the trauma of giving birth at such an advanced

age. Perhaps, like Exceller's, Lady's Secret's death will transform an

industry much in need of change.

Mark S. Miller

Revere, Mass.

Live and remote patrons blindsided by Santa Anita

What a concept - put on a play but block the view of the stage from the

patrons! That is exactly what Santa Anita has been doing ever since the

installation of that monstrosity of a television screen in the infield.

Go to the track and you cannot watch a complete live race. Even as a

simulcast customer, you can't see a complete race. Horses go into a blind

spot and emerge seven or eight strides later. Do Santa Anita officials think

that this adds to the excitement of the race - not being able to see it?

Jay Hovdey, in his March 8 column, "Blind spots have got to vanish," brought

to light an even bigger problem with the situation - the safety issues of

this blind spot.

How ridiculous that this has gone on for so long. Perhaps the concept of the

tote board has eluded those in charge: provide information to the patrons

without blocking their view. If changes aren't made, won't it be a wonderful

Breeders' Cup from Santa Anita this year?

Maybe fans should boycott Santa Anita for a weekend. Or maybe they already

are, considering the embarrassing turnout on the recent Santa Anita Derby

Day. Why go to a play that you can't watch?

Dave Siuta

Keedysville, Md.

Head-to-head matchup saw gambler come out winning

I found fascinating and amusing the March 6 juxtaposition of Andrew Beyer's

column, "Hyperbole hides truth: Americans love to bet," with Marc Fisher's

"Time to give up ghost instead of taxing poor."

In defense of slot machines, Beyer got to the main issue here: "Gambling is

already ubiquitous." The column showed Beyer to be rational, reasonable, and

intelligent.

Fisher, meanwhile, rambled and stutter-stepped in his opposition to slot

machines. He showed himself to be illogical, mean-spirited, arrogant, and

just plain ignorant.

It was a pleasure to see the gambler's perspective so well presented in the

face of the usual knee-jerk lecturing.

Vincent Ditrano

Aventura, Fla.