05/01/2003 11:00PM

Letters to the Editor


One of Pincay's greatest assets is his timing

It was so good to read that Laffit Pincay Jr., one of the greatest jockeys in the world, has finally decided to hang up his tack ("Pincay calls it a career," May 1).

What more can this talented man do, at age 56? He has been there, done that in the field of horse racing. It was time for Pincay to give it up, relax, and enjoy his retirement. His honesty and integrity were beyond reproach, and he gave the sport his all.

In any profession, one should know when to say when.

Caswell H. Isaacs

Game's top rider always gave top value

You have to give Laffit Pincay Jr. the credit that he deserves as one of racing's champions: He is not only the game's leader in victories, but also one of the finest athletes who has ever lived, a man totally devoted to his work and the sport.

Whenever you bet on a horse ridden by Pincay, you were assured to get more than money. You got thrilling and masterful rides.

An enormous number of people will miss Pincay, but certainly none of us will ever forget him.

Michel de Botton
Mexico City

Horse shortage leads to tricky situation

I have seen numerous instances lately where a trainer enters two horses at Bay Meadows - owning all or part of one horse - and the horses are not coupled as a betting entry. If the horse population is that low (and we all know it is), then run fewer races.

Everyone - from track management, to the owners, trainers, and jockeys - knows there are too many races and too few horses, but nobody wants to run fewer races. At Bay Meadows on a recent Friday (April 25), there were a grand total of 49 horses in eight races. Two of those races had only five horses.

I would love to hear or read a response to this by the Thoroughbred Owners of California. I'm sure that organization would put some positive spin on why we need this many races, and why it is not even a perceived problem to have a trainer run two horses and own one.

Greg Scherr
Monrovia, Calif.

Stopping early closing of windows just a start

It was great to read that Churchill is the latest track to rescind a "close the pools early" policy brought on in part by the Breeders' Cup pick six scandal (April 17).

This is essential to me, because I bet multiple horses to win at the last moment. When the windows were closing with a minute to post time, it meant I could not bet tracks with that policy any longer. I tried it briefly when Calder started closing pools early. It was unworkable.

Now that this is being fixed, there are a few more items that need changing to make simulcasting more effective.

1. Television screens should have the track name or easily determined standard abbreviation in the top left corner. This would help when channels change at the track.

2. Odds for the race to be run next should be up and visible immediately after the previous race is official. They should not be removed during post parades.

3. Payoffs should be displayed immediately upon a race becoming official, not after some glorified winner's circle interview with the winning and losing jockeys/trainers/owners, etc. This is especially painful at home when TV networks cover major events, and with Television Games Network's Keeneland coverage. TVG, in my opinion, forgets that it is all about wagering. If it wants to "color up" the sport with stories of the past, or talk of races weeks away, don't let that detract from the present - the race about to be run.

Raymond Davis
Nashua, N.H.

Highest priority: Lower takeout

I grow weary of hearing of the woes of the racing industry: declining interest, attendance, handle, an aging fan base. What can we do? Are slot machines at the tracks the answer? Maybe a new advertising campaign? Another "Go Baby Go"? I have to laugh to keep from crying.

The answer has always been, and continues to be, so simple: Lower the takeout.

Especially nowadays, when there is a casino on every corner and everybody and his brother has an offshore sports-wagering account, takeout rates of 14 to 30 percent just aren't competitive. (Believe it or not, Penn National takes 30 percent of trifectas, superfectas, and pick threes.) The truly amazing thing at these takeout rates is that anybody bets on a horse race at all. The fact that people still do speaks volumes about the appeal of racing.

The overwhelming majority of racing fans will continue to lose at the track. With a lower takeout, it will just take them a little longer. They will churn the same money over a few more races. They will have more fun, and maybe go to the track a little more often. They will tell their friends. Maybe some of their friends will become racing fans.

Just maybe a fraction of the very best handicappers will manage to eke out a profit. As it stands now, nobody wins. I have seen a lot of bright, devoted horseplayers throw in the towel over the years. Sure, you may have winning months, even years. But at a reduced takeout, a few handicappers would start winning consistently. My guess is that this would stimulate interest and fervent competition among serious players, leading to big increases in handle.

So what are the chances that shortsighted racetrack managers will ever realize that lowering the takeout is the surest way to save our sport? Talk about your longshots.

Steven P. Martinka
Morristown, N.J.

Turf triple crown could be next big thing

As a fan of turf racing, I am suggesting that Thoroughbred racing stage a turf triple crown, since racing needs more big events.

A triple crown of grass races could take place in the summer or early fall months to stimulate fan interest between the time-honored Triple Crown and the Breeders' Cup. It would also be a great opportunity to get great racing venues such as Saratoga and Del Mar involved with a triple crown event, as well as to get the West Coast involved in a series of such stature.

Saratoga seems to be a logical choice for the first leg, while Del Mar figures to be a natural closer. In the middle, you have Arlington Park. Here's a potential schedule this year for a coast-to-coast series of races restricted to 3-year-olds on the turf.

The Lexington Stakes at Saratoga on July 13.

The Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park on Aug. 16.

The Del Mar Derby, on Sept. 6.

Other races and venues would qualify to host such an event. The Hollywood Derby in November, for instance, might also be a candidate for the third and final leg.

As for distances of the races, perhaps they could be changed so horses would compete in a sequence of a mile, 1 1/4 miles, and 1 1/2 miles.

And, just as Visa sponsors the existing Triple Crown, perhaps Youbet, Mastercard, Budweiser, Citgo, or other companies might sponsor the turf version.

It could take quite a while for this to build into something as big as the Triple Crown or Breeders' Cup. Purses of $500,000 and a bonus worth at least $1 million to the connections of any horse who could sweep these races would be a good start. Bob Burgo
Des Plaines, Ill.