05/23/2003 12:00AM

Letters to the editor

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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

'Serious' lack of prejudice in photo flap

Suspicious? "Tending to arouse suspicion," according to Webster's.

Honesty? "Fairness and straightforwardness of conduct. Synonym: integrity."

The Churchill Downs steward interviewed by The Miami Herald reporter is guilty of honesty. No one experienced with racing, that I know of, could conclude otherwise when looking at the frame that was supplied to Churchill officials.

I would have been "very suspicious" of the motivation and credibility of those who presented such evidence. There was much to be gained by a change of outcome for those who finished behind Funny Cide in the Kentucky Derby.

The Herald, and those associated with this issue, are guilty of sensational journalism and interrogation, as well as trial by the press before professional processes had proved otherwise.

Jose Santos, Barclay Tagg, and all the connections of Sackatoga Stable have been exonerated. Funny Cide proved himself in the field of battle at Pimlico.

My lesson learned? The next time that I am approached by the media for any reason, my response will be "No comment."

Steve Kintz

Lexington, Ky.

Santos a model of the sport's excellence

Now that he has a chance for Triple Crown glory, it is clearer than ever that any thought Jose Santos would have jeopardized his career at this stage is ridiculous.

I present as evidence the heartening May 8 article "Santos on top after long climb," as well as my personal experience with him.

For years now, I have listened with intense disbelief to all the Jose Santos naysayers who have criticized him. "Let him run!" or "Look at him strangle this horse" are frequent jeers launched from the crowd. Too many players have knocked Santos for too long, questioning his skills, decision-making, and intent.

I was fortunate enough to have Santos back for his first mount following his injury in 2001. He rode a hard-knocking turf mare I owned named Presumed Innocent.

My filly had finished second in New York allowance company four consecutive times, done in at the wire by an inability to rate. I thought a switch to The Meadowlands would give her the class reprieve necessary to advance, but a New Jersey supplement in purses that year brought New York horsemen across the river in droves. Our race drew good fillies from all the top stables.

Santos was able to get my horse to rate, and she won two of her next three starts from off the pace. Never before, and never since, could a jockey get her to relax in a race like he did. He possesses a set of extremely talented hands, horses respond to him, and, most importantly, he has an insatiable appetite for winning.

We need look no further than two perfectly orchestrated rides in the Breeders' Cup Classic and the Kentucky Derby. It's about time that the racing community gave Santos his due and recognize him for what he is: a brilliantly gifted jockey.

Anthony J. Perrotta Jr.

Cornerstone Stable, Colts Neck, N.J.

Southern California reins in shaky hands

I have been watching racing from Southern California for the past 15 years and I've never seen such a mediocre jockey colony as there is right now ("Jockeys' room a sea of new faces," April 20).

I understand that the Triple Crown is on, and some of the better jocks are out of town, but what's left is deserving of a track like Los Alamitos, not Hollywood Park.

One of the principal reasons why Southern California's racing got to be what it is today was the people riding the horses, and therefore the assurance to the betting public that the races were going to be run in a professional way, and that their money was going to be defended by the best.

Not to take too much away from the people riding at the moment, but their record speaks for itself. How can you bet a race where the riders are, by and large, people you have never heard of? Who is capable enough to defend the betting public and its money?

An extra effort should be made by Churchill Downs Inc. to lure better talent to its tracks if it wants to keep them breathing.

I know guys like Laffit Pincay Jr., Eddie Delahoussaye, and Chris McCarron cannot be replaced, but there are some much better riders around than what Hollywood is offering at the present time.

I believe I deserve better, and if nothing is done, my money will end up somewhere else, where dependable jocks are located.

Victor Aiza

San Diego

Pincay leaves behind power vacuum

It took me a couple of days to gather my thoughts after the news of Laffit Pincay's retirement. I am still recovering from the premature retirement of greats Chris McCarron and Eddie Delahoussaye. To add Pincay to the list of legendary riders who have retired within a 12-month period is simply devastating.

I have been fortunate to follow the greatness of Pincay's career since he first began to ride in Southern California in late 1966. The immediate impact he made, along with his patented "mad abandon" style, clearly stamped him the heir apparent to Bill Shoemaker.

There has never been a jockey who had the physical presence of Pincay. He was a middle linebacker in racing silks. He lifted, carried, and willed more horses over the finish line first than most riders have winners in their careers.

Selfishly, I wish we could see him just one more time, setting a champion down, white-knuckling from the three-sixteenths pole through the stretch and all the way to the wire. Boy, oh boy, how we have been spoiled. No one has ever done it better than Pincay.

Michael Wellman

Beverly Hills, Calif.

Raw numbers won't tell the story of greatness

In the May 2 article "Baze trains sights on Pincay mark," about Laffit Pincay Jr.'s retirement and Russell Baze's quest to be the leading rider of all time, Baze said all the right things. He wished Pincay had been able "to go out on his own terms" and how "nobody takes any satisfaction from his retirement." He showed as much class as he could, even though you know that deep down he must be glad it will take him only about three years or so on the junior circuit to catch Pincay.

Baze is a great rider. No matter who you are, it would be hard to ride at a better-than-30-percent clip anywhere. That said, Pincay has been riding against the best riders in the world for all of my adult life (I am 41). How many Hall of Fame riders, besides Baze, do you see riding on the northern California circuit?

Baze has his choice of mounts and little competition at Golden Gate and Bay Meadows. His situation is akin to Barry Bonds playing out his career in triple A baseball and counting the home runs toward Hank Aaron's record. It is absolutely ridiculous.

One-hundred years from now, people will look only at the numbers. If no one else passes them, Baze could conceivably be 1,000 winners ahead of Pincay after he retires. People will mistakenly put Baze in Pincay's class. Those of us who witnessed Pincay's career will know better.

Jack Fallo

Metairie, La.