Updated on 09/15/2011 1:37PM



California panel defends itself in drug fight

Gratuitous verbal violence doesn't add veracity to an opinion. This from Jay Hovdey's column, "Memo to board: Attend vet panels," of Dec. 5: "No other major jurisdiction has suffered more embarrassment, sustained more criticism, or spent more of the public's money in defense of faulty execution of its own clear rules."

Inaccuracy masked as sarcasm, like innuendo parading as fact, does violence to the term journalist. A string of made-up characterizations of the California Horse Racing Board, in search of a point, holds no credibility. I wish to point out that undefended rules of law are the gateway to anarchy. And when someone makes unfounded charges about the board, he contributes to racegoer confusion.

California racing's drug-testing programs set a standard for reliability that is unmatched in the country. The Ken Maddy lab at University of California at Davis crowns the effort. The knowledgeable horsemen who compose the board, appointed entirely by Gov. Gray Davis, are leaders in refining the rules of medication in horses.

The CHRB Medication Committee joins with Thoroughbred Owners of California, California Thoroughbred Trainers, and members of the veterinary community, as well as racing associations, in redefining the regulations under which California racing operates. It is a continuing effort that deserves recognition. A thin line exists between therapeutic medications that ensure health to racehorses and drugs whose only purpose is illegally enhancing racing efforts. The work needed to keep a level playing field creates difficult judgments. Measuring the fine edge between incidental contamination and illegal intention may produce results that may be arguable. No matter, as a board we cannot be blinded, nor blindsided by snipers.

As board members, we are the umpires in the field. We are responsible to the state, the racing industry, and the public to uphold the integrity of racing. We do so with energy and vision. We can be wrong in our judgments, but it in the case of the current board, it is not for lack of knowledge or care about racing. We operate under the ever-present realization that it is our duty to weigh the good for a larger congregation than individuals who may or may not by intent or accident find themselves charged with violations of racing regulations.

There is no basis in fact for Hovdey's ill-conceived condemnation of our efforts.

Alan Landsburg
Chairman, California Horse Racing Board

All wound up over California clockers

I have been an avid race fan of the Churchill Downs-Keeneland circuit for many years, and a grateful fan of the respective clockers at each of these establishments. These guys do a fantastic job: Their reports and timings actually reflect the ability of first-timers 90 percent of the time.

But I have been shocked at what appears to be a total lack of reporting prowess from Santa Anita and Hollywood clockers. For example, of the 297 published Hollywood or Santa Anita workouts for horses racing at Hollywood on Friday, Dec 7, only 22 were "breezing." This is not a one-day thing either. Read the works for horses at Southern California tracks, and the vast majority are listed as "handily."

My understanding of the rule of thumb is that a horse who works handily in a given time can be expected to go plus or minus two seconds quicker in a race and not be bothered. Okay, there are expected exceptions. But when horses who have listed times of 1:11 or 1:12, especially first-timers, repeatedly finish up the stretch, something is amiss. I mean, come on. Either the watches are broken, the clockers aren't paying attention, or the trainers are all fools. Again, here's to the guys at Churchill and Keeneland who help us out. Now if the clockers at Hollywood and Santa Anita would do the same, we'd have a better game on the whole.

Mark Grossklag

Tiznow's 'greatness' a limited state

While spending a recent weekend around the Pomona, Calif., simulcast facility, I heard chatter about how great Tiznow was as a racehorse.

"He was the only horse to ever win two Breeders' Cup Classics back to back," they muttered.

I say, if a horse is to be named among the greatest in history, three things must be accomplished:

1. The horse must win true classic races.

2. The horse must win those classic races in spectacular fashion, or by wide margins.

3. If wide margins are not present, the horse must have a rival who is the chief reason for that horse's lack of wide-margin victories. Affirmed vs. Alydar and Sunday Silence vs. Easy Goer quickly come to mind.

Although the Breeders' Cup Classic is an ultra-rich race, in only 18 years of existence, it should not be deemed "a classic." The Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont, and Travers are the true classics - all have been part of racing for more than 125 years.

Tiznow was a very game horse, but not a great horse. How Chris McCarron could say, as he once did on the "Inside Santa Anita" TV show, that Tiznow ranked with the best horses he had ever ridden, is beyond me. Hey C.J., remember Precisionist, Alysheba, John Henry, and Paseana?

Tiznow won races on heart when he was overmatched, and with determination when not on his best game. Greatness and gameness, however, have different definitions in Webster's dictionary of horse racing.

Tiznow should be remembered for being one of the great California-bred horses, and leave it at that.

Kenneth Moultry
Pomona, Calif.

Arbitrary DQ standards alienate fan base

Back on July 20, in his column "It's time to let race results stand," Dick Jerardi wrote that the time had come for disqualification by vote of the stewards to come to an end. Besides the mandatory reply letter from a track steward, most of the mail in response to Jerardi's column agreed with it.

Let's just compare two races early this month. On Saturday, Dec. 1, in the Leggio Stakes at Fair Grounds, a horse named Hallowed Dreams bore in at the start and wiped out the entire field. Not only did she do it once, but after running for several more yards, she bore in again, causing the horses inside of her to take up again. The stewards looked and took no action.

The next day at Aqueduct, a horse named Griffinite was disqualified for coming out at the start of the race. He came out slightly, causing horses to take up a little bit at the start of a one-mile race. The Hallowed Dreams race was at 5 1/2 furlongs, so the horses in it were compromised more than in a mile race. Nevertheless, the stewards disqualified Griffinite and placed him fourth.

I did not have a wagering interest in either of these horses, so I am not merely bemoaning my bad luck.

On the one hand, one of the best horses running at Fair Grounds commits an extremely egregious act out of the gate, and her number is allowed to stay up. On the other hand, a horse comes out only slightly and is disqualified. Anyone looking at these two races could see that the decisions were totally arbitrary, no standard is applied, and it is the poor racing fan who is at peril.

I believe that the goal of racing is eventually to have no fans at all. Once the 50-, 60-, and 70-year-old horseplayers die, I think that racetracks will all be torn down and replaced by condominium projects. No one has any trust in the horse racing industry or its decisions. The common perception is that decisions are skewed in favor of certain select trainers, jockeys and horses.

F. Dennis Alerding
Covington, Ky.