07/31/2003 11:00PM

Letters to the Editor

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Making a pony of Kona Gold seen as travesty

It had always been my assumption that both trainer Bruce Headley and his fellow co-owners of Kona Gold thought well of the horse, as they were were admirably diligent in preserving his body, mind, and soul. Perhaps I was wrong.

The thought of Kona Gold retiring to a pedestrian job as a track pony, after everything he has accomplished, is abhorrent ("Kona Gold done racing," July 30). Was Cigar to become a track pony upon the discovery of his infertility? No.

I don't suggest that Kona Gold need be retrained to another discipline such as dressage, or any of the other Thoroughbred sports - just give him the exercise he wants and let him be the icon that he is.

May I suggest that there be a raffle among qualified horsemen to determine which fervent admirer of this great horse could be the lucky one to dote on him, care for him, and exhibit him to the horse racing community?

Kona Gold's connections should hang their heads in shame if their intentions were to do anything less than honor and celebrate this horse and his career.

Cameron Reynolds Hewitt
Seattle

Looking to the future was a vision of futility

I just spent the weekend at Del Mar. I went there to try to win their qualifier into the annual Daily Racing Form/ National Thoroughbred Racing Association handicapping championship. The highlight of my trip was meeting Steve Wolfson, this year's winner.

The lowlight of my trip was my attempt to bet on the Breeders' Cup Future Bet's first pools. Over a period of approximately 30 hours, I attempted to get the current odds. During this time I missed many races, including the Eddie Read. Finally, a helpful supervisor went to the NTRA website at 8 p.m. Eastern on Sunday and printed the odds for me. With time for analysis, etc. I barely got some bets in at 8:50 p.m. Since I live in Las Vegas, this wasn't what I'm used to, although getting current odds can be difficult at many betting outlets there as well.

Whatever technical difficulties Del Mar may have been having, no real attempt to announce or promote the availability of the Breeders' Cup Future Bet was made at any time during the entire weekend.

During this very frustrating time, I kept questioning why the pool was not being actively promoted by the racetrack. I pointed out that the many thousands of people at the track were probably unaware that the bet was even available. No one could answer those questions.

From the meager size of the pools, I must conclude that other outlets also failed to promote the bet effectively. Why? Does the NTRA know? Does it care?

Henry W. George
Las Vegas

After a champion's demise, a fan wonders who's next

I was greatly distressed to read "Ferdinand's fate remains unsure amid speculation" (July 25) about the possibility of a champion's dying in a slaughterhouse. I cannot believe such a beautiful and talented animal might have been treated in such a barbaric manner. I am always sickened by man's inhumanity to any creatures, but especially horses and dogs (e.g. greyhounds).

It makes me very concerned about a retired racehorse, War Emblem, after I read that he wouldn't breed. I am just a little person among racing enthusiasts, but I do care. Maybe in my next life I will be rich and can make a difference.

Nancy Ann Edwards
Wichita, Kan.

A bigger heart was needed in Ferdinand's last days

It is said that people are measured by their hearts and souls. Ferdinand gave his heart and soul on the racetrack and won the Kentucky Derby. The way some people treat horses after they can no longer produce money is disgusting and inhumane. These people are a disgrace to the horse industry.

Ferdinand deserved better. His last owner had an obligation to see that he was cared for properly, to live out his days and not be "disposed of." Where was this owner's heart or soul? Maybe when he is in failing health, someone else should determine his fate.

Jim Sattler
Ramona, Calif.

Remarkable turnarounds puzzling and troubling

It is impossible for racing to expect the public to flock to the track after seeing "Seabiscuit" when the very people who derive their livelihood from the sport are disillusioned.

There is no logic to handicapping anymore. An interesting example was the eighth race at Delaware on July 21. A horse who had bled through Lasix and was eased May 30 in a $50,000 claiming race at Belmont, at a mile on the turf, and ran back at Belmont on July 4 for $14,000 at six furlongs and was beaten by 12 3/4 lengths, by God, won July 21 wire to wire by 3 1/2 lengths at 1 1/8 miles - for $35,000. Go figure.

It may be the time to return to strictly hay, oats, and water. Then we can resume handicapping horses, not trainers.

Regina H. Delp
Ellicott City, Md.

Frankel's rationale avoids a key element

I enjoyed trainer Bobby Frankel's comments in the Racing Form recently. It seems he's keeping his female stock in New York because "there's no program out there whatsoever" for fillies and mares at Del Mar, just the Clement Hirsch, which doesn't interest him enough (Del Mar notebook, July 26).

What is left unsaid is the obvious: Frankel is ducking Azeri. I don't necessarily blame him, but nice spin anyway.

Steve Orton
Los Angeles

Seaside memories make a Pacific classic

In the summer of 1976, I arrived in Long Beach, Calif., from New York. I was 20 and supposedly on a two-week visit. No sooner had my feet touched the ground than I asked, "Where is the nearest racetrack?" I was told it was two hours away, near San Diego.

With no driver's license or car, I was on my way to Del Mar via Amtrak. That trip was an experience I will never forget. I was studying the Racing Form when I glanced out the window at an amazing stretch of beach and scenery. I knew right there I was in for something different.

"This can't be true," I thought. "Maybe I'm I'm dreaming." It was a far cry from my routine back in Brooklyn: the old trains and buses, stifling traffic, bad neighborhoods, horrendous weather. I was filled with anticipation, like I was 5 years old again on Christmas morning.

At the track, I tried to blend in, but I felt like a fish out of water. This was not just horse racing at its best, this was wonderland. My buddies back home would never have believed me if I told them what was right before my eyes. It was as if Joe Namath tossed me a signed football or Mickey Mantle shook my hand.

The day came to a smashing conclusion with my winning a photo finish and ending up an $800 winner, putting an even sweeter taste in my mouth. All I could think about was when I was going to return to Del Mar and to try and extend my California visit.

I learned how to drive, got my license, bought a car, and found a job as a bouncer at a disco in Huntington Beach, freeing me up for Del Mar in the daytime. My decision to stay in California turned out to be easy.

Memories of those warm disco nights and Del Mar days carried me through that year and every year since. There will never be another summer of '76, but I will return to Del Mar this year to relive in my mind the memories of the past and to hopefully have another magic summer.

Joe Carbonaro
Westminster, Calif.