12/21/2001 1:00AM

Letters to the Editor


Xtra Heat has a champion's something extra

Although I agree with Joe Cardello's basic theory in his column about the "three and out" pattern ("Figure patterns are inexact," Dec. 13), I think that even he failed to consider the circumstances relating to the races of his "exhibit A," Xtra Heat.

Although everyone from Golden Gate Fields to Gowran Park knows the rail was dead on Breeders' Cup day, it seems everyone has overlooked Xtra Heat's most impressive race. Her third-place finish in the De Francis Memorial Dash dwarfed her dead-rail third in the Breeders' Cup and every race she has ever won.

Xtra Heat's sub-45-second half-mile, while dueling with Caller One, was unbelievable considering that stakes horses were regularly running over 47 seconds for the half in sprint races earlier on the card. Further, the rail at Laurel that afternoon was just as dead as it had been at Belmont for the Breeders' Cup races. Don't take my word for it, look at the tapes or the charts.

Just the fact that Xtra Heat beat Caller One, who was in the better part of the track, was shocking. The fact that she hit the board was unreal.

I must admit that I had considered Xtra Heat a product of good management until recently. She has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, however, that she is not only the best sprinter but best 3-year-old filly in the country.

The shame is that she will be recognized as neither, as horses like Tempera (no sour grapes here - I made a big score on her) will ride the bias all the way to the Eclipse Award, with most voters being completely ignorant of the circumstances.

Brian Russell - Jeffersonville, Ind.

Let's not mince words about who's who here

The racing industry has really angered me now. They have resorted to jargon. I noticed it a few years ago when the dreaded word "product" seeped into various press releases. "We have to offer our patrons enough product," went the line. New York City Off-Track Betting and The Meadowlands really took the term to another level. They began offering more "product" than General Motors. And the quality was about the same. But at least I was still a patron.

Not any more. Now my sicko buddies and I are "guests" of the tracks. Monmouth Park, my favorite quaint escape by the Jersey Shore, began using the G-word in its programs. Okay. Call me a guest. See if I care. Now Philadelphia Park and its Phonebet.com service are using the G-word. I'm not your guest. I'm not visiting a "real" place. I'm in cyberspace.

C'mon, racing. Call me what I am: a gambler betting on your sport. What next? Tea and finger sandwiches?

Steve Viuker - Brooklyn, N.Y.

Simulcast patrons need heightened visuals

Recently, I've come to the conclusion that horse racing is almost completely a simulcast game. This first occurred to me on a visit to Delaware Park in early September. It was a beautiful day and the card was excellent. I sat in the grandstand watching the races, almost alone. Everyone else was inside watching the races from Delaware and other racetracks on television. It was almost as if the people at Delaware Park were treating their own race program as another simulcast event.

Yet I do not believe the racetracks have fully embraced this trend. The greatest evidence of this lies in the way tracks present their broadcasts to simulcast facilities. Today's broadcasts are nearly the same as they were before simulcasting. Racetracks need to understand that the TV broadcast is the only vehicle for the remote (and even maybe not-so-remote) fan to make intelligent betting decisions about the day's races.

Most simulcast facilities play very little of the audio portion of the simulcast program. Therefore, the burden of communication lies on the visual portion.

1. Please let us see the horses. Tracks should provide their fans with two complete viewings of every horse. The paddock and the post parade are the logical places to do this.

Some tracks jump back and forth between fans and horses in the paddock. Other tracks give us clear views of their TV handicappers (who we cannot hear) while the horses are in the paddock. In the post parade many tracks give the fans views of the runners blocked by the outriders and their horses. Other tracks wait too long to show the post parade and show excellent views of horses' rumps.

2. Keep us updated. Racetracks should use the screen to post any information of significance to the remote fan.

I appreciate that the ticker running at the bottom of the screen typically shows this information, but the bettor often misses it. For instance, remote players are consistently missing jockey changes. Another example is a track deciding to cancel some of its turf races, but not all. Typically, track conditions are posted for the whole day and not individual races. This leaves bettors unaware which races have been taken off the turf.

In all aspects of the game, racetrack officials should keep asking themselves what their simulcast customers need and do their best to give it to them.

Sal Carcia - North Reading, Mass.

Little piece of horse heaven down San Luis Rey way

Many thanks to Jay Hovdey for his Nov. 30 column, "Save our stalls and San Luis Rey."

I massage racehorses for a living. Last summer during the Del Mar meeting, a particularly feisty champion, a regular of mine, was temporarily stabled at San Luis Rey Downs in Bonsall, Calif., where both horse and trainer preferred the track.

Time is money, and it cost me both traveling back and forth to Bonsall from Del Mar. But I made the trip with a glad heart. The horses at San Luis Rey Downs were living the good life.

I work in the closes quarters of the stall. Most horses love massage and relax during the session - the ones who don't try to kill me. So it went with the feisty champion: at Del Mar, at Hollywood Park, at Belmont. I loved him. He hated me.

But at San Luis Rey it was different between us. I would rub his back and he would look out over the rolling hills, sniff the clean air, and listen to the rustle of the palm fronds, his eye soft, his hind foot cocked. It was our honeymoon.

It's been a tough time for everybody since the awful death in the Matriarch. In the names of the horses we love, let's cut them and ourselves a break and figure out a way to keep this haven for them going. It won't be a sea change, but it will be a step in the right direction. There's even a swimming pool.

Gail Matthews - Oregon House, Calif

Theory on riding strategy an outmoded notion

In his Dec. 16 preview of the F. W. Gaudin Memorial Handicap at Fair Grounds, "Old foes Bonapaw and Abajo square off in Gaudin," Marcus Hersh wrote that Abajo had a better post position than Bonapaw because he was outside him in the starting gate and his rider, Donnie Meche, would be able to "break and evaluate Bonapaw's position."

The idea is romantic, but horse races are decided by horses, not jockeys, and jockeys know it. Meche would have ridden Abajo the same no matter what Bonapaw did.

Joe Colville - Torrance, Calif.