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Letters to the Editor
Stewards' logic shouldn't wait to be explained
I applaud Arlington Park stewards Eddie Arroyo, John Lindeman, and Pete Kosiba. In their Aug. 31 letter, "Stewards speak out over Million DQ," finally, someone in Thoroughbred racing elected to stand up and explain a difficult disqualification.
For many years I wrote of the archaic ways turf writers in California use to explain stewards' actions. Having reviewed thousands of races, I feel I bring a qualified opinion to the table.
Why should track announcers be required to explain any action of the well-paid stewards? When Storming Home swerved out nearing the wire in the Million, I knew it was a difficult call. The horseplayer deserved and got an explanation on the Racing Form letters page last week.
Horse racing needs to take this sort of action to the next level. The reasons are many. For one, skepticism still exists following the Breeders' Cup pick six scam. Final post-time odds continue to change as a race is run despite the claims of tote companies. It is time for the stewards to step forward. The public needs to know these people and why they make decisions.
Wouldn't it make sense to post how the stewards voted on each incident on the infield tote board? Put a microphone in the stewards' booth. Have a steward explain each decision. No excuses. The referee in football explains each call. We know who made the call in basketball, baseball, and tennis. Why does horse racing refuse to upgrade procedure?
Are patrol judges a costly anachronism?
After all the questionable disqualifications via stewards' decisions recently, I brought out some old programs from various tracks around the country to peruse the lists of stewards. I noticed a listing in every program for patrol judges. I remembered how they dutifully climb their towers in rain or shine with their binoculars and keep an eye on things like the backstretch, around the turns, and such.
I have never heard of these judges being consulted for any adverse decision the stewards have made. Nor have I ever heard an interview with a patrol judge backing up a stewards decision.
Some of the last names of patrol judges are the same as management staff members at various tracks, leading me to believe they are sons or daughters of some big shots running the track. I think the day of the patrol judge is over, as they don't serve any useful purpose anymore with the use of various video camera angles during the running of races. Since stewards make their decisions based on videotape and interviews with jockeys, what's the need for patrol judges anyway? Perhaps here's a place for tracks to cut overhead.
Medaglia d'Oro wasn't beaten by a bounce
In the current Watchmaker Watch and in comments regarding the Breeders' Cup future bet, Mike Watchmaker claims that Medaglia d'Oro "bounced" off his Whitney effort when he lost to Candy Ride in the Pacific Classic. This is absolutely ridiculous. Medaglia d'Oro's Beyer Speed Figure for the Whitney was a 114, his Beyer Figure for the Pacific Classic 118 - just 2 points below his lifetime best. Further, Candy Ride set a track record the for 1 1/4 miles at Del Mar, and figuring Medaglia d'Oro's time, he clocked in at just about 2:00 flat - and was given a track speed figure of 101 with a variant of 2. So, he ran 1 1/4 miles at Del Mar faster than any other horse (besides Candy Ride) in the last three years, came within 2 points of his personal-best Beyer, and still bounced? Wrong - he just got beaten by a better horse.
Muniz remembered as racing's good friend
The racing industry lost one of its greatest ambassadors with the passing of Mervin Muniz in New Orleans.
For parts of five decades at Fair Grounds, the gregarious Muniz greeted visitors, dignitaries, horsemen, and friends as only a quintessential New Orleanian could.
Whether you were part of "Mervin's Army" of politicians, influential retired law enforcement officials, and nationally known horsemen, or a local horseman with just one broken-down nag, Muniz was always ready to help, advise, or just plain chitchat.
His optimism was infectious. His enthusiasm was catching. His loyalty to his friends was unmatched.
I will always consider the 14 seasons I spent at the Fair Grounds working with Muniz in some capacity as a lesson on how a major racing official interacts with others. No one was a better racing official, a finer spokesman for racing, or, more significantly, a better friend than Mervin Muniz. He represented all that is right with Thoroughbred racing and all that is to be admired in a friend.
Des Moines, Iowa
NYRA's finances need further accounting
The spin starts here, I thought after reading Steven Crist's Aug. 10 column, "NYRA tempest mostly hot air," on the federal investigation into the New York Racing Association. There are other issues besides tax evasion by mutuel clerks. What about the retirement and consulting fees paid to former high-ranking executives at NYRA? What about the redistribution of funds from the horsemen's purses? What about payments to the state's Capital Improvement Fund? These are other serious concerns about the operation of NYRA.
When a Las Vegas casino puts a hold on dealings with NYRA ("Slots parlor at Aqueduct on hold, NYRA says," Aug. 10), and the top brass at NYRA offer to pay a fine to stave off further public scrutiny ("NYRA meets with feds, tries to avoid indictments," Aug. 6), I begin to think there indeed may be something more to this than meets the eye. By the way, where would the money come from to pay the proposed fine? Maybe the horsemen's purse account?
Summer fare won't sustain game
No matter how many millions of dollars it has brought in at the box office, and no matter how much anyone involved in horse racing may wish it so, the film "Seabiscuit" is not going to resurrect horse racing.
First of all, the story is something that occurred more than 60 years ago. Secondly, it concerned two great racehorses: Seabiscuit and War Admiral, the upset of War Admiral by Seabiscuit in their famous match race in 1938, and Seabiscuit's victory in the Santa Anita Handicap of 1940. The excitement that was generated over these races would be difficult to reproduce in today's racing.
The Woodward Stakes of 1967, for example, featured three great ones: Dr. Fager, Buckpasser, and Damascus. In 1978, the Triple Crown races between Affirmed and Alydar, in my opinion, constituted a last curtain call to great racing with great racehorses. This doesn't mean there have been some exceptions in years since, but very few.
Today's main problem concerns the reduced racing longevity of many of today's top racehorses. Fans can count themselves lucky to see most of them race as many as 20 times before their careers are over.
In comparison, Seabiscuit raced 89 times. Another great race horse, Exterminator, started in 100 races, and the unbelievable Imp raced 171 times. As the saying goes: That was then, and this is now. No movie can turn back time.