09/18/2003 11:00PM

Letters to the Editor


Match race had far more fans than detractors

I would like to respond to a letter in the Sept. 14 Racing Form, "Del Mar match a sorry spectacle."

First and foremost, I believe that both Chester's Choice, whom I train, and Woke Up Dreamin, trained by Bob Baffert, went into the race in top form and came out of the race terrifically. Both horses showed true grit and determination in what became a true match race. Also, the jockeys performed with the athleticism and professionalism they both possess.

Luckily, the writer of the Sept. 14 letter is in the minority in his opinion. I can't begin to count the number of fans and peers who expressed how exciting and enjoyable the race was.

As far as doing what was best for my horse, I take pride in the fact that the physical and mental well-being of my horses will always come first.

Racing needs both new fans who are truly appreciative of the horses' performances and new ideas to promote our sport. What we don't need is someone who criticizes an event that everyone else enjoyed.

Summer Mayberry
Azusa, Calif.

Breeders' Cup Classic right spot for Perfect Drift

Can you believe trainer Murray Johnson? He is not going to the Breeders' Cup with the 4-year-old Perfect Drift, who just totally embarrassed Congaree at his own game, nine furlongs, in the Kentucky Cup Classic ("Drift belongs in BC," "Hawthorne next for Perfect Drift," Sept. 17).

Perfect Drift just showed us that his Stephen Foster victory, a Grade 1, was no fluke, when he beat Mineshaft by a measured head. I wonder where Mineshaft will be on Oct. 25, Breeders' Cup Day?

You would think Johnson would know by now that it's hard to keep these animals right. Perfect Drift has never been better. The time is now!

Kim Willman
Grand Island, Neb.

Bettors shouldn't bear insurance burden

I find it ridiculous that horsemen in California want the state to take care of their business by appropriating a larger takeout from exotic paramutuel pools to fund workers' compensation insurance ("Failed comp bill likely top see life next year," Sept 19).

The idea that the trainers need this is absurd. When I was a licensed owner in Texas and Oklahoma, I was required to maintain a balance in my horseman's account to take care of jockey fees per mount. I had to pay the trainer a daily fee for care, feeding, and training.

If my horse earned a check, I paid not only the standard horseman and rider fees but, in addition, 10 percent of what the horse won.

Most of the jockeys, for tax purposes, are self-employed. I too am self employed. I made the choice to be self-employed and to be in the business that I am. Why should the bettors be responsible for these self-employed jockeys? I don't have a benevolent fund to help if I get seriously injured and die. I don't have a union to back me.

Something is very wrong with the system, and it needs to be repaired.

No one has ever promoted the idea that the state is in the business of gambling and will cover the losses of participants. If the people involved can't afford to pay, then they

shouldn't play.

As the takeout-increase proposal shows once again, the people who lose every time someone cries are the betting public.

Ed Phillips
Bakersfield, Calif.

Punishment not adequate in mare's cruel death

I read with disgust the Sept. 8 article "No contest plea in mare's death," regarding the charges laid in connection with the death of a 24-year-old mare, Gentle Song. This mare was the unfortunate victim of a random, callous act of torture. For the 13-year-old who kept the mare as her pet and for others in her household, it must have felt as if a member of the family had been murdered.

What is most appalling is that the offenders risk no more than three years' imprisonment for their savage killing of Gentle Song. Those whose efforts led to the capture of these men should be commended for their efforts and perseverance.

Stricter animal protection laws with harsher sentences are needed, however, to ensure that such efforts do not simply lead to nothing more than a slap on the wrists for the perpetrators.

Adam Mauntah
Richmond Hill, Ontario

End easy-money fields by altering purse splits

California horse racing continues its downhill slide, with the just-ended Del Mar season being one of its worst.

I have come to the conclusion that these tracks (Santa Anita, Hollywood Park, Del Mar, and, especially, the Bay Area tracks) have so many short fields simply because that is the way track management wants it, in order to pander to horsemen who know that the fewer horses in a race the better the chance of snagging at least a minor share of the purse.

Maybe the answer is setting the purse allotment according to the size of the fields (for example, purse money for only first, second, and third in races with fewer than nine entries). Of course horsemen would rebel, but I say let 'em, as no racing would be not much worse than Southern California has now.

Daniel Olivier
Bullhead City, Ariz.

Not enough to go around in today's daily diet

How sad. No, make that pathetic. Whatever became of the sport, Thoroughbred racing, I so loved? I have the answer in a single word: Simulcasting. It was racing's definitive death knell. Give parasites a chance to cash in on each other's action, and they thought they had died and gone straight to heaven.

The simple fact is that there are just not enough horses to go around. Year-round racing has killed the game. Today's slow, over-medicated, non-competitive animals are hardly racehorses.

Just go to any offtrack betting location (as going to a racetrack for an exciting day went the way of the Nehru jacket) and observe the "action."

You'll see six-furlong races that go in 1:13 and change, and frequently it will be 30 to 40 lengths between first and last. Hey, if an animal can't go three-quarters of a mile in 1:13 and be competitive, then, he is not a racehorse.

You will also see a horse loose on the lead after going a half-mile in 50 seconds and change. Huh?

Personally, I only go on the big days - The Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup. That's it. The rest is mindless fodder for degenerates who have to bet - on anything.

William Gates
Mt. Laurel, N.J.

Poet finds her place in winner's circle

I greatly appreciated that Stan Bergstein spotlighted Norah Pollard Christianson's poetry about her father, Red Pollard, in his July 31 column, "A jockey, a legend - a father," and again in the Aug. 12 "By request, a poetry encore." I am an English professor, poet, and lover of the races stuck in a simulcast state, so I got a real kick out of the poems.

I have always maintained the races are the most aesthetic of athletic events, and though the poems focused at times on off track happenings, Christianson nailed the spirit of the racetrack.

Lee Kruger
Valley City, N.D.