10/02/2003 11:00PM

Letters to the Editor


A fan decries owner's gripes over Azeri's loss

Last Sunday, I was at Santa Anita when Azeri's 11-race win streak regrettably came to an end when that magnificent mare was beaten by Got Koko. According to what I have read in the Racing Form and the local papers, Michael Paulson, manager of the Allen Paulson LIving Trust that owns Azeri, has not stopped moaning and whining since Azeri crossed the finish line third.

Paulson blamed Mike Smith's ride ("Got Koko upsets Azeri in Lady's Secret," www.drf.com, Sept. 28). In the Los Angeles Times, he blamed his trainer, Laura de Seroux, for running Azeri in the wrong race (apparently, he preferred the Whitney, 3,000 miles away against males instead of remaining at her home base and running on her favorite track against her own sex).

I have the following advice for Paulson:

1. Stop whining and blaming the two professionals most intimately involved with and knowledgeable about his superstar equine. Smith, a Hall of Fame jockey, and de Seroux, a disciple and former employee of the great Charlie Whittingham and a terrific trainer in her own right, know tons more about this horse than Paulson could ever hope to know.

If he trusted them to garner 14 victories with Azeri and millions of dollars in purses for him, making Azeri's value astronomical, how dare he blame them after only her first loss in 12 races and only her second loss out of 16 starts. Let me try to understand the thinking: The jockey and the trainer were good enough to get 14 wins with Azeri, but it is their fault she missed number 15. Huh?

2. Enjoy your mare and accept that she got beaten. Have a little perspective, okay?

3. Thoroughbreds are not machines. Even the greatest horses lose occasionally: Secretariat, Spectacular Bid, Affirmed, and Cigar. Azeri had a bad day - she broke slowly and was stuck wide almost the entire way around the track. As highweight, she gave 10 pounds to Got Koko, a great mare in her own right. It was not Azeri's day - nothing more, nothing less. At equal weights, in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, I'll take Azeri to romp.

The bottom line: Besides the fact Paulson owes his jockey and trainer an apology, he owes an apology to racing's most loyal fans, who love this dying sport and apparently enjoy Azeri's beauty, grace, and determination more than he did.

Bob Adelman
Encino, Calif.

NYRA must concede to a higher power

Although it took the threat of a federal indictment to spur them, finally, into action, the New York Racing Association's board of trustees should be applauded for the recently announced reorganization of its management structure ("Meyocks out as part of NYRA shake-up," Oct 2).

While the resignation of Terry Meyocks was unfortunate, it was a necessary step that had to be taken if NYRA is to survive as an ongoing institution. New York State's attorney general, Elliot Spitzer and its comptroller, Alan Hevesi, both wield significant power over NYRA. When they say "jump" (or in this case, "replace Meyocks"), the only answer from the NYRA board should be "how high?"

Even if the allegations levied against NYRA by Spitzer and Hevesi are unjustified, those two officials hold all the cards in this game of political brinkmanship. Rather than wasting its time and money refuting Spitzer's and Hevesi's allegations, as it did this summer, NYRA should negotiate a reasonable settlement that requires it to comply with the remainder of the recommendations contained the in Spitzer and Hevesi reports - the sooner the better.

Van Cushny
Locust Valley, N.Y.

Future bet needs sweetener in event of scratches

After Candy Ride's awesome performance in the Pacific Classic, bettors hammered him down to the 7-2 favorite in the second round of the future bet for the Breeders' Cup Classic, despite the need for a huge supplement for him to run. But the week before last, his trainer announced the horse needs time off for his feet to grow and would not be running ("Oak Tree full of stars: Candy Ride one notable absentee," Sept. 24).

Forgotten in the coverage of this event were the thousands of dollars lost by gamblers who had backed Candy Ride in the future bet. Perhaps a change to consider, to stimulate interest in the Breeders' Cup future bets, would be to give gamblers whose horses scratch either (a) the field, (b) the longest shot, or (c) the post-time favorite. This way, even if your horse goes down, you still know you have a piece of something - and it might be sweet.

Eric Singer
San Francisco

Game's about running, not about hiding

I am a huge fan of Andrew Beyer's (both for his Speed Figures and writing), but I wish he had just come out and said explicitly what was implicit in his Sept. 27 column, "Give Mineshaft credit: He didn't run and hide" - that there is a significant group of horses whose connections are intent on avoiding Mineshaft.

Beyer did point out what others missed in their hand-wringing over the injury that kept Empire Maker from the Jockey Club Gold Cup: that Dynever's trainer, Christophe Clement, did not want to lose to Mineshaft at this point in the season.

Mineshaft is a monster and no one wants any part of him. For this the punters get rewarded with 1-5 on him. Yet now we find that even Mineshaft may well skip the Breeders' Cup Classic ("Mineshaft finished?" Oct. 1). and we fiddle our fingers and wonder why this industry is in trouble?

To see how a sport can be hurt by the scarcity of its top athletes, one only needs to look at boxing, where its greatest stars have figured out a way to make boatloads of money, yet face their competition only once every 18 months. It's sad.

Rick Gardner

Tagg lines are found to be wearing thin

As a New York resident, I have tried diligently to remain a Funny Cide fan, but Barclay Tagg is making it very hard for me.

Tagg grumbled and scowled when he was asked to parade Funny Cide in the Saratoga paddock in celebration of the gelding's Derby and Preakness victories ("Funny Cide walks, but will he run?" Aug. 15). Just before the Travers, when the weather seemed as if it might turn hot and humid, Funny Cide was ailing, and Empire Maker looked as if he would make the race, Tagg crabbily reeled off a trio of negatives in front of the press: "I'm not going to run him on a really, really hot day, I'm not going to run him if his blood hasn't changed, and I'd not going to run him if the race stays like it is" ("Empire Maker doubtful for Travers," www.drf.com, Aug. 21). Tagg's pessimism won out, and Funny Cide remained ill and idle on a beautiful Travers Day that also saw Empire Maker scratched.

Now, as the Breeders' Cup approaches, and trainers tiresomely jockey their horses for position in the race for Eclipse Awards, Tagg has outdone them all over the past few weeks by threatening to enter Funny Cide in any number of races, including the hallowed Indiana Derby, or to put him away for the rest of the year.

He recently topped his earlier Saratoga tirade when he declared, "I'll probably enter him in the Empire Classic, and if I don't like the post or I don't like the weather or I don't like the competition or I don't like the surface, I won't run him" ("Two choices for Funny Cide," Oct. 2).

I don't know if the power of Tagg's negative thinking will prevail once again. I do know that I'm beginning to not care where Funny Cide runs in the future.

Sam Ludu
Baldwin, N.Y.