10/16/2003 11:00PM

Letters to the Editor


Shoemaker had a great one's gift on and off track

I, like all racing fans, was terribly saddened to hear of the passing of Bill Shoemaker. I would like to share with your readers a story that shows what type of person the Shoe was.

My friend and colleague Rick Grad and I were producing a weekly Thoroughbred racing show in Chicago in the mid-1980's, and we were visiting Hollywood Park for the 1987 Breeders' Cup.

The day after the races a media breakfast was held where trophies were presented to the winning connections and videos of the races were shown. Rick and I were sitting at a small table about to have breakfast when a small, unassuming man came up to us, breakfast tray in hand, and said, "You look like two nice gentlemen. Do you mind if I join you for breakfast?"

Rick and I looked at each other and our jaws dropped open as the Shoe sat down next to us. For the next two hours, Shoe proceeded to give us his personal commentary on each race as it was being shown, including the race where Jeanne Jones, with Shoe up, inexplicably propped just before the wire, costing her the win in the Juvenile Fillies.

Shoe's facial expression barely changed as they replayed the Classic and Shoe and Ferdinand hung on by a nose over Alysheba and Chris McCarron.

As they say in the MasterCard commercial - priceless. Here was one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century, the day after one of the biggest wins of his career, who didn't have to give us the time of day, and instead he made us feel like a million bucks.

What amazed me the most about that day is that here was a man who was physically so small, yet he had enough class to fill up the entire room.

Rest in peace, Shoe, and thanks for a once-in-a-lifetime memory that this racing fan will never forget.

Robert B. Weinberg
Tustin, Calif.

Looking back, naming the best is easy

When I woke up and read about the passing of Bill Shoemaker, it was as if I had lost a family member.

When I first started going to the races in 1972 there was only one great jockey, Bill Shoemaker. He was the regular rider of my all-time favorite horse, Cougar II. I can't count the number of times I could put it all on the nose and the Shoe would get home on top.

As a 10-year-old, I saw a man named Mr. Linzie sell his shoes so he could bet the Shoe, and the Shoe won by eight that day. I had spent some time on Saturday with a racetrack friend, and we talked about jockeys of today versus the ones of the past. I told him that picking a favorite of all time would be hard - was either Shoe or the Pirate, Laffit Pincay Jr. As of Oct, 12, 2003, it became easy - the Shoe.

I can still hear Harry Henson's voice: "In the winner's circle is Cougar II, owned by Mary Jones, trained by Charlie Whittingham, and in the saddle, the world's winningest jockey, Bill Shoemaker. . . . His fifth winning ride today."

Yes, Mr. Shoemaker, you were the greatest, and you will be greatly missed.

Brian Jones
Corona, Calif.

In-home picture not as bleak as portrayed

Jay Hovdey's Oct. 4 column, "In-home bettors shortchanged," contained an inaccuracy. Californians do not need separate advance deposit wagering accounts to watch and bet on horse racing content available from Magna Entertainment and Television Games Network. In fact, Youbet.com delivers live content from both sources and offers racing enthusiasts an opportunity to wager and collect winnings at track odds.

Youbet does so under contracts that require us to pay for the content. And since other providers could do the same, the assertion that there is "a veritable OPEC of parimutuel trade" just doesn't hold oil.

Several experts in the field have corrected what a source of Hovdey's labeled "signal exclusivity," noting that it is a non-issue in the state of California. Those people agree with us - and with Alan Landsburg, a California Horse Racing Board commissioner - that widely distributed content through advance deposit wagering is good for racing because it exposes more fans to the sport and good for tracks because it draws more handle to the parimutuel pools.

Magna and TVG, and a host of independent Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse, and Standardbred tracks around the country with which we have contracts to stream live video, apparently feel the same way.

I hope that Hovdey will devote a future column to correcting the record that is as enthusiastic as the one he wrote misinforming it. In-home bettors can fully participate in the wagering experience, and they can visit our site and others to do it.

Chuck Champion, CEO
Youbet.com, Inc.

Economic reality dictates some market restriction

The Oct. 4 column by Jay Hovdey was based, in part, on a faulty premise and included inaccuracies that should be clarified.

Contrary to the column's central assertion, customers did not need to have multiple accounts to wager from home on the races he mentioned. Each of the nationally televised Breeders' Cup prep races of the Oct. 4-5 weekend was available for wagering via both Television Games Network and Youbet.com - as are the majority of major races run throughout the country during the year. In addition, Youbet.com, a licensee of TVG, accepts wagers on all California races, including those run at Magna Entertainment tracks. The same is true of America TAB's platforms, winticket.com, brisbet.com, as well as others.

TVG's television programming is available in approximately 17 million households nationwide, 6.8 million in California. This year, TVG launched nationally on DirecTV and on cable systems owned by Cox Communications and Charter Communications in several states. TVG has also experienced growth through Dish Network, Fox Sports Net, and additional Adelphia cable systems.

This year, California's account wagering handle is already approximately $200 million - putting it on pace to reach $230 million to $250 million by year's end. California racing fans are betting via account wagering because they can see the races on television.

The column ignored the fact that televised distribution of any sports or entertainment programming - be it the NFL, the Triple Crown, or your favorite sitcom - is dependent upon the distributor's ability to provide that content on an exclusive basis. TVG is no different.

To illustrate, the column mentions NBC's coverage of the Goodwood Handicap, Oak Tree Derby, Kelso, Beldame, and Frizette, ESPN's coverage of the Ancient Title Handicap, Oak Tree Mile, Spinster and Shadwell Mile, and CNBC's coverage of the Champagne, Lane's End Futurity and Norfolk Stakes, but failed to mention that those were televised on those networks on an exclusive basis.

The point is that if every network could show those races, none would - thus depriving the racing fan the enjoyment of seeing and wagering on them.

Making every simulcast signal available to every account wagering provider in a state - the untenable position put forth by California Horse Racing Board commissioner Alan Lansburg and supported by the column - is similarly flawed (in addition to being against the law). It does not recognize the reality of the marketplace or the value of the content.

John Hindman
Vice President of Communications, TVG