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Letters to the editor
Horsemen must reconsider drug mindset
The sheer greed and stupidity of many riders, trainers, and owners is most apparent when there is a discussion regarding performance-enhancing medications or devices.
Steven Crist's Dec. 17 column, "Drug use? Horsemen know," made the case that medication tampering is responsible for all sorts of cheating at the racetrack. His case was based on testimony from trainers and owners who believe this to be the case. While I'm sure that he's right, so far as most horsemen believe this to be true, the theory - namely that performances are truly being enhanced through medications - is most emphatically not occurring on a large scale.
As an owner and breeder, the reason I make this argument is that of all the supplements, concoctions, and pharmaceuticals out there, there are very, very few that physiologically might cause a horse to run faster. Morphine (and its various compounds), amphetamines (and their derivatives), cocaine, short-acting steroids, bicarbonates (milkshaking) - among many other suspicious candidates - have not been proven to improve performance. There is substantial belief, based on their mode of action, that they could never be proven to enhance performance. In fact, many of these potential culprits would actually cause a horse to run to less than his ability.
EPO (erythropoietin, a blood-enhancing hormone) is one agent that in theory could enhance performance, but its usage in equines would be prohibitively expensive, and its safety profile in equines renders it especially dangerous (compared to human usage).
The reality, unfortunately, is that there are so many horsemen out there who believe that all their compatriots are cheating, and cheating successfully, that they feel compelled to use different agents in an attempt to move their horses up.
I would maintain that the dissemination of better information through science, rather than canvassing horsemen as to their beliefs, is the path that we need to pursue to emerge from the dark ages of racetrack mythology.
Alan D. Furst New Vernon, N.J.
Ranking of stakes needs re-grading
In his Dec. 2 column, "Parlez-vous horse racing?" Jay Hovdey noted the flaws in the graded stakes system, using Scorpion, the winner of the only Grade 1 running of the Jim Dandy at Saratoga as an example. Hovdey is absolutely right about the flaws, and this is something that for some time has needed examination.
In recent years too many races that really are intended to be preps for "more important" (usually Grade 1) events in many instances have wound up Grade 1's themselves, and the one-time-only Grade 1 Jim Dandy sticks out. Perhaps its time for a major overhaul of the graded stakes system, going from three grades to four in the following manner:
Grade 1 events would be the truly important races, major days in the sport (Breeders' Cup, Triple Crown events, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Haskell, Travers, Hollywood Gold Cup, Santa Anita Handicap, Arlington Million, etc.)
Grade 2 events would be mainly races that under the current system are Grade 1 (Woodward, Man o' War, Fountain of Youth, Hollywood Turf Cup) but in reality are preps for much bigger prizes, along with a handful of current Grade 2 events (Jim Dandy, Spiral, Lexington at Keeneland, Californian, etc., plus some other Grade 2's like the Suburban and Brooklyn Handicaps and San Francisco Mile.
Grade 3 events would be mainly current Grade 2 races (Dwyer, Genuine Risk, Arcadia Handicap, San Bernardino, etc.), plus a handful of current Grade 3 events.
Grade 4 events would be mainly races currently Grade 3, plus a number of events that currently are not graded or (in the case of the Stymie Handicap at Aqueduct, for example) are about to lose their graded status.
There should also be some rule adjustments in regard to purses for a new graded stakes system as well:
Grade 1 events, under the new rules, would be required to carry a purse of at least $500,000 in added money ($500,000 plus all fees), with all Grade 1's (other than the Breeders' Cup races) required to be added-money, not guaranteed-money, race.
Grade 2 events would be required to carry a purse of at least $250,000 in added money (and again, this must be in addition to fees and not the total purse).
Grade 3 events would be required to carry a purse of at least $125,000 in added money, while Grade 4 events must carry a purse of at least $60,000 in added money and a minimum total purse of $75,000.
The additional grade probably would serve its greatest purpose in separating truly Grade 1 events from races that, while important, are merely preps for what are widely considered more important races.
Walter Parker, Philadelphia
Donation to 9/11 fund a championship move
The opening ceremony at the World Thoroughbred Championships and the tribute to the victims of Sept. 11 were moving and brought out emotions rarely felt at a race track.
The high level of security that afternoon at Belmont Park, while at first sight disconcerting (e.g.: sharpshooters on the rooftops), made my family and friends feel secure. It was an important day, both for our city and the racing community.
I have watched and wagered on every Breeders' Cup Day and I thought the quality level of racing this year was incredible , probably one of the best cards in Breeders' Cup history, thanks in great part to the heightened foreign competition.
My only objection was to the chutzpah of charging $10 for general admission and an additional $15 for preferred parking.
At least Breeders' Cup management, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, and the New York Racing Association got together to do the right thing and donated millions to assist those hit hardest by the events of Sept. 11 ("NTRA hands out $2.25M to charity for 9/11 causes," Dec. 1). It's fitting that those aided included coworkers of those who protected the fans on Cup Day. At the very least, the donation might make the fans who attended this glorious racing event feel there was a logical reason for such pricing.
Gary Zweifach, West New York, N.J.
Maryland's old guard loses a stalwart
Maryland racing recently lost one of its oldest active trainers when Ernest "Chico" Green died on Dec 8. He was 91 years old and had trained horses for more than 50 years. In fact, he won a race a month and a half before his passing.
Green trained horses for numerous Maryland owners of note, such as Donelson Christmas, Lindsey Redding, Louie Horowitz, and many others over the years.
The Maryland Jockey Club honored Green by naming a race after him approximately a month before his death.
Green worked alongside his father on the Holly Beach farm in Annapolis, Md., owned by Sylvester Labrot, one of racing's renowned breeders. Much of the Green family was involved in racing. His brother Richard exercised the 1961 Belmont Stakes winner, Sherluck, renowned as the top stayer of his generation. Another brother, Wayman, galloped the 1963 turf champion, Mongo, who won the Washington D.C. International that year, defeating the great Kelso.
Green is survived by his wife, Carrie, a daughter, Sue, and two grandchildren.
Ernest Green was buried on Dec. 13 in the cemetery of Asbury United Methodist Church in Annapolis. All in Maryland's racing community are lessened a bit by the passing of this astute and beloved horseman.
Howard "Gelo" Hall, Patrol judge, Maryland Jockey Club