01/16/2004 1:00AM

Letters to the Editor


Magna actions have some fans up in arms

My head aches from my shaking it so much after reading the rationalization by a Magna Entertainment-employed executive over the depressed handle at the beginning of the Gulfstream meet. ("Magna handle takes big dip," Jan. 14). Scott Savin, Gulfstream's president, and the honchos at Magna are in denial.

Horseplayers like myself (a fan of more than 30 years) and my dad (more than 60) are disgusted with how Magna has snubbed its nose at fans in an attempt to put good online wagering services like Television Games Network and YouBet.com out of business in order to dominate that arena.

So many of my horseplayer friends and family members enjoy watching TVG. We installed satellites specifically to avail ourselves of that enjoyment. But we have had to experience blackouts of some of our (formerly) favorite racetracks and betting opportunities because Magna thinks it has a better idea in store for us.

While I did initially sign up for XpressBet, I have not used my account in over one year to return the snub. Yet week after week I get e-mails from them asking if I need help in remembering my access code.

Savin seems to be certain he knows what the fans want. Guess what? I want neither what Savin called "philosophical answers" nor wagering instructions from XpressBet. I have no intention of supporting that organization.

It is good to hear that fans have come up with a boycott of Magna (espoused at www.boycottmagna.com). Now that we have that opportunity, I am sure that the number of boycotters will grow as Magna's numbers continue to fall.

Cathy Vee
Huntington Beach, Calif.

Policy will self-destruct: Get the picture?

On the first day that Magna Entertainment made customers pay for the video of its races or forced them to open XpressBet accounts to get free video, the video was down because of technical difficulties. I was told technicians were trying to get it up and running but couldn't figure out the problem. As of 3:39 Eastern on Wednesday it had been down for at least over an hour. I even thought there was something wrong with my video player. I should have known better.

This is unbelievable. I didn't think that even Magna could be this foolish and incompetent! Can anyone say train wreck? In addition to shooting itself in the foot by barring independent account wagering services, Magna has now administered a self-inflicted body blow by not being prepared with the audio and video. How long before it sells off all of the racetracks it owns? I'd say it can't be more than a couple of years or so. Anyone else have an estimate?

I may not end up being a true boycotter, as I have set up a phone betting account with an entity other than Magna and will be able to bet on Gulfstream races while Magna receives only 3 percent of the takeout. I haven't bet on any races yet, though, especially since I couldn't get the video of today's races because of Magna's technical difficulty. And this after jumping through hoops in order to get the $4.99 video subscription service. Just unbelievable on Magna's part.

Mike Robertson
Westlake Village, Calif.

De Seroux did right by her champion

I take issue with the Jan. 11 letter "De Seroux shouldn't bite hand that feeds" and its criticism of Laura de Seroux. As a trainer, de Seroux should make her first priority the horses under her care. It seems to me that Azeri spoke very clearly when she refused to go onto the track for a workout before the Breeders' Cup ("Azeri refuses, then sizzles in workout"), Oct. 19.

Why was it that only her trainer listened? I have been a horse racing fan for only a short time, but a horse lover all of my life. I think it was commendable of de Seroux to suggest retirement for her charge. Hasn't Azeri done enough? Why not give her a chance as a broodmare? Why risk injury to such a valuable asset? If an owner is too greedy, or just misguided, it falls squarely on the trainer's shoulders to do the right thing for his or her horse. Good call, Laura!

Judith Butterfield
Bakersfield, Calif.

Don't knock the jockey for consistent results

The Jan. 11 column by Steve Klein, "Winning jockey is losing bet," advised bettors not to play horses ridden by Turfway Park's top jockey, Rafael Bejarano. No value, Klein insisted.

The column reminded me of the New Yorker watching a black bear driving a Cadillac convertible across 42nd Street who comments to his friend, "He's not that great a driver - several times he crossed the white line."

Look, Bejarano at Keeneland was a disaster. I wouldn't have bet him during that meeting if he were on Secretariat at 12-1 in a $10,000 claimer.

Suddenly, magic! He went to Ellis Park and did everything right. Riding with confidence, he found openings where there seemed to be none, his win percentage astronomical for a jockey who rarely gets a horse who deserves to be favored.

He now continues on at Turfway. So what that he was only helping his supporters to break even. Ninety percent of the people leaving a track on any day do not accomplish that.

Alas, with heavy support because he is riding so well, the return on Bejarano went down to $1.77 per $2 bet, as Klein noted. At Ellis and Turfway - with all those telephone-number winners - people are happy to cash a ticket at $5.80 with Bejarano rather than trying to guess which improbable horse will win this time.

Which jockeys give a positive return? Jerry Bailey, Pat Day, and all the other famous names? No. Day is talented, but you'd lose the Bank of England betting him all meeting - especially on short-priced favorites.

Let the people alone. Let them bet Bejarano, cash three or four tickets, and go home losing $12 after an enjoyable day. Winning is of number-one importance to me, but right behind it is enjoying myself at the races. That matters to many players.

Sanford Wagner
Knoxville, Tenn.

Georgia has a chance to revise industry standard

It will be interesting indeed to see how the legislators in Georgia treat the bill that would authorize wagering on horse racing in their state ("Parimutuel betting bill offers hope to industry," Dec. 28).

An opportunity exists to make major improvements to the way parimutuel betting is legislated. Will Georgia lawmakers follow the lead of other states, or will they thoughtfully examine racing and try tailoring a bill aimed at improving wagering?

Much has changed since the advent of simulcasting. Bettors now have the opportunity to search for races that offer the most value. They are far more sophisticated than the $2 punters of years gone by. When placing large wagers like pick sixes, they take into serious consideration how much is extracted before they play. Southern California racing has a near-stranglehold on the large pick six, in large part because it offers a lower takeout than other states.

Georgia legislators would do well to examine what mandates they place on track takeout. The state will need to rely on wagering pools to create revenue for purses, as it does not have the luxury of slot-machine revenue. Legislators will need to focus on ways of generating large pools if they are to draw enough horsemen and bettors to make racing viable. In order to accomplish this, they will need to take the lead in keeping the takeout low in order to attract players looking for value when wagering.

If Georgia were to offer a pick six with a low takeout, say 16 percent, the ripple effect would benefit all the wagering pools. Handicappers who play the pick six will also play the individual races they have previously handicapped. It may be difficult to accomplish this, though, as politicians have never been able, or are unwilling, to grasp the notion that a smaller percentage of a large number is greater than a large percentage of a smaller number.

Bruce Lallier
Conneaut Lake, Pa.