01/23/2004 1:00AM

Letters to the Editor

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Women jockeys need equality in locker rooms

The Women's Sports Foundation has a few concerns regarding the facilities afforded to female jockeys. We feel that the racing industry needs to be aware of these issues so that women riders can start receiving the equal treatment which they deserve.

We are aware that most of the racetracks' jockey rooms were constructed before the 1970's, when women were first allowed to ride races. Women's locker rooms were then built as a late addition or an afterthought. But the humiliation associated with weighing, traveling through, or accessing one's riding equipment inside a men's locker room while male counterparts change warrants consideration of updating the facilities that are provided for women riders.

In addition, many women's locker rooms are located too far away from the paddock, and valuable time between races is lost while traveling the extra distance. The convenience of adequate facilities, locations, access to communications and racing officials, and full valet services should not be vested only with male jockeys. It should be the goal of every racetrack to provide no jockey a competitive advantage.

Being treated equally is symbolic of respect for athletic ability and a commitment to fairness. When a business provides inadequate facilities to women, a strong message is sent to female jockeys about how their participation is valued.

Inadequate and deficient facilities radiate a lack of respect for the professionalism of women riders. When female participants are treated inequitably their interest and motivation for participating in horse racing will be affected.

We believe that providing a fair and equal jockeys' room with access to all facilities, equipment, and personnel - while enabling the possibility of female valets and clerks of scales - can play a part in helping to end the perpetual cycle of discrimination in sport by sending women a clear message that their competition is desired and that female athletes will receive the same consideration and respect as their male counterparts.

Dawn Riley, President
Women's Sports Foundation

Magna should speed-read a self-help manual

It is time that Magna Entertainment Corp. moves into real time. Changes need to be made, and time is of the essence, as this year's main Santa Anita meets end in April.

XpressBet's website is currently running last and losing contact with the field, as Trevor Denman might call it. Bold changes need to be made and instituted now before purse cuts are announced. (And I wouldn't be surprised if they are coming soon.) XpressBet's maximum deposit for first-time credit card users or account holders using a new card is $50. Yes, five-oh. Get real.

The best defense is a good offense. Magna must update the website. It should move to allow alternate selections in the pick six. It must increase the options for account wagering deposits. It should not make deals as it just did with rebate houses.

Last but not least, Magna should make scratch time for stakes races the same as all other races. Many bettors like to bet at early-bird venues or online before going to work. Many times they have been left holding the bag when their horse in the featured stakes race is scratched later in the day.

Racing is a customer satisfaction/service industry, and right now Magna is rated at zero. Please, somebody - Chris McCarron of Santa Anita or Frank Stronach of Magna - pick up the ball and run with it. No - not that way, the other direction.

Thomas A. Noone
Redondo Beach, Calif.

Oaklawn memories a matter of Concern

I enjoyed the Jan. 23 account of "Oaklawn's highlight reel: 100 years of racing thrills." I was dismayed, however, at the fact that one of the greatest all-time Arkansas Derby finishes was not mentioned. Instead, we read once again of a negative highlight: Valhol's 1999 disqualification because of his rider's indiscretion.

In 1994, Concern beat a pretty nice group of horses right at the wire, including Blumin Affair and Silver Goblin. Not only did he win the Arkansas Derby that year, he went on to finish second by a neck to the Horse of the Year, Holy Bull, in the Travers. He ended the year, in an imitation of his incredible closing style, by beating the Cinderella story of the year, Tabasco Cat, in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Concern's Arkansas Derby is even listed on the Oaklawn website as one of the greatest races in the history of the track. The site honors him with the video of the entire race, yet DRF mentioned him only in passing.

Let's not forget a horse (with earnings of more than $3 million) who had such an impact on horse racing that year.

Jessie Pagan Jr.
Tampa, Fla.

Sunny's Halo seems left out in the cold

Don't Canadian-breds count?

I just read "Oaklawn's highlight reel: 100 years of racing thrills" and wondered how you could barely mention the outstanding performance of Sunny's Halo at Oaklawn in 1983. The flashing chestnut colt, owned and bred by D.J. Foster, won the Rebel Handicap there, then came back to win the Arkansas Derby with flair. Sunny's Halo then went on to win the Kentucky Derby. Trainer David Cross Jr. pulled off one of the major training accomplishments of all time, winning the Derby off just two prep races, both at Oaklawn. No other Kentucky Derby winner has come out of an Arkansas Derby victory.

How could DRF overlook such an outstanding colt and such an outstanding training achievement? Seems like everyone in Arkansas has forgotten about Sunny's Halo.

Bruce Walker
Mississauga, Ontario

Futurity purse makes California look cut-rate

Did it go unnoticed to track management in Southern California that the once-$1 million Hollywood Futurity ran with five horses, two of whom had just broken their maidens, for a purse of $200,000, able to maintain the minimum purse for Grade 1 status only by the added money?

Certainly, such a dramatic decline in value is not a good sign. Now it is time for management to step up and take significant action. Otherwise, Southern California racing risks the chance of becoming Golden Gate/Bay Meadows South, or worse yet, very large and expensive simulcasting parlors.

Mark Davis
Omaha, Neb.

Pick six takeout had promo potential

I understand that by law the New York Racing Association was obligated to take its takeout commission after only one pick six race was run on Jan. 9 ("Cold cuts short Big A card," Jan. 11). Wouldn't it have been better, though, for NYRA to reinvest this money into the pool the following race day?

That would have been a terrific promotional and financial thing to do. The pool would be automatically larger, which would encourage the pick six betting public to invest even more. Think of the goodwill this would have created

The opportunity for this has passed, but in future occasions, whenever such a situation occurs, NYRA would be well served by stepping up to the plate and injecting its takeout into the pick six pool as a sign of good faith.

Michael DaCosta
Hempstead N.Y.