01/30/2004 12:00AM

Letters to the Editor

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Eclipse voters get it right on Funny Cide

Three cheers for Funny Cide, and several more for sanity. In an age of "what have you done for us lately," the Eclipse voters exercised common sense and fairness to bestow 3-year-old honors on the proper horse ("Funny Cide remains people's choice," Jan 29).

In what other sport would there have been a question? In baseball, if you lead the league in wins and strikeouts, would you fail to receive the Cy Young Award? In golf, if you win both the Masters and U.S. Open, isn't it a safe bet that you will be named Player of the Year?

Funny Cide deserves all the respect that was granted to him on Monday night, despite the ramblings of journalists, trainers who each year have a new "greatest horse I've ever trained," and owners who are more concerned with the breeding dollar than the integrity of the sport.

As an owner and fan of this great sport, I found the lobbying for Empire Maker to be lacking. Empire Maker was a nice racehorse. He failed in America's biggest race, skipped a chance to redeem himself, then took advantage of a tired champion and a track he was bred to love. Add it all up and what do you get: Funny Cide, Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, deserving 3-year-old champion.

Anthony Perrotta
Colts Neck, N.J.

Can Azeri's reign endure another year on the track?

It was good to see Azeri repeat as older mare for the Eclipse Award (Jan. 28). It was a shame that Michael Paulson could not see his way clear to have Laura de Seroux present at the ceremony.

I was sad when Azeri was retired because of her tendon injury, but I was happy she was going to go out a champion. I felt comfortable that de Seroux had the best interests of the horse in mind when she passed on the Breeders' Cup. Then Paulson took the rest of his horses away from de Seroux. That was his right, but it was just not classy how he did it. Then the bolt of lightning: The queen of American turf would be returned to training - her tendon presumably healed by some sort of magic - and sent to the barn of D. Wayne Lukas. At first I was happy the queen was back, but the more I thought, the madder I got. Why risk her reputation? Why risk her health? What does she have to prove?

I hope Azeri is up for the task in this nearly no-win situation. I hope that Lukas will do the right thing by the horse if she can't handle the weight. In any event: All hail Azeri - she will always be the queen.

Merrill Howe
Robbinsville, N.J.

Some choices border on farce

I have a few thoughts on the Eclipse voting:

Weren't Funny Cide and Empire Maker enough options in the 3-year-old male division?

Ghostzapper: three votes. Let's make those voters disappear.

Some voters apparently write in the names of the Breeders' Cup winners and return to their crossword puzzles.

If Michael Gill's veterinarian had not sawed off that horse's leg, would Gill would have received 25 percent more votes?

Who were the four brave souls who voted for Praise the Prince? Such independent thinkers.

It's obvious that some voters vote a la the European classifications and assign their top Eclipse choice in a given division by the one performance that they perceive to be the best of the year. How else do you explain votes for Tapit, Ruler's Court, Lady Tak, Candy Ride (in the Horse of the Year category!), Balto Star, Ipi Tombe, and Falbrav?

Tell me I'm not the only person who is shocked that Seabiscuit's name did not appear in the voting.

How many Eclipse Award voters voted for Gary Coleman for governor of California?

Chris Munster
Islip, N.Y.

Veterinarian's group off the mark on slaughter

As many horsemen are aware, HR 857, the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, currently has the sponsorship of 170 members of the House of Representatives who uphold the belief that horses should not be slaughtered and consumed for food.

Remarkably, there is one influential group within the horse industry that is mobilizing to defeat this bill. In spite of the endorsement of law enforcement, horsemen's groups, and many important organizations that serve the racing and breeding industries, the American Association of Equine Practitioners is attempting to obstruct the passage of this landmark humane legislation.

Recently, the AAEP issued a position paper calling the slaughter of unwanted horses "a necessary aspect of the equine industry," without which there would be too many horses for rescue and retirement groups, and scores of neglected horses.

This simplistic reasoning is a blatant contradiction of fact. In California, where we have enjoyed freedom from horse slaughter since 1998, no loads of horses have been impounded and given to rescue groups. Likewise, there has been no increase in humane complaints.

The roughly 50,000 horses slaughtered in the United States in each of the last two years is an all-time low, and represents less than one-sixth of the 360,000 horses who lost their lives to the killers each year in the late 1980's. Foal crops have remained constant during the last decade, and humane complaints nationally have not increased. So where are all the neglected horses?

It would appear that the AAEP is grossly out of touch with the ethics and belief systems of their clients regarding acceptable means of rendering death to aged and infirm horses. Slaughter is not humane. It has always involved wanton disregard for the suffering of horses least able to withstand the ordeal. No one could responsibly suggest that all unwanted horses be kept in sanctuaries, but their deaths should be by lethal injection, without stress and suffering.

It is essential that all of us who want the disgrace of horse slaughter to leave our shores forever - and to secure a humane quality of life and death for our equine friends - contact our representatives in Congress to urge them to stand up for our values.

Priscilla Clark, Tranquility Farm
Tehachapi, Calif.

Restrictive policies depressing for sport

I just heard last week from PhoneBet at Philadelphia Park that it won't take my wager from New York on Gulfstream or Santa Anita, but if I were sitting in Philadelphia Park they would take it. They said Magna Entertainment told them not to take bets from outside the state.

Now that is really going to improve the state of racing in the United States. While the industries to think up ways to increase wagering, Magna thinks up ways to decrease wagering.

Let Magna continue to keep Gulfstream and Santa Anita off the Television Games Network schedule. It's a good thing to make so many racing fans angry at it.

Alan Hirsch
Port Washington, N.Y.

Magna operating on half-baked ideas

Regarding "Purse cut appears imminent" at Santa Anita (Jan. 25):

Magna Entertainment, owner of Santa Anita, has pulled the signal from many account wagering services; the local Fox TV outlet no longer shows two races a day; a local radio station has dropped stretch calls; and Magna has otherwise curtailed customer services. Is it any wonder that handle is down and purses need to be cut?

If you are a bakery and you stop sending your bread to the grocery stores, you can expect substantial revenue losses. Duh!

Bill Tomasic
Chino, Calif.