02/06/2004 1:00AM

Letters to the Editor


Let's follow up owner's claim on his success

I read Steven Crist's take on Michael Gill's being defeated in the Eclipse Award voting for top owner ("Of the losers, only Gill has legit gripe," Jan. 31), and I have a suggestion.

Gill has attributed his success in part to two factors. First, his shrewdness in claiming horses and placing them in races. Second, the fact that almost every horse he claims has a surgical procedure that opens the airway and improves his or her performance. What has not been discussed, in any forum I have seen, is whether or not there is any way to test Gill's claim. I believe that there is.

Why not research the performances of horses claimed away from Gill? If his medical explanation holds water, isn't it logical to assume that any competent trainer should experience the same level of success with a given horse that Gill and his trainers have had? On the other hand, if there is a marked falling-off in performance in a large sampling of horses who have left Gill's barns, that just might give some credence to those of us who believe that Gill relies on something else for an edge.

Alan Hawthorne
Port Arthur, Texas

Sport can lure new fans going by the numbers

I have been a Thoroughbred racing fan for 50 years, and I am concerned about the future of horse racing. Attendance is declining and competition for the gambling dollar is ever-increasing. As I approach retirement, I want to be able to enjoy many years of racing and the challenge of solving the handicapping puzzles.

One letter to the Racing Form, "A fan's pockets are empty before he hits the windows" (Dec. 28), complained that the cost of a day at the races keeps new fans away. I disagree. When I was a child, the cost of a basic win wager was $2, the same as it is today. No other entertainment industry can make a claim like that. You can still enjoy a day at the races, including parking, entry, program, and nine $1 wagers for about $20.

In any event, the casual racing fan is not the savior of Thoroughbred racing. Racing needs to draw fans every day, and those fans need to gamble. Each year the marketing geniuses come up with another way to draw younger fans to the track. They give them free T-shirts, concerts, calendars, bobblehead dolls, and on and on. We all know what this strategy provides: a few more people betting a few more dollars for one day who never come back.

With all due respect to the sport I love, forget telling people about the excitement of racing, the beauty of the racehorse, or the chase for the Triple Crown. Tell people they can win $100,000 each day by picking six numbers. That's right, just like the lottery. And tell them racing's "lottery" is easier to win. Make it seven races, even, to get larger carryovers, call it the Lucky 7. Make the betting slips easier to fill out. Put them in supermarkets. Put the results on the six o'clock news. Make the first leg the first race - keep it simple. And make the first leg a stakes race, not a maiden claimer for 3-year-old-and-up fillies. Keep the players alive. That's the key - once they start to get four or five correct, you have their attention. Next thing you know they're asking a racing fan friend for advice on how to handicap - bingo!

Frank DeRiso
Hicksville, N.Y.

Jumping through hoops shouldn't be part of game

What in the world is wrong with racing, the greatest game? I have played horses for more than 30 years, and now, after suffering through the growing pains of Television Games Network until its presently acceptable presentation, can not watch the best product racing has to offer, from Gulfstream Park.

If I choose to invest into Gulfstream pools I am forced to use XpressBet, owned by Gulfstream's owner, Magna Entertainment. Besides forcing me to fund two accounts, XpressBet has video that is far from from real time (Youbet runs about 45 seconds behind), causing me to be shut out since I don't have the races on live television. When I was finally able to see the Sunshine Millions races live on NBC, one turf race was into the far turn live, yet the race had not started on video.

I find the XpressBet wager format bad as well. In all my years with Youbet I have never made a wrong bet and have made several through XpressBet already.

When I lived in New York, I had to have a Connecticut OTB account because I refused to have the minimum balance that NYRA One required. When I moved to Massachusetts, I could not have the Connecticut account because of the laws back then. Then Youbet started taking Massachusetts wagers, but it was not the greatest operation back then. Now it has by far the best setup of any online wagering site, yet can not take the best racing product.

Horse racing needs to get its act together. It has a product that can be sold just like investing in the stock market online, but instead continues to shaft the many who truly support the game. The days of the horseplayer being thought of as shady figures are long gone. If you don't think so, just spend a wonderful day in August at Saratoga and see the many wonderful families enjoying the day. Those computer-savvy youths are your future fan base. But, I wonder, will racing ever truly capitalize on its potential?

Dan Pinkos
Easthampton, Mass.

Service doesn't live up to its slogan

Magna Entertainment Corp. better wake up to the fact that the product they put out with XpressBet is lacking in many areas. First of all, what is up with their catchphrase, "Anytime . . . from Anywhere"? That is far from reality. How in the world did someone actually come up that slogan, when the fact is that the members of XpressBet cannot wager "anytime."

Yesterday morning I went online to place a wager at Santa Anita. I went to the race I wanted and clicked on wager. A window popped up indicating that "We're sorry, but betting for that track is not available." I contacted the customer service line and the woman said that wagers are not accepted until thirty minutes before first post. How inept are these people running the show there?

This is only one of the problems XpressBet, and for that matter Magna Entertainment, has. With the dollars that Magna's owner, Frank Stronach, has dumped into this business, you would certainly expect more competent results.

Gregg Guiol
Laguna Niguel, Calif.

Punters need tax relief of their own

It is 2004 and there is still an outdated tax law that requires withholding tax on a wager that pays more than $600. Even in today's computer age, however, it is never taken into consideration how much of an investment it takes to gain this return.

Any bettor over 12 years old realizes that this law was written when there were single $2 tickets issued and the chance for larceny obviously outweighed the rights of the bettor.

In today's computerized society, the amount of the bet is clearly evident on the ticket, as well as stored in the computer system where the bet was made. It is ludicrous to have a wager where a bettor can actually bet more than the payout and still get taxed.

An example would be a $1 box of seven horses in a superfecta. The bet would cost $820 and the return could be $601, yet still would require filing an IRS form.

The tracks do the drill, as required by law, as do the bettors. And then come tax time, the gambling losses are claimed and the whole process nets nothing for anyone, other than a huge waste of time.

With the Handicapping Expo coming up in the near future, the time is now and way overdue to get a grass-roots movement to change this law. If you bet $2 and win $600, then go ahead and file. But if the bet is $24 and the hit is a $1 superfecta paying $601, then please, let's give the backbone of a billion-dollar industry a break and save all the wasted time.

Jim Cramer
Galloway, N.J.