02/13/2004 12:00AM

Letters to the Editor

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A rider's death must hit home for all in racing

I don't care if your participation is in the breeding shed, the sales ring, or on the racetrack. If you are a part of this business, ultimately you are beholden to many brave athletes: the jockeys, the men and women who grab the reins and dive for the holes and drive to the finish every day of the year.

These horses don't cross the wire of their own volition, and most of us address the jockey situation only when a hole closes up or a riding infraction costs us some money. I am an offender in this respect, and you can be sure the betting public, on an hourly basis, curses these folks with wild abandon.

Mike Rowland and several other jockeys, on a bitter-cold night at Turfway Park, a track far from the fashionable sunshine circuit, did not escape unscathed when a breakdown occurred, and the heartbreaking scenario that played out will deeply affect many industry participants who were on hand - for life, no doubt.

Just shy of his 4,000th victory, Rowland lost his life as a result of a severe brain injury. A father, a husband, an athlete - he is a champion for so many who never gave him a moment's credit for the incredible danger he subjected himself to every time he took to the track.

Everyone in the horse business should think about the good things that have happened to them. Was that blessing in any way, shape, or form related to a jockey giving his or her all to get home the fastest? Did that yearling sell for a huge windfall because, since you bought it as a weanling its half-brother became a graded stakes performer? How did it get there - who brought that horse home first?

We all have an obligation here, and we all need to take the time to realize how terribly unappreciated these riders are and how terribly wrong things can go - but mostly don't, because of their split-second reactions, steadfast nerves, and unbelievable athletic ability.

The Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association has established a fund to benefit the family Mike Rowland left behind (HBPA at 422 Heywood Ave. in Louisville, Ky., 40208).

I urge all to give. Give a percentage of your earnings, commissions, profits, whatever, but by all means give. A family needs the support, and an entire profession has earned it.

Amy Bondon Peltz
Citra, Fla.

Account of trainer's death took the story too far

In the In Brief section on Feb. 12, the Racing Form reported the death of trainer Chris Bukowiecki. I did not know him, but I feel that the reported details of his suicide were unnecessary. Other news sources, when reporting such deaths, do not go into that level of graphic detail.

The article stated that he left three children. One does not know how they want to remember their father or how they are dealing with their loss, but it is not the place of the press to etch a final picture in their minds.

Elliot M. Bercovitz
Chicago