03/05/2004 1:00AM

Letters to the Editor


Lack of a DQ in New Orleans seen as robbery

Anyone who watched last Sunday's New Orleans Handicap witnessed a crime. It was quite a race, but it should have been a better one ("New Orleans 'Cap roughly run from start to finish," March 3).

It is documented that shortly after the start, going into the clubhouse turn, Jerry Bailey on Peace Rules made a left turn towards the rail without having an adequate lead. By doing so, he caused Edgar Prado on Saint Liam to check sharply to prevent clipping heels with Peace Rules. This in turn caused a chain reaction that all but eliminated Sir Cherokee and the post-time favorite, Ten Most Wanted, from the race. Then, to add insult to injury, Peace Rules all but mugged Saint Liam down the length of the stretch.

Immediately following the race, the stewards posted the inquiry sign, and Prado, rightfully so, claimed foul on Peace Rules. The slow-motion replays of the race clearly illustrated to even the casual fan the infractions committed by Bailey. After what seemed like an eternity, the three blind mice of New Orleans let the finish stand. What a travesty.

The average fan wagering his or her money is right behind the eight ball from the start. He or she must overcome trainers who resurrect horses in feats not seen since Lazarus. [Offshore betting facilities cause a horse's odds to drop during the running of a race.] Illegal medications are pumped into sore animals to make them run. And, finally, stewards are either unable or unwilling to enforce the rules of racing. Is it any wonder that the Sport of Kings has become a sport dying a slow death of apathy?

The job Richard Dutrow Jr. performed in preparing Saint Liam for the race of his life was an outstanding accomplishment. It is sad that such an effort was lost at the hands of human judgment rather than a clean running of the race. I wonder, if the training and jockey assignments were reversed, what the outcome of the Battle of New Orleans might have been.

Charles E. Butler
New Castle, Del.

Power duo held sway in steward's minds

Southern California's often inept stewards are off the hook for a long, long time, after an utterly ridiculous no-change following the running of the New Orleans Handicap.

You would have an easier time trying to convince me that Jessica Simpson is actually crafty and not the complete moron she portrays on her television show than you would in convincing me that the power of Jerry Bailey and Bobby Frankel had nothing to do with the lack of a disqualification.

Marc Leufroy
Los Angeles

Scratch the surface to examine track record

I just finished reading Jay Hovdey's Feb. 25 column, "Odd couple now share record and I agree with most of his points. But this isn't a case of being "very snobby," it's about being fair and protecting the record books for the truly great ones who performed on fair surfaces.

There is no doubt that track superintendents can control and create faster surfaces that produce lighting-fast times. Since superintendents have this ability, shouldn't the industry regulate them?

For example, in bowling, lane technicians can set up oil patterns on the lanes that make it very easy for the above-average bowler to roll high scores. But whenever a perfect game is bowled or record a is broken, the achievement is subject to inspection of the lane condition by the American Bowling Congress to ensure that the feat was performed on a legal surface before it is sanctioned. For instance, when Glenn Allison bowled his perfect 900 series in 1982, the congress decided not to sanction his performance because they felt the oil patterns on the lanes were too easy. Why aren't racetrack superintendents scrutinized the same way?

I understand racing surfaces need to be sealed, creating fast surfaces, during rainy days to protect the safety of riders and horses. But does this mean any claimer or nonwinner-of-one gets to taint the record books and legacy of the truly great ones? Spectacular Bid was, as Buddy Delp said, "the best horse ever to look through a bridle," and it's a shame that he will now have to share billing with an equine athlete who at best is mediocre.

Ty Alexander
Del Mar, Calif.

Russell's special gift lasted a lifetime

From time to time, we all think back and remember critical moments that would turn out, in retrospect, to have changed our lives. One such moment came on a brisk day in early winter of 1974 when a horse van pulled up our driveway. A groom unloaded a sleek recently retired dark bay racehorse named Dr. Fakoury and handed me the lead rope.

The van and horse were headed south from Belmont Park and had detoured on the instructions of trainer John Russell. After attempts to rehabilitate Dr. Fakoury into a lead pony failed, John, a family friend, agreed with my father that I could give him a good home.

The first few days contained no sentimental "Black Stallion" moments. Far from it. But after I got kicked and dragged around the yard a few times, that old horse and I eventually developed a mutual respect and devotion to each other.

I was born to a racing family and had been surrounded by racing lore for much of my life. Until I first set eyes on Dr. Fakoury, though, I could just as easily have followed any number of paths 13-year-olds often consider, such as science, sports, watching television all day, and so on.

But Dr. Fakoury changed that, and I have John Russell to thank.

I'd ride him up and down the back roads and soybean fields of our little town in central New Jersey, and in so doing, I learned about responsibility, about care, about missing family outings because someone had to feed the horse.

Eventually, a case of fistulous withers that had turned cancerous forced me to make the dreaded decision to have Dr. Fakoury put down. Like every kid who grew up with animals they cared for, I never really got over it. But I was hooked on horses and the world of racing.

Then, a year ago I think it was, John and I sat down at a fund-raiser to discuss how racing could better promote the horse adoption and retirement programs which had become his passion. I reminded him about Dr. Fakoury and how one simple gesture - a trainer finding a good home for a horse - could have such a ripple effect.

We promised to get together again and put our ideas to paper. But John's time ran out.

Perhaps some day, my son, too, will feel that chill of excitement as his own horse is being led up the driveway toward him. And, if so, somewhere, John Russell will be smiling.

Remi Bellocq, Executive Director, National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Agency

O'Connell leaves behind friends forever

Thank you for noting the passing of trainer Richie O'Connell (March 3). I was a friend of his for more than 20 years, and while Richie battled his own demons, he never gave up caring about his horses and his friends. Rich was the type of friend who did things for you, big and small, and never considered what he might receive in return. Helping you out was all that mattered to him.

His horses were his whole life. You could always find him at the track - mostly at the barn and on the frontside during the races. Our industry has lost a great horseman and individual. Richie O'Connell will be missed.

Andy Aaron
Great Neck, N.Y