03/19/2004 12:00AM

Letters to the Editor

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End rebating to share wealth among all fans

It was good to read that Magna Entertainment Corp. decided to curtail rebating on its online wagering platform, XpressBet ("Magna said to halt rebates," March 17).

Now the question is, will other tracks across the country put measures into place to end rebating?

In parimutuel gambling, it's patron vs. patron. All the money paid out in winning tickets is from individual patrons. Instead of allowing any wagering hub to have a takeout differential to return to large-wager patrons, this money should be returned to every bettor through lower takeout.

All tracks across the country need to renegotiate signal distribution rights with all wagering hubs so that this excess takeout can be eliminated and returned to all who participate in this great game of horse racing. The large bettors may threaten to stop playing, but once they realize they are getting a higher return on their investment, thoughts of rebating should fade away.

David Katz
Pacific Beach, Calif.

New wagering outlets drain purse accounts

I read with interest Steven Crist's March 7 column, "A new way to bet - or cheat," about possibly suspicious betting activity involving Betfair.

This definitely concerns me as both a horseman and a fan of the game. Though Betfair will not allow accounts from the United States, there are other betting-exchange outfits that do, and I know a few people who have recently begun to bet through them.

These acquaintances of mine not only have fallen in love with the concept of laying odds on horses they think cannot win, but they also are able to often play horses at inflated odds relative to the U.S. parimutuel pools.

My biggest concern with this is not necessarily the shady possibilities involved with betting against horses, but rather that as this concept takes off, it will siphon money out of account-wagering outlets that give some money back to purses.

Jonathan Pivnick
Parsippany, N.J.

Slots push exemplifies an off-course strategy

Daily Racing Form reported on Feb. 27 that Hollywood Park was part of a drive to solicit at least 600,000 signatures from racing fans in favor of slot machines at racetracks, so that a petition could be submitted to the California state legislature ("Fan signatures solicited"). It sounded like the last desperate appeal of a condemned man.

Unfortunately, though, Hollywood management is not alone in its apparent utter failure to see a way out from Thoroughbred horse racing's plight in North America. All across the continent similar wails of dismay are emanating from racetrack executives.

But who is listening to their cries? Who really cares? And who is going to do anything about their plight?

Unfortunately, by the looks of things, nobody. Not the federal government in an election year, and certainly not the Democrats if they win. Meanwhile, the brain surgeons at the National Thoroughbred Racing Association seem more interested in moving the deck chairs around their own equine Titanic by recruiting more half-baked staff to assist their own hapless crew, seeking solace from the likes of Rudy Giuliani and his unnecessarily expensive wagering-security report, and also hiring former New York Racing Association bureaucrat Terry Meyocks, to try and fathom why all of their initiatives (mystery vouchers, the Seabiscuit movie, futures betting, etc.) have run aground.

Talk about the blind leading the blind. This is a ridiculous waste of time and money.

The good ship Horse Racing (North American Fleet) is in much tempest, not because it's boring and no longer provides excitement and entertainment, but because it is crewed by fools who have no idea how to steer it to calm waters.

So a mutiny or at least a complete crew change is needed immediately, because there would appear to be nothing promising on the horizon. And, by the looks of things, the current course that has been charted by the NTRA is bound for the rocks - probably sooner, rather than later.

Robin Dawson
Toronto

Imagined riches may well turn to fool's gold

The Faustian bargain that the racing industry is making with the devil is this: Take the infusion of money promised by slots now, knowing that in so doing the horses will forever need the slots much more than the slots need the horses. In fact, knowing that once they get in the door the slots won't need the horses at all.

I don't think one has to be a world-class chess player to project a few moves ahead and see that the introduction of slot machines, no matter how many triple cherries are appearing now, spins nothing but lemons and sour grapes for the long term future of live racing in most jurisdictions.

Once racetrack management MBA's start looking out their windows at all the valuable real estate and start fooling around with their cost-benefit analyses, live racing is not going to make very much sense to their bottom line. And that percentage of the slot revenue that is now going to purses sure could be held out as a carrot to desperate legislatures when the "racino" operators make their inevitable move for gaming expansion.

Edmond Saskel
Jersey City, N.J.

Handicap weights integral to game's greatness

As a longtime racing fan, I find one of the charms of the game has always been its time-honored traditions. Yet over and over some people try to bash and abandon these gloried traditions. A few years back, many starting trying to tinker with the Triple Crown. Critics claimed it was too hard, too demanding, the races too close to each other.

Why do these people not see the obvious? Why do they not understand? It's supposed to be demanding. It's supposed to be hard, damn near impossible to win the Triple Crown. That's what makes the Triple Crown what it is.

Now comes Steven Crist's Feb. 8 column, "Grade 1 handicaps belong in past," proposing an end to those races. What makes handicap races so intriguing is the weight, the great equalizer. Champions - few and far between - can overcome the weight. The great ones all ran with extra weight, - that's what made them great.

These days Thoroughbreds are pampered so much the breed is deteriorating. With less racing and less weight the Thoroughbred is becoming too fragile, more prone to injury and early retirement.

Handicaps, which attempt to bring all the horses together, are interesting to bet on, serve as a barometer of talent, separate the great ones from the good ones, and strengthen the breed.

James Napolitano
Staten Island, N.Y.

With money on the line, trust Valenzuela

Kudos to the writer of the Feb. 22 letter "A fan roots for new comeback for Valenzuela."

I agree that Patrick Valenzuela is a 120-percent rider, and he never quits trying to place his horse wherever he can, to the best of his and the horse's limits. I have seen some of the great riders over the past 55 years, and many of them would make Valenzuela look like a saint when it comes to rough and intimidating riding. Valenzuela, since his most recent return to riding, has once again made the jockeys all turn up their abilities so that they can stay in contention.

Regardless of Valenzuela's previous situation, I, and so many of my gambling friends, feel that with Valenzuela in the game of racing, we all have a better chance in all positions of a race. I urge the powers that be in California to maintain his license to ride.

Edward J. Salem
Las Vegas