03/26/2004 1:00AM

Letters to the Editor

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Rebate defense sounds hollow at its source

Is it now the Racing Form's policy to accept advertising in the form of a letter to the editor, or does blatant self-promotion now fit into a special reader-interest category? If the March 14 letter "Legal rebating is no enemy to the game" was intended to confront alleged misrepresentations of its author, his positions, or his activities, it raised more questions than it answered.

While never actually identifying the "incendiary" aspects of the articles to which he was objecting, the author meandered through a self-serving account of how his hand just happened to have gotten caught in the rebate cookie jar.

The writer appeared quite concerned that his customers not be labeled as having joined a "betting syndicate." Why would that be significant unless IRS form-signing is somehow a factor to be considered in any rebate process?

How would providing rebates increase the sale of racing data product? Existing whales at best represent only 1 percent of the data market, and they would seem unlikely to switch data tools in mid-(Gulf)stream, so where is the growth potential?

How does discussing the solicitation of his client base - as a source of players not already receiving rebates - enhance his product's reputation? Is selling data to this group less lucrative than getting a piece of their action?

The letter sought refuge in the good customer service/solid business practice defense of rebates, ignoring the disadvantages imposed on parimutuel competitors without access to rebates. The newly popular clownfish is indeed an endangered species unless he stops asking how to obtain rebates and starts working toward eliminating their deployment.

What does a whale feel when he reaches for his wallet and winds up shaking fins with a shark? Presumably the same thing a clownfish feels when the odds on his selection plummet after the race starts.

Steve Abelove
Lawndale, Calif.

Level the field or lose the players

For once it is nice to see the management of Magna Entertainment do something right.

Its decision to suspend the wagering activity of the syndicate that was receiving rebates that were unavailable to the rest of us was the right thing to do ("Owner group puts kibosh on XpressBet's wagering," March 7, "Magna said to halt rebates," March 17).

Parimutuel means parimutuel, period. If we are to compete "among ourselves," as the term implies, then everyone should be required to play by the same rules.

If the large bettors don't like the price of participation, then they can confer with their local bookie for a better deal. To offer one group a better deal than the rest of us is simply unfair. It makes the game more beatable for that group than for the other participants.

Personally, I have quit betting on horses and will not partake of the game again unless the matter is resolved and a uniform standard is established that applies to the whole industry.

I don't care how much a player bets: They can play by the same set of rules as I do, or I am done with the game.

Carson Horton
Portland, Ore.

New York takeout bill flunks Economics 101

After reading "Bill would up NYRA takeout," (March 24), about how Sen. Richard Larkin, the chairman of the New York State Senate's Racing and Wagering Committee, has introduced a bill that would increase takeout at New York Racing Association tracks, I question just how aware Mr. Larkin is of current Thoroughbred industry trends.

The vast majority of racetrack handle is now coming from bettors far removed from the racetrack via simulcasting. Tracks now earn their income from a signal fee, usually 3 percent, on up to 90 percent of total daily handle. Thus, 10 percent or less of a track's daily handle is subject to ontrack takeout averaging 20 percent. Larkin and his counsel no doubt have no clue that any increase in takeout will substantially increase the profits of offtrack facilities (and increase rebates) while picking the pockets of the three or four thousand ontrack patrons.

The senator must have observed the boastful and stupid expression that NYRA uses, "Over 95 million dollars have been returned to bettors in the form of higher payoffs," and thought that if NYRA hadn't lowered takeout rates it would have earned an additional $95 million.

Subject to political tampering by politicians who couldn't back-wheel a daily double by post time even if they arrived when the gates opened, with a cumbersome board of trustees (most needing road maps to find Aqueduct), and over-his-head Barry Schwartz as CEO, how can NYRA not be virtually bankrupt?

Wendell Corrow
Barkhamsted, Conn.

Lane's End loser should have sealed his lips

Memo to Nick Zito: There's no whining in horse racing.

Before the starting bell of the Lane's End Stakes, Zito was complaining to ESPN about the track being sealed. Following the third-place finish of his runner, Birdstone, Zito continued to whine about the track being sealed before the race.

On the one hand, I respect the trainer for getting a horse whose sire stands for $7,500 as far along the Kentucky Derby trail as he did. On the other hand, his on-camera excuses were pathetic. He should take a page from a class act like D. Wayne Lukas, who recently told Daily Racing Form that he had some nice-looking stock, they just weren't very fast.

Steve Vargo
Columbus, Ohio

Tapit decision gave sense of deja vu

Regarding Andrew Beyer's March 10 column, "Tapit may be moving too fast, too soon," on Tapit running in the Florida Derby: I, too, found it logical that the racing manager for the colt's owner made the call to enter that race.

The situation was akin to having Johnny Unitas on the field in the Super Bowl with a high-school coach calling his plays. I remember watching Forest Music give a brilliant performance in her debut at Laurel last fall, and how she went downhill after her connections foolishly sent her to run in the the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. I hope we don't see history repeat itself because a racing manager thinks he knows more about getting a horse to a classic race than the legendary Michael W. Dickinson.

Greg Hill
Martinsburg, W.Va.

Magna television outlet gets poor reception

I have been following the dueling horse racing/gambling channels - Television Games Network and Horse Racing TV/XpressBet - for the past few years. As far as handling Thoroughbred horse racing, no one does it better than TVG. The on-air talent at HRTV try their best, but it's painfully obvious that HRTV just doesn't have the superior product offered by TVG.

Then to add insult to injury, Frank Stronach's Magna Entertainment Corp., the owner of HRTV/XpressBet, has chosen to monopolize the Thoroughbred tracks they have purchased the past few years - Santa Anita, Gulfstream Park, etc. - locking out a superior product from TVG. Not only am I forced to have two accounts but have to suffer through the inherently inferior product at HRTV/XpressBet.

Last Sunday, after Santa Anita's Santa Paula Stakes (won by Friendly Michelle), HRTV cut to the winner's circle to interview the winning trainer (Bob Baffert), owner (Ed Friendly), and jockey (Tyler Baze) - and on live TV you heard Friendly ask Baffert, "Is this Stronach's channel?" and upon learning that, yes it is, Friendly waved his arms as if to say "No thanks," and left in disgust.

Need I say more?

Robert Huweiler
San Diego