05/06/2004 11:00PM

Letters to the Editor


Regional bias overcame logic in Derby picks

It's hard to figure out, but once again the handicapping experts at Daily Racing Form were way off the mark on their selections for the Kentucky Derby. If you take a close look at the top four Derby selections from all but one of the Form's panel of experts you will not see the name of Smarty Jones in their top four selections. Only Jay Hovdey nailed it.

Smarty was a horse who was undefeated. Three times he had run triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures. He won the Grade 2 Arkansas Derby in the mud, and was now running on first-time Lasix. He also had a bullet workout, the best of 34 that day, at Churchill on April 24, breezing five furlongs in a brilliant 58 seconds, which many horsemen considered the workout of the week. His trainer stated flatly that his horse was coming into the Derby in the best condition of his racing life. Why then did so many of the Racing Form's beat writers, who cover the racing scene every day of the year, completely ignore Smarty Jones?

The only conclusion I can come to is if you don't race on the East or West Coast, or have a big-name jockey or trainer, you will not get respect in the press, period. The public was not fooled, though, as they made Smarty Jones the favorite. You don't win over 3,000 races (as Stewart Elliott has) and not know how to ride in a big race like the Derby. I can only imagine if Jerry Bailey had been the pilot of Smarty Jones, or D. Wayne Lukas the trainer, these same writers would have been agog over Smarty as one of the top choices. It's as if you don't run in the Wood Memorial, the Florida Derby, or Santa Anita Derby, you don't have the caliber of horse to win the roses. Nonsense.

The connections of Smarty Jones made the decision to prep in Arkansas which certainly has quality racing. But Arkansas is not New York, Florida, or California, and thus the snub from so many handicap writers.

Greg Hoelk
Austin, Texas

NYRA access policy grates on owner

I recently learned that there have been many changes at New York Racing Association tracks concerning passes, paddock access, and barn access. When I went to renew my owner's license, I was told that there are no more passes for spouses because of some archaic law. I was also informed that there are no more daily passes available for spouses or guests.

I can't wait to attend the races and enter through one gate while the rest of my family uses another. There are no other sporting venues that you can attend with your family and have to go through separate entrances. I hope I never have to take my little daughter to the races alone. I don't mind paying for my family, but I hope we can all enter at the same place. It will be interesting on the big days at Belmont, and almost every day at Saratoga, how these situations will be resolved. Will some of the celebrities and guests of the more flamboyant owners be made to pay their way in? Where will these celebrities and guests sit once they are inside? In free NYRA seats?

Paddock access will be a fiasco, since many people seem to find their way into the paddock, especially in big races. By the time you get through the checkpoints, the horses will already be on the track.

NYRA has just made owning horses at its tracks a big inconvenience. I'm glad NYRA started fixing its problems in the right places. As for me, I'll be home with my family watching the races on television, or spending the day at Monmouth.

Aron Yagoda
Jericho, N.Y.

Badone offered upbeat learning experience

I was saddened to learn of the death of Chuck Badone, Lone Star Park's first morning line oddsmaker and fan education manager ("Etc. . . .," May 2). I attended many of Chuck's handicapping seminars at Lone Star Park from 1997 to 2001. He was always enthusiastic and eager to pass along handicapping tips to bettors.

Chuck always had good things to say about horse racing, and I learned many handicapping tips from him during his stay at Lone Star Park. He was a great ambassador for Thoroughbred racing, and he will be missed.

Phil Harrington
Bedford, Texas

So-called low road led to highest ground

Once again the Eastern sect of horse racing is diminishing an effort of an Eastern horse who decided to take a Southern course to history. In Andrew Beyer's May 5 column, "A superstar or another Funny Cide?" he lamented that for the name Smarty Jones to be used in the same breath as Seattle Slew he would need to show his stuff on a decent track surface.

I contend that Smarty Jones can be used in the same sentence as Seattle Slew, Silver Charm, Go for Gin, and even the great Secretariat. In that sentence, the words "Kentucky Derby winner" can be used. If the horse never runs again, the accomplishment should not be demeaned, nor should it be tainted by the fact that it rained on the first Saturday in May.

Horse racing is alive and kicking in states other than Kentucky, Florida, and California. Perhaps many of the Kentucky Derby horses may have been avoiding the confrontation they faced last Saturday in staying away from the Arkansas Derby and running against inferior competition at Aqueduct or Keeneland.

Let's give Smarty Jones and the people around him the recognition that is due.

Rick Cossey
Conway, Ark.

Casino action isn't the way to gain young horseplayers

I am a parimutuel clerk at the local offtrack betting parlor, and I thought an April 11 letter to the Racing Form, "Racing leadership: Shortsighted, off the mark," was on the mark about today's horse racing. I got the impression that the writer really knows horses and has an insight into in the sport.

I agree that slot machines and casino gambling are not the answer for the horse racing industry. I go to Turfway, Keeneland, and Churchill Downs, and I see mostly established bettors with the cash. I do not see ads for younger bettors, or see family days, or much of anything to encourage the next generation of horseplayers. Tracks are putting everything into casino-style betting for the next generation and hoping they will learn to bet on the horses.

One thing I do see is the bettors frustrated with disqualifications. Leave the race stand, have the stewards penalize the jockeys, trainers, and even the owners - not the bettors.

Lastly, this is the only sport that I know of with no national governing body. The National Thoroughbred Racing Association certainly is not. Every state has its own. If the tracks would address these issues, then just maybe horses racing will survive into the next generation and not die off with the current bettors.

Dan Lester
Maysville, Ky.

Inside information available on home screen

I don't know what the particular criteria are for the writer of the March 28 letter "Magna television outlet gets poor reception," but here are mine:

(1) The odds board in view at all times, (2) good views of the horses in the warmup, (3) knowledgeable commentary (no "happy talk"), and (4) information I don't get elsewhere.

HRTV gets high marks in all the above categories. But it scores off the charts for providing me info I don't get anywhere else. Their interviewers work the track both mornings and afternoons to get interviews with the trainers of top contenders in virtually every Santa Anita race. They provide insights to both exceptional and poor performances.

All you have to do is watch and listen.

Mike Arndt
San Diego