01/18/2002 12:00AM

Letters to the editor


Idea to increase takeout reveals elitist thinking

Talk about your ivory towers.

The executives of Magna Entertainment must live in some private little world where they view their customers through gold-plated glasses.

The concept of raising the takeout to run a series of races that would ship a bunch of horses across the country to run against the same type of horses they could run against in their own backyard is one of the more elitist schemes they have come up with in recent years ("Santa Anita take may rise," Jan. 16).

Don't these guys pay any attention to their customers? We just want good racing. We want to be able to follow the horses on a circuit and look for good races.

Most important, we want a good return on our dollar. Racing already has one of the highest takeouts in gambling. Why would anyone involved who has half a brain propose anything that would raise that takeout?

You want more fans? Lower the takeout so you can attract some of the people who bet on sports and play poker. These are the people who would enjoy the skill involved in handicapping.

You want some of the people who just want to gamble? Do away with admission, high-priced lousy food, parking fees, and all the other things that drain the betting dollars.

I realize you might have to come out of your ivory towers and pay attention to the scrubs down in the grandstand and at the offtrack betting parlors (where most of your customers really are) to accomplish this. But maybe you should take off your suits and try it some day.

Ed Hamilton

Alpine, Calif.

Sunshine scheme leaves him cold

So Santa Anita is considering an increase in the rate of takeout for exotic wagers to finance an eight-race event titled Sunshine Millions. Now isn't this just ducky! For whose benefit are these races with exorbitant purses being held: the consumers (bettors) or suppliers (breeders)?

Can you name another industry in this country that considers the suppliers more important than the consumers?

Can you find 10 hard-core bettors, those who finance Thoroughbred racing from Monday through Friday, who give a hoot if Sunshine Millions ever takes place? The vast majority would opt for an eight-race card with purses of $50,000, which would probably attract full fields, and allow for a reduction in takeout to 10 percent.

I have yet to understand what purses of $500,000 and up attempt to accomplish. They are destructive in that they (a) prevent takeout from being reduced, (b) require racing associations to steal purse money from weekday claiming races and hoard it until enough money is accumulated for a six-figure purse, (c) deprive the majority of owners and trainers from an adequate purse structure at the low end, (d) do nothing to attract new bettors, (e) usually offer no value, and (f) bore the hell out of hard-core bettors, especially when the field is five or fewer.

If the reason for a six-figure purse is to guarantee a supply of horses from breeders, I hold to the theory that just build it and they will come: As long as there are horse races with purses there will always be horses. To distribute a six-figure purse among two or three owners is ridiculous, when the same horses would come if the purse were much less, and when that amount of money spread over several races would give many more owners money to purchase Thoroughbreds from breeders.

Wendell Corrow

Barkhamsted, Conn.

One theory holds more really is more

It is unfortunate for racing writers to be bashing tracks because of short fields, as in Andrew Beyer's Jan 13. column, "Time for Gulfstream to face reality."

Most handicappers don't like a continuous menu of short fields, but these racing writers must remember that there is more to horse racing than just the bettors. For example, when a track conducts 10 or 12 races in a day, this allows more owners, trainers, and jockeys to earn more money through purse winnings.

Beyer stated that Gulfstream's president, Scott Savin, blamed the Calder meet for the short fields at the beginning of Gulfstream's season, but Savin is simply stating a valid point, that we have to wait for the Calder horses to recycle, and then the size of the fields will increase.

So when Beyer stated that Gulfstream management keeps "insisting that there was no problem," he is incorrect, because Savin did admit that there is a problem and he gave a valid solution (waiting for the Calder horses to recycle) that would fix the problem.

I would like to commend both Calder and Gulfstream for trying to write as many races as possible. I very much enjoyed the recently concluded Calder meet, with generally good-sized, competitive fields, and many races a day to choose from. I hope that Gulfstream continues to card as many races as possible. As a horseplayer, I find that more races in a day at a given track increases the number of potential spot plays that I will have in a day, and the opportunity for that track to get more of my money to pass through the windows. This also allows for more money to be paid out in purses to all of the hardworking, dedicated people in this industry.

Ron Haymes

Welland, Ontario

Far-flung audiences need upgraded, uniform service

Even as Daily Racing Form continues to fight the good fight, the situation of racing as a whole is precarious. Some of the simulcast programs are atrocious. If I'm watching a simulcast show, I'm doing it for the sake of knowing the odds, but also to get a peek at the runners in the paddock and as they warm up. California tracks, north and south - and a small selection of other tracks - seem to grasp the concept.

So how is it that Kentucky and New York, with all their resources, can't simply imitate the approach and give me good clear views of horses being saddled and galloping before the race? For instance, what good is New York's "long shot" of all the horses parading at once? If I were watching a movie it would be great, but I'm not, and with precious minutes flying by, why do I have to wait to see the look of individual horses in motion - and then why do they screw that up as well when they finally get to it?

Aside from that, I attend simulcast facilities in Denver - a dog track - and it's as if they never met a horseplayer they didn't dislike. Everything they can do to drive away business, they do - and what's more, they get annoyed if you make a suggestion (i.e.,"complain"). Is this situation the norm in other towns? As I've experienced it, sometimes yes, sometimes no. It would behoove the better tracks to come up with a "franchise" approach to cover the customer service basics for all the various outlets that carry the signals. In other words, some basic industry standard. Why not try to educate, if possible, the people who "sell" a simulcast product?

Rob Smoke

Boulder, Colo.

New spokesman could make racing sing

After reading in Daily Racing Form that "The Sopranos" is filming at various East Coast tracks on a regular basis, maybe it is time to go back to the old track image and have the National Thoroughbred Racing Association use a wiseguy like Tony Soprano in television ads.

Really, the "racing is wholesome and fun for the young" idea hasn't filled too many seats at tracks. Let Tony Soprano promote racing! He is good at making his point.

Dan Gaydosh

Crystal Lake, Ill.