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Letters to the Editor
The gene pool in Kentucky getting shallow
Now that a New York- and Pennsylvania-bred have won the last two runnings of the Kentucky Derby, will a Kentucky-bred ever win the Derby again?
I guess the folks in Kentucky are just now finding out that maybe it was not in best interests of Kentucky, or the Unites States, for that matter, to let hundreds if not thousands of their best broodmares to be sold to Japan and a few other countries in the late 1980's and most of the 1990's. Not to mention top stallion prospects such as Sunday Silence.
"Sunday Silence, the leading sire in Japan," never did sound quite right.
Kentucky really has no control (right now) over every individual who sells or buys a top-class Kentucky-bred stallion prospect or broodmare, but it's time to implement some sort of strategy or program to keep them in Kentucky, or the industry might let Kentucky become like any other state with just a pretty good breeding program.
I think it is great that a New York- and Pennsylvania-bred have won the Derby, but I have to wonder where the quality of Kentucky-bred horses is headed.
Long Beach, Calif.
In the hoopla, don't lose sight of another star
This year is a special year in horse racing, and thanks to the success of Smarty Jones we are seeing an overwhelming support of horse racing again. With that success some horses have been in the shadow of Smarty Jones, but one horse in particular.
He, too, went into the weekend undefeated this year, and he has lost only once in his career. He has won at distances from 6 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/4 miles. I speak of Southern Image.
Smarty Jones deserves and has earned every bit of the attention he has received, but let's not forget about Southern Image. The horse has won two million-dollar races this year and three Grade 1's, and like Smarty he can race from anywhere on the track.
It's great when you can see a special horse run, but this year I think we have two on our hands.
Valenzuela's presence a boost for the sport
In the controversy over Patrick Valenzuela, is anyone considering the racing fan's point of view?
Valenzuela is the most exciting, dramatic presence in horse racing today. In only the last year or two I have witnessed scores of sensational and mind-bending rides by Valenzuela. Just a few hours before writing this I watched him win the Shoemaker Mile on Designed for Luck in brilliant fashion.
From post parade to flagfall, Valenzuela is as fascinating an athlete to watch as Barry Bonds or Michael Jordan. His coiled intensity leading his horse out from the paddock in even a humble Santa Anita claiming race, exuberantly stroking his horse's neck, is something to see. Simply put, horses run for him.
There is no halfheartedness or indecisiveness about Valenzuela's approach, as can be seen in so many other jockeys. I have never seen anyone more focused on winning or getting the most out of his horse.
Whatever his problems in the past, there is no issue with Valenzuela's performance on the track. Should the world have been deprived of witnessing Mickey Mantle hit 500-foot home runs because some autocratic authority barred him from playing baseball because of his past substance problems?
If other jockeys have a problem with him, what is it based on? Could it be that they are simply frustrated with being regularly bested on the track? Do they have any evidence that he is somehow a danger to them? If they have such information, they should bring it forth. He has passed drug tests time after time over the past two years.
The bottom line is, Southern California racing would be diminished and boring without Valenzuela.
Misguided moves debase a fine mare
How do you destroy a champion? All it takes is one egotistical owner who has no horse racing background other than riding on his father's shirttails.
Between trainers Simon Bray and Laura de Seroux, jockey Mike Smith and, most important of all, the late, great owner Allen E. Paulson, there was a team to mastermind the brilliant career of a once-in-a-lifetime horse, Azeri. Now, the ego of Michael Paulson, manager of the Paulson Living Trust, is going to rip the heart right out of a great champion. When parents do that to their children, child protection services are called in.
Young Mr. Paulson took Azeri away from the people who developed her and always put her well-being first. Most recently, the champion was run at a distance she doesn't like and against males in the Met Mile. I can't wait to see what's next: maybe a steeplechase?
Canadian pools: Separate and better than equal
The May 16 letter "Woodbine comment no pool of wisdom" addressed my remark quoted in the April 17 Racing Form: "So despite our higher takeouts, Canadians are actually better off playing their own pools." The writer called my statement "illogical and dishonest."
Actually, my statement was based upon fact and as such is definitely not dishonest. Woodbine compared the win, exactor, and triactor prices in Canada and the United States for some of our key simulcast races - those from the New York Racing Association and The Meadowlands. This study was undertaken to determine the impact of the big rebate account wagering operations that are consistently winning disproportionate to their betting levels.
The study of over a 1,000 races for each track clearly showed that Canadian prices are on average better than their host track counterparts. This is not illogical once you factor in the impact of the big rebaters on the U.S. pools: They are winning so much that they have effectively increased the takeout for the average customer betting into the U.S. pools.
If the letter-writer would like to visit Woodbine, I'd be more than happy to let him review the comparisons. He'll be glad that we have separate Canadian pools after all.
Vice President of Wagering Operations, Woodbine Entertainment
Publicity machine stuck in low gear
I recently inherited a racing library that included an old publication, Turf and Sport Digest, from 1933 to 1977. Glancing through the pages of these musty magazines I stumbled upon an interesting fact: Racing used to be covered like a sport. All sorts of personalities were profiled: trainers, owners, vets, farriers, jockeys, fans, racing officials, and yes, even horses. Each subject was brought to life through colorful interviews or informative essays.
Why is this not the case in 2004? We have technology beyond the scope of any writer who toiled over a typewriter in the 1930's. Yet many tracks fail to utilize their publicity departments to uncover the hidden gems of their stable areas.
John Servis is a charismatic and entertaining man. He's half of the reason why Smarty Jones is such a hit. So why didn't we know about him pre-Smarty Jones? Why was such a media-genic ambassador for the sport buried in the result charts and not speaking to the racing public?
Let's get together and promote our true stars. Let's tell their stories to a nation hungering for tales of the American dream. Every track should use each year's Triple Crown publicity window to reach out and dazzle the press and the public.
Santa Monica, Calif.