07/08/2004 11:00PM

Letters to the Editor

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Vet applauds owner's call

for sale reform

Amen to the suggestions by Satish Sanan for reforming the sales of Thoroughbreds (July 5). They are, frankly, too long in coming. In a modern, civilized society, nearly all other sales, public and private, are scrutinized by some regulatory bodies to assure at least a modicum of honesty. Sanan's proposals were both measured and modest.

The need for disclosure of surgeries on an animal offered for sale is as obvious as the need to show an accurate record of the miles on the odometer of a used automobile. That it is not required at the present time is ludicrous and unimaginable. The potential for corruption in not requiring agents in horse sales to provide full disclosure as to the ownership, the complete state of agency, including duality and all commissions involved, is obvious to the most naive of businessmen. The lack of protection at the present time is surely a factor in keeping countless numbers of potential investors from becoming involved in our industry.

The wonder is that the game remains as honest as it does, and this, at least, speaks well for the integrity of most of the agents and other participants in Thoroughbred racing today.

The only real questions lie in how to bring about the implementation that Sanan suggested and the form of the structure to be effected. These reforms will become part of the Thoroughbred scene. Sanity makes that a certainty, but how many investors will be lost, how many others cheated, or perceived as cheated, for every day's delay? All who believe that honesty is the best and most progressive policy implore Mr. Sanan to keep up the pressure to being his ideas to early fruition.

Alex Harthill, D.V. M.
Louisville, Ky.

Early retirement plan fractures fairy tale

So Smarty Jones may not race at 4!

The reason invoked: high insurance costs, in the $1 million neighborhood ("Smarty '05 plans cloudy," June 18).

Isn't that a lame excuse? What about the $5 million the owners just collected from Oaklawn for the Rebel-Arkansas Derby-Kentucky Derby sweep, or the declaration that they wanted Smarty to run as long as possible, and the millions more he could earn on the track? And they're balking over a mere million?

It was such a great story (I can't help using the past tense), exalting and inspiring: a fairy-tale story built around a Pennsylvania-bred horse, a small-circuit trainer and jockey, and an owner battling lung disease, together beating racing's bluebloods.

Attendance records were broken, thousands flocked to see Smarty train, and young people who had never bet on a horse before placed a few dollars on Smarty just to be part of something special.

Smarty is a champion whose potential for greatness will be muzzled in favor of a quick start at the breeding shed. Imagine if Spectacular Bid hadn't run at 4!

Smarty's owners, the Chapmans, received a gift - they hold a living dream. I regret to say that they don't deserve what they received if instead of adventure and greatness they speak about increasing insurance costs.

If I had the money I would send them a check. Just let Smarty run.

Erik Vollenweider
Santa Monica, Calif.

Game's survival demands no-nonsense approach

How many times will the likes of Patrick Valenzuela get suspended and then allowed back? I refer to "Valenzuela suspended again" (July 5).

Hasn't racing had enough black eyes with the Breeders' Cup Fix Six scandal, bettors suspicious of drastically changing odds after a race starts, Chris Antley's death, and on and on? Racing must draw a line through all the nonsense, set the rules, apply them to all - no exceptions - and get back some credibility. Racing is a sport and a business - not a soap opera.

This 15 strikes and you may be out is ridiculous.

Gordon Till
Langley, British Columbia

Woodward '67 result wasn't tale of a rabbit

In regard to the June 20 letter to the Racing Form "History tells us all's fair with eye on wire":

Damascus did not need Hedevar to beat Dr. Fager. It is true that Hedevar was in the famous 1967 Woodward, but so was an even quicker horse, Buckpasser. If what the writer contended was true, and Hedevar's presence as a rabbit helped Damascus, did it cause Dr. Fager to lose by 10 lengths? If it had been a nose, I could perhaps understand the argument - even a length - but 10 lengths? Are you people so dull? Dr. Fager could not negotiate 1 1/4 miles in a top field. That's why Braulio Baeza, his regular rider, elected to ride Buckpasser. The race's outcome was owed not to the performance of Hedevar, but to one from a truly superior horse: the king himself, Damascus.

Bart Romano
Jamaica, N.Y.

At least a few things need fixing

Allow me to present some ideas for racing:

After many years of resistance, most tracks finally have saddlecloths of different colors so fans can better follow the horses they bet. The silliness of using a set of stakes cloths that are the same color will, hopefully, end soon.

Is there any excuse for not having two sets of race timers in case one system fails? Some tracks seem to have little problem timing dirt races, while others regularly have timing errors. A backup timer system makes sense for all tracks that run more than 20 times a year.

Is allowing betting until the horses leave the gate necessary? Betting should end when the horses reach the gate. By the time they leave the gate, money from faraway betting hubs will have gotten into the pools. People will adjust to this. Seeing the odds change as races are being run isn't good, whether there's foul play or not.

It's time to cut down some trees and prune some others at racetracks. It is highly annoying to watch a race on a television, a computer screen, or through binoculars and have one's view blocked by infield trees. There are no trees growing on the sidelines at football stadiums - horseplayers deserves the same courtesy.

Andy Sharpe
Boston

Tracks must get interactive to hold new fans

Racing has been given yet another opportunity to capitalize on the interest the public has shown in the Triple Crown. In 2003 we had Funny Cide and the Seabiscuit movie, which caused many newcomers to show interest. This year, Smarty Jones's quest for the Triple Crown captured the public's enthusiasm.

Last year racing failed at taking advantage of events that drew many prospective fans to their facilities. This year looks to be a repeat.

Success is equated with how many fans come to the races, not how many will continue to come. Most tracks hold seminars, which are quite good, but that only services those who have already shown an interest in handicapping. What about the fan who comes, enjoys what he sees, but because handicapping is too difficult to understand soon goes elsewhere?

Racing needs to find a way to interact with the fans while the races are run, showing the basics of handicapping, giving the fan a sense of ownership of his pick.

Television Games Network made a beginning with the "Exactor Man" show, but for some unknown reason canceled it. They had two good handicappers going over the races in an entertaining format, fielding e-mail questions, and initiating the newcomer into the basics of handicapping. Racing needs to look at this and other innovative ways to interact with the potential fan if it is to flourish and provide the joys of handicapping I have had for the past 40 years.

Bruce Lallier
Conneaut Lake, Pa.