07/30/2004 12:00AM

Letters to the Editor

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Relatively few bad apples seen in horse market

Over the past four and one-half years, we have been involved in all aspects of racing Thoroughbred horses - buying, selling, breeding, and working with trainers, race managers, and race officials. We started with very little experience, other than going to the races and just enjoying the sport. Our initial experience with purchases through a bloodstock agent and trainer were not honestly represented. We continued, however. We found a way to develop a relationship with an honest bloodstock agent, who introduced us to the public horse sales at Fasig-Tipton, Keeneland, and Ocala Breeders' Sales. At our first sale (Fasig-Tipton, July 2000), we were fortunate enough to purchase Harlan's Holiday. The rest has been history in the making. Later, we were fortunate enough to buy Ashado and Purge in partnership.

The point of this letter is to stress how new owners, with little experience and capital, can succeed in this game. We don't believe in boycotting the sales companies. Instead, we want to thank Fasig-Tipton, Keeneland, and OBS for giving us a marketplace where we can go and watch the forces of supply and demand dictate what we pay for a horse. In all markets there are abuses and aberrations that, over time, take care of themselves.

We thank the consignors who have been honest, open, and hard working to prepare and deliver a quality product to the sales. We thank our bloodstock agent and friend who guided us through the learning process of how and with whom we should conduct business. Our partners in horse ownership do not pay a markup or fee for being a partner. We thank our many partners for trusting our team to buy quality racing prospects. We also thank our trainer, who is the hardest-working, most honest, and successful trainer in the business.

There is a small group of people who we would like to see change their ways or leave the business. Ethics is a common-sense choice between right and wrong. We hope these make the right choice, but if not, we say to all owners: Boycott them, not the good sale companies, good consignors, good bloodstock agents, nor the good trainers.

We encourage anyone who has been wrongfully treated to have the courage to bring action. When we all do this, these abuses will disappear.

The Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association and the various sales companies have programs in place for owners to help direct them to these quality agents. Take their advice, do your homework, and trust them, for they have your best interests at heart. If you have the capital, the right people, and the patience, it's the greatest and most thrilling business that you will ever experience.

Laurie and Jack Wolf
Starlight Stables

Meche's remark hits a little close to home

No one except Donnie Meche himself really knows whether or not he actually "pulled" his horse to earn himself a one-year suspension from racing. Having seen the race in question, I tend to agree with the stewards that Meche's effort was not all on the up-and-up.

Now, reinstated, Meche has seen fit to disappoint Louisiana racing fans, to whom he owes so much, for a second time. He has joined the legion of professional athletes suffering from foot-in-mouth disease by calling Delta Downs in Vinton, La., "The bottom of the barrel" ("His exile over, Meche regroups," July 16).

I do hope trainer Steve Asmussen has another rider scheduled for his charges at Delta Downs. Apparently, Meche does not plan on returning to Vinton, and he may be well advised not to.

Stephen L. Huter
Lafayette, La.

Horse's close call a cautionary tale

I write in regard to the July 25 article "Saving a diamond from the rough." I have been in the horse business for 20-plus years, so I am not a "newbie" on the block.

The sale where Media Empire was discovered, in New Holland, Pa., has been a well-known place for longer than I have been around, where horses who are no longer useful or productive are auctioned off to slaughterhouses here and abroad. Anyone with a thimbleful of knowledge in this business knows what goes on at the New Holland sale.

I applaud Kelly Young of Lost and Found Horse Rescue for her educated eye in discovering Media Empire and rescuing him from death in a slaughterhouse. Strange, though, that once word got out about Media Empire's illustrious lineage, suddenly there were many interested parties. Why wasn't Media Empire offered to an interested party before he was put on a van? If someone had taken the time to put an ad in a horse publication or contacted one of the many rescue associations, he wouldn't have had to be saved from impending doom.

Hopefully with some TLC, and knowledgeable vet care, he can recover sufficiently to go to the breeding shed, and if not, then sent out to pasture. Let us learn a valuable lesson here: One man's trash is another man's treasure. Horses can live a useful, productive life beyond the racetrack, even if it's just being someone's pet.

Connie Scherr
Newtown, Pa.

Still-tough champion has management problem

The July 23 article "Life after Azeri turns out rosy" stated that "Azeri's form has crumbled," and that her former trainer, Laura de Seroux, "feels vindicated." The notion that Azeri's form has in any way tailed off is preposterous.

Azeri's victory less than four months ago in the Apple Blossom was unquestionably the most impressive win of her career, especially when one considers that it came off a six-month layoff against a tough field (she was the third choice in the wagering). That was followed by three consecutive losses, which apparently prompted the statement that her form "has crumbled."

Anyone who has seen her race throughout her career or even read her past performances knows that she is a two-turn horse, and she needs the lead.

I feel Azeri has been mismanaged this year by her new trainer. Aside from running Azeri in the Apple Blossom (a virtual no-brainer considering the purse value and her perfect record in that race), I feel that every decision trainer D. Wayne Lukas has made regarding Azeri has been wrong. Entering her in the seven-furlong Humana Distaff was an insane decision in its own right, but nothing can hold a candle to the ineptitude of throwing her to the wolves in the Met Mile. While I applaud the choice to run her against males, the Met Mile might have been the single worst spot, save the Breeders' Cup Sprint. Why enter a mare who prefers routes in essentially a sprint against America's fastest males? And then, to run her back 19 days later in the Ogden Phipps, another one-turn race, just seemed cruel.

Disregard the fact that Azeri ran a winning race in the Humana Distaff, the jockey change, and her recent bullet works. One need only examine Azeri's career race record to see that there is far stronger evidence that 2002's Horse of the Year has been mismanaged than there is evidence she is crumbling. Heck, bring on the boys again.

Justin Dew
Fairfax, Va.

Riders merit more respect for pulling their weight

As the spouse of a very talented and successful jockey, I was appalled by the recent comments made in the Los Angeles Times by trainers D. Wayne Lukas and Bob Baffert and equally puzzled by the ignorant remarks of Steve Taub, owner of Imperialism, regarding the proposed easing of the current weight standard.

The lack of regard for the jockeys as elite athletes is disturbing. It is hard to believe how easily these well-known trainers (and owners) forget that the skills and athleticism of the jockeys they employ to ride their horses have contributed greatly to their own personal wealth, success, and faux "celebrity status" within the racing community.

Megan P. Warren
San Mateo, Calif.