08/05/2004 11:00PM

Letters to the Editor

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Public smarting over retirement of fan favorite

I would love to see Daily Racing Form do an investigative story on how the breeding industry is killing horse racing.

I was one of the first women allowed to work on the backstretch at Arlington Park, in the late 1960's. Since that time I have watched a sport that has been the love of my life go down the drain.

The ink is barely dry on the Smarty Jones breeding deal, and he's off to retirement ("Smarty Jones retired to stud," Aug. 4). This is a load of bull. I thought the Chapmans were different. They had the people's horse and would keep him out there for the people. Right. The heck with the fans.

As a racetracker, I feel betrayed, so I can imagine how this will sit with racing fans.

The whole thing makes me sick. It's time someone shamed the breeders into doing something for the fans and not the almighty dollar.

Sharon Passmore
Loudon, Tenn.

The money route a wayward path

As a Thoroughbred owner, I rarely find myself in agreement with Andrew Beyer. His perspective is usually so overly biased toward handicapping, while ignoring the realities of racing, that it is difficult to agree with him on most subjects.

Every now and then, though, Beyer writes an article I can relate to and agree with, as was the case with his latest, "As usual, breeders call the shots" (Aug. 4), about Smarty Jones going to stud.

It is sad that the lure of revenue from stud fees would take the best horses out of the game and hurt the industry in doing so. It also says something about the industry, and its future, that a racehorse can earn more money by not racing.

I would have to question, though, if Smarty Jones were Beyer's horse, would he bet his money on doing what's good for the industry. I doubt it.

Lee Burch
Harwood, Md.

Hardly a sporting move by the Smarty Jones folks

What appears to be another punch in the gut for racing fans, the retirement of Smarty Jones, is actually a little more fascinating if you take a different look. It appears his owners, the Chapmans, are trying to affirm Smarty's "greatness" by sitting out the final rounds and hoping the public's infatuation will mask any real analysis.

Let's face it, Smarty Jones beat a very mediocre bunch of 3-year-olds after taking the least-taxing trip to the Triple Crown. Then he was run down in the Belmont by Birdstone, a nice horse tuned up at the right time by a great trainer. Smarty wasn't run down by Damascus, Little Current, or Risen Star.

He could run as a 4-year-old. You would think his owners would like to enjoy such a grand animal in his final years. But real racing fans know he wasn't really that grand.

His retirement is as if Ted Williams had decided to sit out the final game in 1941 when he was batting just over .400, rather than raising his average to .406. It's like Tiger Woods staying in the clubhouse after the front nine on Masters Sunday, convinced he had shown enough.

The truth is that there have not been any great horses in recent memory. Monarchos and Point Given might have had a nice rivalry. War Emblem, Charismatic, Funny Cide, and Smarty are from the same bogus club. Remember, Funny Cide dominated the Preakness no less than Smarty.

Take the money, Mr. Chapman. Your horse is nothing special.

Steve Orton
Woodland Hills, Calif.

Racing loses more than a vital statistic

Smarty Jones retired, eh?

Well, that's just about it. I have no more interest in this "sport." I buy the Form solely as an exercise in prognostication for the purpose of intellectual stimulation, with imaginary money and imaginary accounting, like doing crosswords.

May the devil take the owners, the trainers, and especially the brainless executives devoid of scruples, none of whom has the slightest interest in the welfare of the sport nor of those who mindlessly fund it: the bettors. After the sheen of statistical novelty has eventually worn off, I'll be one fewer fan racing can claim as its own.

Sure, retire the best thing to happen to racing in a long time to send him to the breeding shed, where his owners can make even more millions. What a classically Republican script this has turned out to be.

Kevin Smith
Ocean Grove, N.J.

Collective consciousness will draw a blank

The announcement of Smarty Jones's retirement because of very healable bruises is certainly not surprising to me, a racing fan/handicapper of 30 years, but to the casual fan, it is almost incomprehensible - despite the mention of $7.5 million as a possible yearly stallion income. Again, a selfish monetary decision trumps all other concerns, including the continued recruitment of new fans into a sport that, outside of Saratoga and Del Mar, needs slot machines to keep itself afloat.

If you weren't at Belmont Park on June 5, then you have never witnessed 120,000 people groan simultaneously, but you may know that many casual fans learned the beauty and greatness of the sport within defeat that day.

Decisions like this put us closer to the day when racing ovals and horses will be eliminated to make room for those bloodless slots.

Joseph Muzio
Levittown, N.Y.

A championship effort enshrined in memory

Among this Grade 1 class of this year's National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame honorees is trainer Shug McGaughey, a person totally misjudged by misguided railbirds. They claim McGaughey was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and has been handed super colt after super filly.

McGaughey could have won many more races, but his gauge has always been on E - as in easy does it with horses, not the trainer's ego.

How many times have Television Games Network viewers been blessed to review Personal Ensign's 1988 Breeders' Cup Distaff victory, an incomparable race that has landed the horse and now the trainer in racing's greatest shed row?

Personal Ensign, who retired undefeated, a perfect 13 for 13, wasn't a freakishly strong tomboy - she had fractured a rear pastern as a 2-year-old. McGaughey patched her up and proceeded only with the utmost caution. Then a triumvirate formed - horse, trainer, and rider - who weren't going to be denied because they forged together as one. McGaughey and jockey Randy Romero shared one characteristic with Personal Ensign - the heart of a champion.

Personal Ensign only seemingly sprouted wings to get past Winning Colors in the Breeders' Cup. She was guided by a man just as misunderstood as McGaughey. Romero is once again flying toward the finish line, but this is the first one he would be happy to misjudge. Romero needs liver and kidney transplants, the aftereffects of attempting to shrink a muscle-bound body from its normal weight so he could satisfy his ultra-competitive desires.

Everyone recalls the video of Personal Ensign's greatest triumph, but it's unfortunate no photographer captured a track-level shot of the hoofprints left behind by the great filly. Then again, maybe there weren't any: It wouldn't surprise me if, for the last sixteenth-mile in the 1988 Breeders' Cup, the only marks left behind by Team Personal Ensign were the footprints of man.

Jim Muff
Schaumburg, Ill.