08/13/2004 12:00AM

Letters to the Editor


Lone Star exec defends track as Cup host

Alan Shuback failed to portray accurately Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie - home of the 2004 Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships - in his Aug. 8 column, "Foreign interests dubious of BC at Lone Star." While retirements, injury setbacks, and supplementary fee issues surrounding this year's Breeders' Cup are beyond our control, defending our racetrack is not. Here is what you will find at Lone Star on Oct. 30:

* 50,000 enthusiastic horse racing fans. The event is virtually a sellout and has already set a Breeders' Cup record for advance ticket sales.

* $8.5 million in temporary and permanent improvements. Fans, horsemen, and horses will be treated to a state-of-the-art experience befitting a world championship event.

* Perfect weather. While we don't have total control over this area, October is widely regarded to be the most pleasant month in north Texas, with average high temperatures in the low 70's, providing ideal conditions for both horses and fans.

* Safe, consistent racing surfaces. The turf course is almost exactly like the one at Santa Anita, from the same type of grass to the basic dimensions. Both Lone Star Park tracks are designed with sweeping, spiral turns.

I see no reason why European-based horses should not be able to match their fine performances in the 2003 Breeders' Cup. As a matter of fact, Lone Star Park provides an ideal "neutral" site with no home-court advantage for any group of horses.

I understand that as a new Breeders' Cup site, we have to prove ourselves in the eyes of some. But I am confident our venue will live up to the high standards established by our predecessors over the last 20 years, and I pledge that this year's Breeders' Cup experience in Texas will be second to none.

Corey Johnsen, President
Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie

Early exit means Smarty will suffer by comparison

It was refreshing to read Steven Crist's Aug. 7 column, "Grabbing cash like all the rest," on the spin that was put on the retirement of Smarty Jones. The issue of the short-term individual benefits of quick retirements versus the long-term health of Thoroughbred racing as a popular sport is an issue that needs to debated vigorously.

As far as Smarty Jones's place in history, those who advocated retirement may learn that there is an inherent risk in strategies that seek to avoid risk. His future comparisons will not be with those horses his connections seek to rate favorably against, but rather with horses of similar accomplishment. In fact, a strong argument can be made that Smarty Jones's 3-year-old campaign is not even the best of this decade: Point Given dominated two-thirds of the Triple Crown in the midst of winning five Grade 1 events at five different tracks during 2001.

The day the retirement of Smarty Jones was announced, I heard many a voice say that anyone in the same position would have opted to take the safer retirement route. Really? If you truly believed you had a horse who compared with Secretariat and Seattle Slew, could you walk away without proving it? In contrast, it might be impossible to live with what was squandered.

I think what has so many fans of the game so upset is that in most sports it is about the challenge. I'm sure Lance Armstrong could have earned just as much money in endorsements this year without risking his legacy in the Tour de France. It is impossible, however, to imagine him doing so.

That the rules have become different in racing will have a large impact on the long-run health of the sport.

Nick Willett
Getzville, N.Y.

Colt's owners did right by their horse

Accusing Pat and Roy Chapman of going for the money by retiring Smarty Jones to stud could not have been more off the money.

If the Chapmans' main interest were money, they would have gone to an Irish or Arab buyer, allowed Smarty to be shuttled between Northern and Southern hemispheres, and cover 120 to 150 mares at each station. That would have locked in another $100 million to $150 million into the coffers.

The Chapmans paid their dues, and their bills, for 20 years before Smarty came along, filling fields and keeping tracks open. These kinds of people are a credit to the game.

Anyone who has been around horses knows chronic foot bruising is not going to improve for the long term. Unfortunately but true, yes, trainers do give them time off and keep going. Sometimes simple economics makes it necessary. But they aren't doing the horse or owners any favor.

Smarty was lucky enough to have the horsemen and owners who went against what they wanted and looked reality in the eye by retiring him.

Julia Wright
Bear, Del.

Jockey says no slight meant to Louisiana race fans

I write in regard to the Aug. 1 letter "Meche's remark hits a little close to home."

If I offended any Louisiana racing fans, I would like to apologize. My remarks were in regard to the race in question, which caused my suspension from racing for one year. I continue to defend the race by stating I did what I thought was best for myself and the horse I was riding.

It's easy to watch a race and be a critic. I am curious to know how many races the letter-writer has ridden. I wonder if, while he is working, an ambulance follows him around, or if he has ever broken multiple bones while on the job.

I appreciate all my fans here in Louisiana, and other states, and thank them for all their support. I continue to look forward to a long and prosperous relationship in racing for myself and my fans.

Donnie Meche
Lafayette, La.

New Jersey gets full Cup, its bettors get empty glass

New Jersey doesn't allow its residents to bet offtrack, or use Internet services like Youbet.com, and the state is awarded a Breeders' Cup ("Monmouth signs BC agreement," Aug 11).

At some point somebody has to stick up for the bettors of New Jersey. Somebody has to put some pressure on the politicians to do something positive for the local horseplaying community. It seems to me all the laws have been passed to enable New Jersey to open up its own and other state's betting pools to the wagering public, but still offtrack options are nonexistent for the Jersey player.

Why, then, would the Breeders' Cup award the greatest horseplaying day of the year to a jurisdiction that seriously limits its citizens' access to playing horses? More pertinently, why wouldn't the Breeders' Cup demand that New Jersey step into the 21st century and provide offtrack access to betting pools for New Jerseyites before signing the contract?

Edmond Saskel
Jersey City, N.J.