09/02/2004 11:00PM

Letters to the Editor


Travers shows Class of 2004 failing test

The Travers Stakes confirmed that there are no stars remaining among the 3-year-olds at the classic distances. After a first half-mile pace that can only be described as strolling, Birdstone ranged up to challenge the leaders through the next half-mile. On the lead were Lion Heart, who, before his unfortunate injury showed his best hand in races up to nine furlongs, and Purge, whose breeding was clearly not suited for the 10 furlongs of the Travers.

The only horse to challenge Birdstone seriously was The Cliff's Edge, who, except for the anomaly of the Blue Grass Stakes, has shown a proclivity for starting slowly and never reeling in his competitors at the highest graded level. Left in the wake, six lengths behind the winner, was Eddington, who has never won a graded stakes race, whose best finish in a graded stakes occurred in a very weak Wood Memorial, and who is still eligible for a nonwinners-of-two-other-than allowance race.

It's too bad we lost Smarty Jones to the breeding shed. I don't see how any of this year's Travers finishers have a shot against their elders at the classic distances.

Scott Jason
Hoboken, N.J.

Better drug testing a vital prescription

I have been fortunate to be associated with Thoroughbred racing for more than 59 years. This association has been in many capacities: as a racetrack worker, a Pinkerton, a bettor, and, later in my life, as an owner and breeder. Never have I felt the future of racing to be more threatened - not by Indian gaming, lotteries, and offshore betting, but by the lack of appropriate drug testing.

In the last few years a group of trainers have dominated the sport with consistent winning percentages that defy explanation by ordinary means. The legendary trainers, owners, and breeders of our sport were unable to perform consistently at these levels despite shorter seasons, exceptional breeding programs, and undeniable horsemanship. The legendary Hirsch Jacobs claiming of Stymie for $1,500 and earning more than $900,000 with him was unprecedented, but similar success is happening with regularity. The astute handicapper suspects something is amiss, and if we lose them, the game is over, gentlemen.

Where is the outrage of the million-dollar yearling buyers, the high-end breeders, and the big-name trainers to this consistent 30 percent-plus winning percentage with inferior stock. Marion Jones is not Jesse Owens and Mark McGuire is not Babe Ruth, and if racing doesn't police itself quickly, a Balcoesque scandal may destroy this beloved game of mine.

I beg the powers that be to invest whatever resources necessary to research the proper testing to eliminate any patently obvious manipulation of the system. I want to continue to enjoy my favorite pastime.

Frank Lewkowitz
Paradise Valley, Ariz.

Questionable motives in Belmont, Travers rides

Retaliation in sports is very common. Pitchers throwing at hitters in baseball, cheap shots at players in hockey and football, and "rubbing is racing" in Nascar. The betting public, now has to worry about the jockeys, or at least Jerry Bailey. Two incidents, both involving Bailey, have plagued this sport I care about.

I was under the impression that a jockey's job was to give a horse an honest ride and the best chance to win. Bailey, in both the Belmont Stakes aboard Eddington and in the Personal Ensign aboard Roar Emotion, blatantly took each of his horses out of win contention when he took it upon himself to set blistering fractions against Smarty Jones and Azeri. Both horses finished out of the money and had zero chance to win their respective races.

At what point do we put an end to his behavior? Jerry Bailey is backed by the betting public every race, way overbet in most. It makes you think the next time he gets upset for being passed up on a mount. Who knows, he might have been after Nick Zito for not getting one of his three mounts in the Travers. Bailey should either bite the bullet or retire.

Robert Occhuzzo
West Chester, Pa.

No positive spin on Ballerina ruling

Let's start holding stewards accountable. Let's make them make fair decisions, not biased ones.

I have watched this replay of the ninth race at Saratoga on Sunday, Aug. 29, from the head-on shot and the pan shot at least 10 times. Clearly, Lady Tak caused interference yards before the finish line and clearly cost My Trusty Cat a fair chance at winning this race. The chart says Lady Tak was "coming out a step at the wire," leading us to believe that she didn't cause enough damage to warrant a disqualification. I could not disagree more.

(Some may think that I am just a sour-grapes bettor who lost on this race. Not so. I can honestly say that I passed this race.)

Stewards often seem to throw out all common logic in their decisions. Also, they seem to want to err on the side of the perpetrator instead of the victim. If they are going to err, wouldn't it be better to do so on the side of the innocent party?

I know this race was a big race, a Grade 1 with a purse of $250,000, and you hear all the time that stewards do not like to take horses down in races like this. I say, hogwash. Whether it is a $5,000 claimer or a $250,000 race, stewards should remain consistent.

Mike Horobin
El Reno Okla.

Sunday at the Spa no walk in the park

I have attended races at beautiful and historic Saratoga for more than 50 years. I must say, however, that my experience on Sunday, Aug. 22, was not very enjoyable.

My family and I arrived early to assure parking and entrance. No problem . . . until we arrived at the entrance at 11 a.m. I do not feel that the New York Racing Association adequately staffed the entranceways to the track to handle the crowds. Once inside, I found my feelings of inadequate security reconfirmed.

As thousands of fans stood on the grandstand apron awaiting the start of a race, a fight broke out between some intoxicated fans. It was a really ugly scene, putting many innocent fans in harm's way. It lasted a good five minutes, and no security could be found. Several fans in the area tried to break the fight up. It just continued until one of the bloodied combatants stumbled away. Again, no security to be found.

I was able to find a guard in the picnic area to report the incident. His reply: "Tell NYRA - they cut back security people." If so, I don't find that acceptable in this day and age. Especially when you invite 70,000 people to the facility. I guess we can only be happy that no innocent people were injured.

David R. Huntington
Old Orchard Beach, Maine