09/17/2004 12:00AM

Letters to the Editor

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A slight chill to autumn in New York

I'm not certain if anyone feels the same way I do, but I am always just a little disappointed this time of year when Belmont Park reopens for its late-summer and fall meeting. It used to be the best time of year for racing, pre-Breeders' Cup. Now, the main races there are merely the last races before the Breeders' Cup.

There was nothing better than the era when the Woodward, Marlboro Cup, and Jockey Club Gold Cup races were the premier autumn fixtures. And back then, the Gold Cup was a 1 1/2-mile race (shortened from two miles).

One could see Forego run all three races in those days, Seattle Slew vs. Affirmed in the Gold Cup, and Secretariat vs. Riva Ridge in the first Marlboro Cup. We don't get to witness races like that anymore.

I was looking forward to seeing what Ghostzapper would do in the Woodward, but it still wasn't enough to get me out there. In the old days, Pleasantly Perfect would have come in for the whole fall triple crown. Whoever ran the best in those races would be Horse of the Year.

The Breeders' Cup is a great day of racing, but it has had a profound - and, in my opinion, negative - effect on fall racing. It seems as though whatever older horses are still able to run after surviving the grueling trip to Dubai are merely tuned up before the Breeders' Cup Classic. The 3-year-olds may run in the Travers and perhaps one other race before the Classic. Take a look at Secretariat's 3-year-old campaign: He ran six more times after winning the Belmont Stakes

Granted, that was 30 years ago and the purses weren't what they are today. The fact remains that while the fall at Belmont is a wonderful time, it lacks the electricity and drama that once existed there.

Dean Brier
New York City

Bettors made losers in signal squabbles

Well here we go again. Another turf war over simulcast signals. This time it's the hassle between the New York Racing Association and the mid-Atlantic tracks, with Television Games Network in the middle just to complicate things a little more ("Tracks to cut Belmont signal," Sept. 16). And who suffers in the deal? The simulcast patron.

The mid-Atlantic group says, "We'll show them, we'll hurt their handle and they'll back off," and the New York Racing Association says, "Gee, this is costing us a serious piece of our daily handle. We have to figure out a way to compromise."

This will go on for about two weeks and everything will be back to normal, but the aggravation level of the everyday patron goes through the roof.

If ever racing needed a commissioner, it's right now. There is absolutely no need for this. Nobody wins and the racing fans get the short stick.

Bill Brown
Philadelphia