09/23/2004 11:00PM

Letters to the Editor

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Sales need government as watchdog

The objectives and goals of Satish Sanan and the Alliance for Industry Reform are certainly noteworthy ("Sanan devotes himself to task force," Sept. 19). But, alas, they continue to run aground in the mire created and maintained by the "ol' boys" of the industry. We have many chronic problems in our industry, progress is so painfully slow, and the true culprits always seem to be those who have control and want to maintain it regardless of the injustices they prolong.

Perhaps a better path to a solution is to contact our national government's leaders and demand a congressional investigation into the entire business operations of the Thoroughbred sales system. We have substantial precedence for such government involvement, as we already have the Securities and Exchange Commission and other agencies such as the Financial Accounting Standards Board to look out for the integrity of the process and the financial interests of the customer.

When secrecy, misrepresentation, and other various shady practices are the norm, why should any reputable person want to believe that things are fair? And when certain individuals or organizations are the most antipathetic to the idea of study and possible reform, then perhaps the government should be looking there first.

If I spend $20,000 to $30,000 for a car or $120,000 to $500,000 for a home and it becomes a part of filed, public record, why should it be any less so if I buy a horse for $8 million?

Jay W. Lord
Nottingham, Penn.

Pitting Azeri against males another classic folly

I read with shock this morning that Azeri is being considered to run in the Breeders' Cup Classic against males ("Battle of last two champs may be thwarted if Azeri runs in Classic," Sept. 24).

When is enough enough?

The last time Azeri ran against males she finished eighth, beaten by 6 3/4 lengths, in the Metropolitan Handicap. It took her a couple of races after that debacle to get back in form. Perhaps if there was no speed signed up for the Classic you could make the case for running Azeri - who seems to have become a horse who needs the lead - but that is not the case.

Saint Liam and Roses in May have world-class speed, and Ghostzapper can run right on it if he chooses. Sure, the Classic is a bigger payday than the Distaff, but I would ask owner Michael Paulson if the money and the potential accolades are worth watching one of the best mares of our generation run up the track?

There are few things in racing sadder than seeing horses misplaced by their owners, especially a horse who has done so much for racing. The truth is, Azeri will have her hooves full with the girls this year and is far from a lock to prevail even in the BC Distaff.

Eric Singer
San Francisco

Tracks should think twice before granting Gill stalls

Short fields and lack of wagering value have long bedeviled northern California racing. Magna Entertainment Corp. may have reached for the panic button, though, when it comes to considering stable space at Bay Meadows and Golden Gate Fields for North America's leading owner, Michael Gill ("Gill may send string, but stall space is scarce," Sept. 15).

With an eye toward fuller fields, Magna management welcomed Gill's stall application, even though several other racing entities chose to exercise their legal right to deny him barn space.

While four- and five-horse fields have become commonplace in the San Francisco area, inviting a horseman who is as well-known for his medication violations as he is for his winning percentage is no solution to the problem.

Some in the sport have decried Gill's aggressiveness at the claim box and his willingness to drop horses sharply in class to find the winner's circle. Gill, like any other owner, has the right to spot his runners as he sees fit. It is, rather, the issue of integrity that is the true stumbling block as far as approving stalls for Gill.

As the medication violations for Gill and his cadre of trainers mounted in recent years, more and more racing associations chose to deny him stalls. In this day and age, when full fields are at a premium and large claiming stables have to a great degree become a thing of the past, even the temptation of the field-filling potential Gill brings to the table has not been enough to make the New York Racing Association and other tracks drop their standards and allow him to stable ontrack.

Perception is everything, and at a time when the sporting public at large has very little faith in racing's overall integrity, giving stalls to an owner whose employees have amputated a dead horse's leg without state authorization does not seem like the best way to shore up confidence in the sport.

While no racing commission has issued rulings against Gill that would preclude him from further participation in California racing, a Magna decision to give him stalls could very well cause more harm than good.

Roger Treskunoff
Hayward, Calif.

Dispute over signal sends fans elsewhere

Simulcasting battles as described in "Tracks to cut Belmont signal," (Sept. 16) and "Belmont impasse continues," (Sept. 19) do not bode well for racing, especially when the diminishing fan base finds itself devoid of quality racing on weekends.

Regardless of who was responsible for the debacle that occurred last weekend, all host tracks suffer from lost revenue, and more importantly, potential loss of fans betting at the track or at simulcasting sites.

In fact, this scenario feeds into the popular belief that it is easier to watch and wager at home with the proper beam(s) from Television Games Network, HorseRacing TV, etc., and place bets via telephone or Internet accounts as "payback" for such insane maneuvers by race track owners.

Gary Zweifach
West New York, N.J.

New York stance trips up horseplayers

The only real news of the day in the dispute between the New York Racing Association and mid-Atlantic tracks is that NYRA has denied many thousands of racing fans the opportunity of wagering on the races at Belmont.

Once again, the people who support racing financially and have no say, no representation, lose out.

Elliott Factor
Columbia, Md.