02/01/2002 1:00AM

Letters to the Editor

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Racing's future on wrong track in New Jersey

I just read the news ("Simulcasts threatened in Jersey," Feb. 1), and I must say that as a handicapper who lives in New Jersey, I am disgusted. Let me try to the count the reasons.

First and foremost is the report that a vice president of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority had said that the authority had no plans to begin offtrack or telephone betting in 2002. This was approved by the voters three years ago and passed by the state legislature last August. The idea was to have a system in place by February 2002.

Second, the horsemen are now threatening to pull the plug on simulcasting at all New Jersey tracks. What does that solve other than ticking off the few remaining handicappers the tracks have left?

Third, the racetracks who do not want to run live races anymore keep taking dates away from the horsemen every single year. We have already lost Garden State Park, Atlantic City (except for 10 days so they are allowed to simulcast), and now possibly The Meadowlands Thoroughbred meet in the near future.

Fourth, the director of the state's racing commission somehow feels he has the best interests of the taxpaying citizen in mind when he says it is illegal to bet on the races via computer. (Of course, if and when the OTB and account wagering systems are put in place, then the handicapping public will legally be allowed to place a horse bet without going to the racetrack.)

Joseph DeRogatis - Whitehouse Station, N.J.

Questions add up to a muddled state

The latest mess in New Jersey not only is disappointing to horseplayers but also confusing. I do not understand the following:

1. Why would the state's racing commission and its Sports and Exposition Authority take any action that will delay offtrack and phone betting in New Jersey? While it is true that the cut in state aid for Thoroughbred purses from $11.7 million to $3.9 million will hurt the caliber of races offered at The Meadowlands and Monmouth this year, it is only common sense to assume that OTB's and phone betting would generate substantial revenue for purses in future years.

2. Could anyone please explain the purpose of the state racing commission? Exactly who does it represent?

Certainly, the commission cannot represent the horsemen of New Jersey, because it is always at odds with the horsemen's association. And the commission is not representing the wishes of the people of New Jersey, who voted for offtrack and phone betting in a referendum nearly four years ago. Has the commission deliberately stonewalled the creation of OTB's and phone betting by awarding fewer than 141 days of live Thoroughbred racing in 2002?

Who is left for the commission to represent? Only the Sports and Exposition Authority - which owns Monmouth and The Meadowlands.

This brings us back to the same confusing question: Why do anything to harm the creation of OTB's and phone betting when they appear to be major assets for the authority?

Gregg Gray - Willingboro, N.J.

Proper I.D. carries critical weight

I am not at all surprised by the story that broke this week in the Midwest about the horse racing under the wrong name - at three different tracks, no less ("Hearing slated on horse mix-up." Jan 30). One would suppose that any horse identifiers involved would be fired on the spot, but I doubt it.

I watch in disbelief at the tracks that still show the scale after the race and see the riders hop on and off before the needle even comes close to settling down, many times with the person in charge looking the other way. I have long since resolved myself to the fact that weighing in is a formality. After all, in most cases the race is already official. I'm not a big believer in weight, anyway, so it never really concerned me too much.

On the other hand, horses running without being properly checked does concern me. I didn't realize the horse identifier had gone the way of the clerk of scales when it came to upholding the public's trust in a game that needs no more tarnishing.

The article contained comments from a Jockey Club spokesman that not only were the two horses in question similar in appearance, their tattoo numbers were only one number apart, so it was an easy mistake to make. Total nonsense.

Using that logic maybe I can cash my Powerball ticket and be a millionaire. After all, I was only one number off.

Robert Clayton - Elkton, Md.

Memo to ace: Deal with what's dealt

Jerry Bailey is a great rider - I have no issue with that. It just appears over and over again that he is one of the most arrogant ones I have observed. The Ft. Lauderdale Handicap at Gulfstream Park last Saturday is the latest incident.

Bailey accelerated his horse, Del Mar Show, while the horses were cooling off on the backstretch following the finish in order to pull alongside Mr. Livingston, Eibar Coa's mount, and berate Coa for what Bailey considered to be a vengeful ride.

Perhaps, Mr. Bailey, you should look at the replay of the race and see that Coa was just trying to take the same path as you, a rail-saving trip, and that each time his horse was a half-length in front of yours and more entitled to the same route. I guess when your ego is so enormous it is difficult to make impartial judgments.

(That Gulfstream stewards saw fit to suspend Coa for 30 days because of the incident was a distinct lapse in judgment.)

I thought Bailey endangered his cooling-off horse on the backstretch by trying to get his biased point across emphatically. Cool it, Jerry. Everyone is not after you. Quite frankly, the game will go on the same whether you are in it or not.

(Yes, I had a bet - all of $5 - on Coa's horse, and, yes, Bailey's horse was by far the better, but come on, let's get real!)

Jim Woodcock - Millersville, Md.

Will-pay postings: Don't dare blink

One of the most common complaints at any satellite wagering facility or offtrack parlor is the annoyingly brief amount of time allowed for patrons to note and digest the will-pay prices for doubles and pick threes. More often than not the information is gone from the monitors before it is possible to copy down even a portion of it. Are we supposed to scan and commit this information to memory?

On my home front, I have contacted all three Southern California tracks, but nothing much has changed. (Although the production quality of Santa Anita is much better than the terrible Hollywood Park product.)

If tracks truly would like to improve customer relations, they should take heed: This problem of having to speed-read important information is high on the list of our complaints.

Al Patini - Palm Desert, Calif.

Let's give a good guy one more leg up

At last year's Saratoga meet I ran into Randy Romero while walking through the crowd. I said, "Hi, Randy," and he said "Hi" right back. He didn't know me from Adam, but he made me feel as if I'd run into an old friend.

Now Romero needs help ("Facing kidney transplant, Romero is uninsured," Jan 30). It's time for the game to step up and help him and his family.

Steve DeMichele - Herkimer, N.Y.