10/07/2004 11:00PM

Letters to the Editor

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Pick five experiment a success so far

Referring to Steven Crist's Oct 2. article about Oak Tree electing to use a $1 pick five as part of our normal betting program, I thought it might be of interest to report the results for the first four days.

Bottom line: the bet is popular. I hear this from our patrons and our mutuel tellers. Secondly, it has had no negative impact on either our pick six or pick four pools. On Saturday, Oct. 2, for example, with a $98,000 carryover in the pick six the total pool was about $600,000. The pick five was $207,000, and the $400,000 guaranteed pick four was $542,000.

We have always maintained this bet was an experiment, and I was not sure it would prove to be a positive overall addition. I am not yet convinced that the trial is conclusive. As you know, the first robin does not a spring make, but somebody has to do something different if the industry is going to grow.

Sherwood Chillingworth
Executive Vice President
Oak Tree Racing Association

Santos played key role aboard Funny Cide

An award must go to Jose Santos for outfoxing Edgar Prado in this year's Jockey Club Gold Cup. Prado, on Newfoundland, went into a drive around the far turn to challenge and eventually overtake the leader, Love of Money. As the leaders dueled ahead, Santos tightly held Funny Cide and was content to lose a little ground in order to avoid using his horse too early.

Santos's gamble that the pace would enervate the leaders paid off. Love of Money lost ground throughout the stretch and Newfoundland could not withstand Funny Cide's charge when he showed up on his flank. In a competitive race, Santos's correct decision over a short piece of ground made all of the difference.

Another award must go to Barclay Tagg for having Funny Cide ready to play every time he entered the gate this year. Funny Cide may not be among the "creme de la creme," but what owner wouldn't love to own him?

Scott Jason
Hoboken, N.J.

In racing business, customer should be king

After reading Steve Crist's article regarding the NTRA's efforts to promote racing ("Marketing efforts miss bottom line," Oct. 30), and the perceived lack of tangible results garnered by that effort, I just had to throw in my two cents.

A good business plan of any sort requires a marketing effort that is constant and relentless, with all the bells and whistles, like print advertising, TV, direct mail, promotions, etc. No amount of advertising, however, can sell a dysfunctional business, and sadly, that is what we have in horse racing. Tim Smith did a great job with what he had, he just didn't have much. When a business treats its customers like so many numbers, when the product is overpriced and forces its best customers offshore, when nobody can agree upon even the most basic idea of what business they are in, why would new customers want to get involved?

It can be pretty basic - horse racing is in the business of satisfying horseplayers, who are the future, or death, of horse racing. Their dollars fund the whole game. Treat them right, you've got a shot. Treat them like you do now, and, of course, horse racing cannot grow. That's Business 101.

Stephen Roel
Encinitas, Calif.

Time to get serious about enforcement

After reading the article "Sciacca gets 120-day penalty" (Sept. 24), you know it's about time for some strict suspensions to be handed out by stewards and racing jurisdictions. There are trainers out there who don't care about their horses or the public and are laughing at the testing procedures and the powers that rule them because they stay just inside the boundaries.

Let's put every horse entered in a race in North America under surveillance 24 hours before it is to run and see what happens. Also, let's give stiffer penalties for entering horses who are scratched the next day because they show up lame. If the horse was lame, why did the trainer enter it?

Ian Broomfield
Toronto, Ontario

Jockey: Lack of insurance needs to be addressed

In a multibillion dollar industry, we, the riders, on average are getting less than $20 a mount after agents, valets, the IRS, and health insurance, and if I fall I'm responsible for any health-care costs over $100,000. Jockeys lack affordable disability insurance, which is the reason I recently decided to quit riding.

Of the 1,200 riders in The Jockeys' Guild, take away the top 75 and the rest make an average of $26,000 a year. The tracks pay the Guild $2 million a year in exchange for the right to use our images, and we use this money to pay for insurance. But how can they expect to cover 1,200 riders with health and major medical insurance and disability with that amount of money?

If every rider in the country makes the decision I've had to make, the game would very soon rethink its position. I pray no one finds himself in the position of the recently paralyzed Gary Birzer, but unfortunately it's just a matter of time.

Shane Sellers
Louisville, Ky.