11/05/2004 1:00AM

Letters to the Editor


Cup invaders proved done in by own hands

Abject sloppiness was on display at Lone Star Park last weekend, and from a most unlikely source: the Coolmore conglomerate. Four of its five runners did not break from the starting gate with their respective fields. The blame for this clearly belongs to trainer Aidan O'Brien, who should know by now that you cannot concede the start in American racing.

On the expansive galloping racecourses in Europe, perhaps it doesn't matter much, but on the tight-turning tracks in the United States, a prompt beginning is essential.

Powerscourt would have won the Turf, I believe, had he not dwelt at the start - Jamie Spencer's hapless, ill-timed ride notwithstanding. A victory, combined with his Arlington Million first-place finish/disqualification debacle, would have given him as good a claim as any horse to the Eclipse Award for turf male. Among Coolmore's primary goals, I assume, is attaining championships. Well, it gave one away in Dallas - dwelling in a starting gate.

As for Coolmore's stable rider, Spencer, his three most prominent rides in America this year - the Arlington Million, the Breeders' Cup Mile, and the Turf - resulted in loses that should not have been. He seems badly lacking in a basic understanding of an axiom of mammalian nature: We move away from that which swats us. His performance in America, so far, is laughably reminiscent of Kieren Fallon's early gropings (Borgia, anyone?). The young and obviously talented Spencer is learning on the job because the Coolmore chiefs are allowing him to. All blame for the recent string of follies lies with them.

Experienced American riders are available, and gate-schooling is not a lost Egyptian art form.

Kenneth C. Kush

Permanent home needed with level playing field

After watching the Breeders' Cup for the 21st year, my friends and I were more frustrated with this version than any other previous editions. The root of the problem was the two racing surfaces. With the short stretch of the main track, and the bullring of a turf course, too many competitors simply didn't get the chance to compete honestly last Saturday. The race charts clearly define the problem. This is no knock on Lone Star Park - it appeared from television to be a well-run afternoon of racing. The configuration of those two racetracks, however, simply should not be the sort on which to determine championship. This would be like the United States Golf Association conducting the U.S. Open at the En Joie Municipal Golf Course, where the pros have been playing the B.C. Open for years. Nice course, but not a championship-caliber setup.

But this problem has a solution. As soon as possible, all future Breeders' Cup programs should be conducted at Belmont Park, where the size of the main track and the turf courses allow everyone to compete on a level playing field. (Unfortunately, at previous Breeders Cups at Belmont, the racing public on the East Coast has not shown the same interest in attending Belmont in the fall as they do in the spring for the Belmont Stakes.) But the push for a permanent location can begin next year. Put 100,000 fans in Belmont next October like the last two Belmont Stakes, and I guarantee the suits at the Breeders' Cup will rethink the idea of running their event at places like Lone Star Park. Besides, if he stays healthy, Funny Cide, one of the stars from those Belmont Stakes, will probably be competing next year.

Chuck Seeger
Alexandria Va.

Champion mare was put in impossible situation

The choice to run Azeri in the Breeders' Cup Classic rather than the Distaff was bred of greed and arrogance and was in no way a refection of good horsemanship. Her fifth-place finish was outstanding - very respectable against such a star-studded field. It reflected the enormous heart and will to win that this filly has. She gives all she has got in every race.

Yet, in spite of this tenacious will to win, she had already proved she was unable, in her current state, to beat the boys when she was soundly beaten in the Metropolitan Handicap in May. Why in the world would her connections choose to put her in again against the boys again, and not just in any Grade 1, either. This Classic had one of the toughest fields I can remember.

I realize that if she were to have won, it would have been amazing, and I would have gladly eaten crow to celebrate the incredible achievement. The reality was, though, and most were painfully aware of it, that she had zero chance of winning. She even risked the possibility of injury. Some say her presence in the race added sex appeal, but I say it would have been just as exciting to have her win the Distaff and then likely be awarded champion older mare, a title I feel she deserves.

Azeri is not being treated like the champion she is, with reverence and care on center stage. Rather, the feeling is that she has been sold to the circus and suffers the fate of some has-been sideshow act.

Laura Doty
Corvallis, Mont.

Azeri's connections gave her second chance to shine

Azeri's fifth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Classic, beaten only 9 3/4 lengths by Ghostzapper, was a remarkable performance, to say the least. The field was as strong as ever as 13 horses went to the post. Azeri beat the likes of the 2003 Kentucky Derby winner and America's horse, Funny Cide; the Belmont stakes winner Birdstone; Dynever; and Newfoundland, just to name a few.

Let's face it, owner Michael Paulson and trainer D. Wayne Lukas have to be commended for bringing Azeri back to the races after all the controversy that was surrounding her retirement just about this time a year ago.

Salvatore James Coriale
Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Jockey meant no slight of vital fan support

I believe the letter "As celebrities, riders should be fan-friendly," (Oct. 31) unfairly characterized me as not being fan-friendly on a recent trip I made to River Downs.

The letter-writer stated that I "completely ignored" those fans who called out to me when I was in the paddock before riding Scipion in the Cradle Stakes. What the letter-writer failed to mention - perhaps she was unaware - was that I signed a lot of autographs and goggles for fans just outside the jockeys' room before I rode that race. If I missed some people, I apologize, but it certainly wasn't intentional.

I understand and appreciate the role the fans play in our sport and would never intentionally ignore them.

Edgar Prado
Garden City, N.Y.