12/03/2004 12:00AM

Letters to the Editor


Security focus misses primary fan suspicion

I have been associated with horse racing for some 20 years now, and over the years I have been in contact with many people who following racing religiously. Many bettors (and occasionally journalists) always seem to think someone is cheating. I have received many calls from people who are dead-convinced that so-and-so is using something: "Follow what so-and-so is doing, because he must have the good stuff."

I must say it gets tiresome. I know that trainers are out there cutting corners and trying new things all the time, but to say they are outright cheating, with a direct reference to drugs, I believe is over the line. The tracks out here in Southern California now have testing methods for bicarbonate-laden "milkshakes." They have cameras for the entries in graded races. And they are spending money to have a receiving barn for horses to be put into on race days.

All this is a smoke screen for the public. The real problem lies in what can appear to be the past-posting of money into the mutuel pools. Does track management know how bad that looks? Odds drop constantly, every day, on horses who hit the board. Everyone sees it, and it makes the industry look horrible.

The tracks say nothing is wrong, that the money that drives these odds are just bets that have not been uploaded into the mutuel pools because it takes time once betting shuts off for it to filter through.

How come it takes as long as it does, when I can buy a stock online and receive confirmation of my transaction in seconds, and I do mean seconds?

The excuses tracks give for these odds movements is unacceptable. If the industry wants to start to look like it is on the up-and-up, this problem needs to be addressed and addressed immediately. Racing must start spending a little money on this major problem and stop the smoke screens with the drug issue.

Gregg Guiol
Monarch Beach, Calif.

Tracks should go forward with low-investment exotics

In "AmericaTab nails pick six again," (Dec. 2), the Racing Form reported that "After taxes, each of the 826 AmericaTab players who participated in the bet (at a $10 minimum) received a return of $1.74 for each $1 bet, or the approximate equivalent of betting on a horse who won at 4-5." As the industry experiments with new products, it needs to examine their impact on the entertainment side of the business as well as on the investment side.

At least racing is finally acknowledging that groups other than rebated professionals and inspired geniuses should be recruited as pick six participants. But the entertainment aspect of the game dictates that the $10 minimum enable independent purchases of 100 combinations. Without the satisfaction of making one's own selections and the ability to maintain control of the wager's rate of return, AmericaTab's approach just creates a new "whale" who interferes with the feeding of the old ones. Does the AmericaTab wager qualify any parties for a rebate? If so, who and how much?

In his July 17 column, "Betting thrills at the drop of a dime," Steven Crist argued in favor of "affordable" wagers including 10-cent multi-horse boxes and partial wheels. Crist, however, advocated an exemption for the pick six, despite its headliner status at Southern California tracks. That "sacred" horse left the barn with AmericaTab, but wouldn't 10-cent pick six payoffs result in less-frequent imposition of the IRS withholding burden?

Major league racing in New York and California would be wise to embrace affordable wagers as substitutes for slot machines. I don't know how the New York Racing Association plans to attract sane horseplayers to Aqueduct in the middle of winter, but certainly Santa Anita should at least experiment with affordable wagering opportunities for its ontrack patrons.

Steve Abelove
Lawndale, Calif.

Velazquez exemplifies a winning style

In an industry so desperate for a star, we need look no further than jockey John Velazquez.

With a classic riding style that is oh so similar to that of his Hall of Fame agent, Angel Cordero Jr., Velazquez has become the dominant force wherever he rides.

Whether in a Grade 1 stakes race or a $25,000 claiming card-closer, the bettor is assured of an aggressive, hustling, smart ride. Whether it's rating the pace, coming from behind, or in his famous stalk-and-pounce position, Velazquez always seems to push the right buttons.

Just one example: Has anybody seen a more brilliant, classic ride than the one on Proud Accolade in the Champagne?

Not only did he do everything in his power to put his horse in the best position to win the race, Velazquez also "rode" the horse he had to beat, Afleet Alex, by preventing that one from getting clear running room until Proud Accolade had gotten the jump on his rival turning for home, and that was what made the difference.

In a year when Edgar Prado has been wonderful, Ramon Dominquez and Rafael Bejarano have established themselves as up-and-coming stars, and where Jerry Bailey did his worst impersonation of Bob Vila, if John Velazquez is not the Eclipse Award winner as top jockey, then it will be a crime.

Paul Lukin
Tampa, Fla.

Baird took on all comers in reaching milestone

Hats off to Dale Baird, trainer magna cum laude, for saddling his 9,000th winner recently at Mountaineer Race Track ("Baird celebrates No. 9,000," Nov. 8).

Since the introduction of slot machines at the track, purses have escalated several-fold since the bush-league days of old Waterford Park. With the higher purse structure, owners and trainers have shipped in from all over the country, but Baird has soared like an eagle over the invaders. He just kept winning, and he has etched his name into the record book for a long time to come.

Steve Kopa
Weirton, W.Va.

Minimum stallion age could invigorate game

Here's an idea that might just shed some real sunshine on another partly sunny/cloudy year in American Thoroughbred racing.

I believe that The Jockey Club can save the day by instituting a new rule. It can do that for the good of the sport, right? Just like the mandatory live-cover rule: Other breeds are perpetuated through artificial insemination, but not Thoroughbreds, for a host of reasons.

So here's the proposed new rule: No Thoroughbred can be allowed to stand at stud and be recognized until he is 5 years old. Want to bet that Smarty Jones would have gotten over those nagging little problems that kept him away from the races if the alternative were being a field ornament for a year? Come on, Jockey Club, rise to the occasion.

Joe Gillet Davies
Monkton, Md.