12/10/2004 1:00AM

Letters to the Editor

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Smarty Jones seen with edge on Ghostzapper

If speed is the only consideration for Horse of the Year honors, then just award it to Ghostzapper and eliminate the voting. Then, each year award it to the horse who ran the fastest, and there will be no controversy. We thought, however, that there was more than speed to consider when voting.

Smarty Jones won 6 of 7 races, including the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, two of the most prestigious races in the world. Really, no one ever asks who won the Vosburgh or, unfortunately, even the Breeders' Cup Classic, unless that person is very closely connected to the racing industry.

How can a horse who has created more public interest and excitement than any horse in the last 25 years not be recognized for his remarkable achievements? How can Smarty Jones's grueling campaign not be a greater accomplishment than Ghostzapper's handpicked one?

Ghostzapper is undeniably an outstanding horse, but when all aspects of a horse's achievements are considered, no other horse has contributed more to the sport than Smarty Jones. The public's love for Smarty aside, his impressive record alone is more than enough to justify his receiving Horse of the Year honors.

Please, Eclipse Award voters, consider all Smarty has accomplished and all that he has done for racing and give this horse the recognition he deserves.

Chris and Rich Tokarek
Sarver, Pa.

Gutsy campaign worthy of year's top honor

I'm going to state my case for Smarty Jones, not because I think he would have beaten Ghostzapper in the Breeders' Cup Classic, but because I think he simply accomplished more.

Smarty Jones didn't have the luxury of spacing four races out over 12 months. No knock on Ghostzapper, but it's easier to wait until your horse is just right, pick your race, run him and win. His huge Beyer Speed Figure of 128 in the Iselin was earned against a horrible field, though he showed an unreal heart in winning the Woodward. In the Classic he basically turned a 1 1/4-mile race into a 1/4-mile sprint (though I am hesitant to hold the power of tactical speed against him), while the horse with the best shot at beating him (Pleasantly Perfect) was somewhere in the parking lot. Ghostzapper was brilliantly managed, but he had the advantage of picking and choosing his times to run and who he ran against, save one race. Unfortunately for Smarty Jones, they tell 3-year-olds when to run the big ones.

Smarty fell a few feet short after running the fastest middle half-mile in the history of the Belmont. The biggest knock on Smarty Jones is that he never beat a great horse, but except for one, he beat every horse they ever stuck in a gate to run against him, and that's all he can do. Smarty's early retirement shouldn't be held against him, just as his amazing popularity shouldn't help him win. The 3-year old campaign is the tougher one, and the Derby and Preakness outshine the Classic and any other race Ghostzapper won.

Rob Clayton
Elkton, Md.