12/17/2004 12:00AM

Letters to the editor

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Guild's divisive approach stalls resolution

I have heard from a couple of jockeys stating that the Jockeys' Guild was trying, somewhat unsuccessfully, to organize a phone chain to advise jockeys on a possible walkout.

If that is true, I hope that the Guild's president, L. Wayne Gertmenian, is being responsible to the membership and informing them of the ramifications and consequences individual jockeys could face if they do choose to walk out.

The Jockeys' Guild is not a recognized labor union in many states. In 1995, when there was a threat to the industry of a walkout, and the overnights came out without riders listed, the attorney general of Florida, Bob Butterworth, made it clear that the state of Florida would take action in the form of a lawsuit against the Jockeys' Guild, its officers, and the individual jockeys. If an organization that is not a recognized labor union "strikes," or stages a walkout other than for safety issues, it is illegal based on antitrust laws. Jockeys could be held responsible for the loss of revenue to the states in which they walk out.

Mr. Gertmenian has chosen a poor strategy regarding the membership's lack of catastrophic injury insurance coverage and has chosen to hold everyone in the industry, excluding himself, responsible. It was the industry, the press, and the membership that responded when jockey Gary Birzer was paralyzed in an accident at Mountaineer Race Track this year, not Mr. Gertmenian. This is "morally reprehensible," the words Gertmenian uses so freely.

I met with several industry leaders recently at the University of Arizona's Symposium on Racing. Everyone I spoke with is very concerned about the jockeys and the issues they are facing right now. They are working together to find solutions to the problems. It would behoove Mr. Gertmenian to stop manipulating the membership into constant war. He needs to focus on the serious issues at hand and learn how to sit down and negotiate. More confrontational tactics will only delay achieving what is best for Jockeys' Guild members.

Kelly Wietsma
President, Equisponse, Inc.
Armonk, Ny.

(Equisponse is a marketing agency whose clients include trainer Todd Pletcher and jockeys Jerry Bailey, Stewart Elliott, and Jose Santos.)

Serving the betting public? Now there's an idea

The Hollywood Park pick six fiasco on Saturday, Dec. 11 ("Hollywood pick six shifted off turf," Dec 15.), has the betting public once again boiling in anger and shaking its collective head in disbelief.

After one race of the day's pick six sequence had been run, the track announced that two of the remaining pick six races would be run on the main track, rather than on grass as scheduled. Riders had complained about the turf course condition, and management respected their judgment. No problem there - we all understand the track's mandate to keep safe its human and equine athletes.

There was a problem with how the track handled pick six bettors, though. Leaving bettors with post-time favorites - with no chance to change their tickets - as replacements for selections who had been scratched because of the surface switch made for a travesty. Apparently the track felt it had no other option.

Excuse me? Here's another option: Cancel the pick six and return the money. Here's another one: If a surface switch is in the works, delay the running for the bet's first leg long enough for trainers to scratch grass horses and for pick six players to exchange tickets and recalculate their wagers. How difficult is that? In fact, Hollywood even has lights. It could have delayed things for as long as necessary if the concerns of its patrons were a priority.

The plethora of short-term greedy decisions made by racing management continues to chase away the betting public. Here is just another example.

Mike Berry
Palm Beach, Fla.

Mistakes happen, even with racing stewards

There is no question that stewards should be held accountable for their important decisions, as Mike Watchmaker advocated in his Dec. 8 column, "Stewards must stop stumbling." The job, however, is not an exact science, and stewards should be judged and removed on the basis of ongoing reviews of their work that evaluate their competency, or lack thereof, not isolated or anecdotal incidents.

Nothing in the column pointed to a pattern of inefficiency by particular stewards, which of course does not mean that it does not exist. Just as Watchmaker shouldn't be given days off the Racing Form for a bad stretch of handicapping, even though some fans lose money on his analysis, stewards shouldn't be punished for uncharacteristic errors.

Alan B. Reis
New York City

Eclipse would be fitting end to Ramseys' year

I hope that voters in this year's Eclipse Awards will recognize Ken and Sarah Ramsey as leading owners for 2004.

In the strings of horses they campaigned throughout the country, the Ramseys fashioned three Grade 1 winners that made headlines all year long: Kitten's Joy, Roses in May, and Nothing to Lose. These three horses won a combined 11 graded stakes in 2004, including four Grade 1's. Their nationwide campaigns treated fans to some of the year's most thrilling action at no fewer than 10 different tracks in six states.

In addition to winning graded stakes across the country, the Ramseys also won a record ninth straight leading owners title at Churchill Downs this summer and were also leading owners at Gulfstream Park and tied for top owner at Keeneland's spring meet. They support the game not only with stakes horses, but with claiming and allowance runners who help fill cards on a daily basis.

Their success also serves as an inspiration to those who aspire to the upper echelon in Thoroughbred racing without spending millions of dollars. Of their three Grade 1 winners, two were homebreds and one was a moderately priced yearling purchase. Further demonstrating their outstanding approach to the game is their decision to have Kitten's Joy, Roses in May, and Nothing to Lose all compete again in 2005. This provides racing fans with another year to root for their favorites, a refreshing development when many of the game's stars are hustled off to stud at the first possible opportunity.

Racing needs more owners like the Ramseys, who support racing at all its levels nationally. Their generous conduct with the public and media, sportsmanship in situations that did not go their way, and ongoing commitment to the well-being of the sport should be acknowledged with a well-deserved Eclipse Award as leading owners for 2004.

Stephen L. Byk
Greenwich, N.Y.