01/14/2005 12:00AM

Letters to the editor

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Tongues wag over opener at Gulfstream

Opening day at Gulfstream Park was quite a shocker. Yes, some compromise and inconveniences as a result of the endeavor to rebuild and upgrade the park.

"There's no question there will be some inconveniences for everybody involved with the upcoming meet," said Gulfstream's chairman, Frank Stronach, in a Jan. 2 interview with the Racing Form ("Magna to rivals: Let's work together").

But did anyone expect employees who had no clue as to what was going on? Not a one even knew where the main entrance was (at least anyone I asked out in the parking lot upon my arrival).

Did anyone expect to get ripped off for $5 to occupy a small tented facility a quarter-mile from the finish line, unable to see the tote board or hear any announcements? (Most speakers had the volume level and fidelity of a $5 transistor radio.)

And was there any excuse for the meet's opening race to nearly end in disaster? One faulty tractor - no backup? - snarled a race, placing a field of horses and their riders in peril. Fans and bettors were furious, and at least one jockey looked fit to be tied.

"I think people will have a fun time. It will be more like a fair meet," said Stronach in the DRF interview.

I wish I had a tape recording of all I heard from race fans on Gulfstream's opening day 2005.

"What a joke." "Does anybody know anything about what's going on?" "I work here and this is embarrassing." "Why couldn't they just run at Calder?" "Where the heck do you bet?" "I've had enough, let's get out of here."

As far as 2005 goes, many people are already done with Gulfstream Park, myself included. As for 2006, there is one element terribly missing at Gulfstream that South Floridians would dearly love to have back: The bands. We love the bands. They brought in locals, and they were a powerful recruiting tool for new fans. Without the music, much new blood that would bring in new betting dollars is gone.

"When we have the new facilities ready next year," said Stronach, "we're going to be able to put on such a great show."

This, of course, remains to be seen.

Dan Carter
Sunrise, Fla.

Stronach's racing vision misses sight of takeout cut

The Jan. 2 interview with Frank Stronach about his vision for the industry, demonstrated how out of touch his thinking is. He blames the offshore betting companies for the purse woes, implying, I guess, that if the industry controlled the betting, all would be fine and purses would rise.

Does Stronach really believe that big bettors will go back to the outrageous takeout rates of pre-rebate days? Not a chance. Slot revenue is raising purses at tracks that have gaming, and that seems to be a partial solution. But only through legislation that reduces the takeout will the big bettor return to betting through the track windows.

The reason that racing only gets 3 percent of the gambling dollar, as Stronach conceded, is because it is a sucker's bet. Lower the takeout and watch the bettors return to the fold.

Stephen Roel
Encinitas ,Calif.

Magna plays the game with eye to monopoly

Frank Stronach's true message came through loud and clear in the Jan. 2 interview "Magna to rivals: Let's work together."

Stronach proclaimed ". . . there should be one betting company in America . . . ." I wonder who he would suggest for the position of CEO of that one betting company?

I have an account with Television Games Network and love the way it handles the product. The only reason Stronach won't allow TVG to use his signal is that it is a legitimate competitor of his own company. Funny how other tracks can get enough of the pie for allowing TVG to use their signals. Stronach does not care about the fan - his past performance proves that it's all about him and Magna Entertainment.

Until Keeneland opens, my money will be bet on races at Fair Grounds and Aqueduct.

Vince Richards
El Segundo, Calif.

California board delayed justice for Valenzuela

Why did it take more than a month to deliver an administrative law judge's decision in the case of Patrick Valenzuela ("P. Val can apply for license," Jan. 9)? The decision, from mid-November 2004, overruled the Del Mar stewards' suspension of Valenzuela in July of 2004.

The California Horse Racing Board should have reinstated his license immediately, whatever day they received the ruling. I don't expect the board to call a special meeting for a guy with such a tainted past, but Valenzuela's past has nothing to do with this issue. He should have been able to ride in the remainder of the day's race card after the board received the judge's ruling.

The following is from the racing board's website:

"The purpose of the California Horse Racing Board is to regulate pari-mutuel wagering for the protection of the betting public, to promote horse racing and breeding industries, and to maximize State of California tax revenues."

I don't see where it says the purpose of the board is to take away a person's means of supporting his family and then keep him down as long as it possibly can.

Glad to have you back, Pat.

Marc Evans
Upland, Calif.

Judge's decision seen as splitting hairs

The administrative law judge who ruled in favor of Patrick Valenzuela is symptomatic of the decay of reason in our legal system. We may concede that Valenzuela did not know the difference between a hair follicle and a hair strand. We might suspect, though, that Valenzuela had one purpose in mind when he shaved every hair strand off his body, and that was to prevent adequate testing of his drug status.

If shaving his armpits and pubic hair is a normal occurrence for Valenzuela, then the decision makes sense. Otherwise, it is a travesty of justice. The California Horse Racing Board, if it grants Valenzuela a license, would appear to be condoning a flagrant attempt to violate its policies that, through a linguistic defense, has mocked its authority.

Frank Lewkowitz
Paradise Valley, Ariz.