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Letters to the editor
Gill describes Eclipse scene in different take
In Jay Privman's Feb. 2 column, "Gill: Many wins but no champ," he claimed that I don't help myself by being outspoken, brash, and controversial. Ask yourself: Couldn't brash be confident? And what's more controversial than telling the truth? I never claimed to be a politician. I say what I mean. I'm not going to apologize for my confidence.
Privman wrote, "Gill won so few stakes . . . ." Well, I believe I have won more stakes than anyone in the industry in the last two years. True, they were not all graded, but ask the breeder if they count. And, for allowance races, I believe this is also true. You see, they are not all claiming horses - and I want to make it clear that I am not apologizing for claiming horses.
The column made the point that it is not a superior feat to win 450 races in a year. Well, it was 487 wins, the second-largest number in history. If it's so easy, then why is that the case?
The column went on to say that my table of guests seemed to be disinterested after we lost. Well, at the table were my five children, three of whom are 10 and under - I believe they were coloring at the time. My parents and my wife's father, who are well into their 70's, were also present. All of the above were four hours past their bedtime. Not quite the disgruntled entourage implied.
And lastly, the column quoted me as saying I was a "sucker" for claiming horses in California. I was buying horses at the wrong levels because, I believe, others were cheating, administering milkshakes. (Isn't that what is coming out in the papers now?) And that is why I would have been a "sucker" had I stayed.
Brashly, controversially, sincerely,
Steroid use hurts racing as it has other sports
After reading Dave Litfin's Jan. 29 column, "Don Six the wild card in Paumonok," which mused over what dietary changes Don Six had undergone since coming under the care of trainer Scott Lake, I recalled an article in the Nov. 13, 2004 Thoroughbred Times. Lake, interviewed in a veterinary article, said that he gives "just about every horse" Equipoise, an anabolic steriod.
Lake's theory was that if steroids help humans gain muscle, why not racehorses? Is there nothing in the world of Thoroughbreds that makes it illegal to use steroids? Since steroids have ruined the Olympics and now are scandalizing major-league baseball, how can this subject not be addressed with racehorses?
Steriod abuse happens in the horses in training sales as well. Just ask Padua Stables, whose owner has sat on his hands, refusing to buy horses because there were no rules governing what is given to sales horses before a sale. Steroids do explain how, in Lake's words, Don Six "put on between 50 and 75 pounds of muscle" since he took over the training.
My hope is that someone out there can explain where the Thoroughbred community and track executives stand on the use of steroids so the playing field can be leveled for both the owners and the bettors alike.
Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
Restricted races a poor state of affairs
I read with amusement Jay Hovdey's account of the climb to the top by Musique Toujours ("Teamwork does trick," Feb. 2). This valiant steed's exploits, on his way to knocking down the winner's share of a cool $1 million purse in the Sunshine Millions Classic, included winning a couple of mid-level claimers in California, and not much else. Seemingly incapable of getting the first quarter-mile in under 24 seconds, he bested a handful of graded winners at 70-1 to earn the biggest prize in statebred history. Excelsior!
Statebred races, which are proliferating like kudzu, are very interesting. Popular with owners, who can now buy yearlings at miniature prices to compete for life-size purses, these restricted events are slowly muscling out open races. Never mind that the protagonists in these hothouse contests have neither brilliance nor bottom. They possess the required number of legs, and, in any case, there's a winner in each race. Statebred races, which essentially burn up taxpayer dollars to underwrite an inferior product, are earnestly sold in the state house. Well, you get more of what you subsidize, and the Sunshine Millions, which pops boxcar winners with monotonous regularity, is the very apotheosis of that truism.
Improvement of the breed? Statebred races are the equine equivalent of social promotion in the public schools.
Kenneth M. Steele
Rowland gone from track but hardly forgotten
Wednesday, Feb. 9, was the one-year anniversary of jockey Michael Rowland's death. He went down on Feb. 4, 2004, in a spill at Turfway Park and never regained consciousness.
On Feb. 4, 2005, a year to the day after Mike's tragic accident, jockey Richard Migliore reached a milestone in his career, winning his 4,000th race at Aqueduct. He unselfishly dedicated the victory to Mike Rowland and his family. You see, Mike Rowland won 3,997 Thoroughbred races in his career, and Migliore knew how much reaching 4,000 would have meant to him and his family. Migliore showed his class and dignity with this gift.
Knowing Mike the way I did, 4,000 wins would have meant a lot to him. It also would have meant a step closer to 4,001 wins. You see, Mike loved to win. Born in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., on Sept. 12, 1962, Michael Francis Rowland was a very gifted individual. He spent most of his early years on various racetrack backsides, where he developed a passion for speed and Thoroughbreds.
Throughout his career, including the last stakes race he won, he showed his talent, courage, and love for the sport and horse. In his last stakes win, which came a matter of weeks before he died, when his mount crossed the finish line, he patted him several times on the neck to let him know he had done a great job.
Mike exemplified a tremendous work ethic. He knew that in order to stay at the top he had to work harder than anyone, and he did. As he matured as a jockey, he helped tutor many younger jockeys, teaching them how to improve their skills.
At Thistledown Racecourse, where Mike set records and standards for jockeys, his name has been inscribed on the jockeys' room door as you head out to the racetrack. Although a year has passed, Mike will always be remembered as "the one and only," as he portrayed himself to me the first time we met in 1984. His legacy as a champion will live forever.
Moreland Hills, Ohio