02/25/2005 12:00AM

Letters to the editor

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Horsemen's V.P. counters claims of a dissident

As an owner since 1987 and a breeder since shortly thereafter, I am responding a letter in the Feb. 20 Racing Form, "Florida owners need muscle in contract talks."

1. In the last four years, I attended over 95 percent of the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association board meetings, and never once saw the letter's author, Bill Cesare, at any of those meetings. We have had many horsemen attend our meetings and speak to the board if they requested to do so.

2. I have never had a conversation with Cesare, nor has he ever approached me to discuss what is going on in legislative issues or organizational issues. Many other horsemen, though, have stopped me on the backside and at the racetrack to talk to me about slot machines and other issues of concern.

3. Apparently Mr. Cesare has not figured out that the racetracks are our business partners and not the evil empire. Naturally, the horsemen's association has to negotiate the best deal for its members, and as someone who has been very involved, I can speak with authority that we do an excellent job. We have professionals on the board who understand what needs to get done and do not use lawyers to put a wedge between us and the tracks, at an expense that is not needed. The FHBPA has an attorney who advises us on all matters.

4. The association's members elect the board, which voted to provide $1 million to advocate slot machines. (Churchill Downs provided us with a three-year loan, which is being paid back from the Calder purses at $125 per race.) This million dollars will end up providing the horseman with tens of millions of dollars in purses that they would not have seen had we stayed on the sidelines. The board saw the big picture and made the right decision.

5. Horseman were asked to show up in force to the Broward and Miami Dade County commission meetings to show support in getting the slots on the March 8 ballot. Hundreds of horseman were there - but where was Cesare?

6. I just received my FHBPA ballot, and I see Cesare is running for the board. I say good luck to him, but it's a shame he has to solicit votes without having most of the facts.

As for Cesare's call for "more communication between the owners . . . and the HBPA board," I am always willing and able to listen to whatever members' issues are. I have always let our office staff know that my phone numbers are available to any and all members, and that includes Mr. Cesare.

Michael Nyman, vice president and legislative chairman,
Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association

Belmont day pricing unseats loyal fans

The New York Racing Association is drastically raising ticket and admission prices, along with parking fees, for the Belmont Stakes on June 11, yet Bill Nader, NYRA's senior vice president, has the temerity to say this absurd escalation is "not going to price anybody out" ("Belmont Day tickets soar," Feb. 13).

Of course it will.

I know I won't pay $60 a seat for the chance to sit in one of the back rows of section Y of the second-floor grandstand, hundreds of yards from the finish line. Or, worse yet, in plastic temporary seats behind one of those distant sections if another huge Belmont crowd shows up to cheer on another Triple Crown possibility. (On the issue of such "auxiliary seating" at Belmont, I speak from lamentable personal experience.)

What bothers me even more than the price hikes are the so-called reasons for them. On NYRA's website, NYRA president Charles Hayward says the prices have been raised to "keep pace" with the other Triple Crown host tracks. Why does Belmont have to try to emulate the fan-unfriendly policies of Churchill and Magna? Hayward then reminds everyone that Belmont still offers the "least expensive seat and admission prices." Does that mean NYRA will have to pick up the "pace" next year to match dollar-for-dollar the outlandish ticket and admission prices at Churchill Downs and Pimlico?

Nader suggested that the higher prices are the result of the NYRA's shaky "financial picture." In language that's almost Orwellian, he says, "We needed to step up and correct the pricing of the event." To me, that simply means that thousands of fans on June 11 are going to have to foot the bill for various NYRA legal lapses over the years.

Sam Ludu
Baldwin, N.Y.

One longtime patron won't stand for it

After about 35 years of getting Belmont Stakes tickets in amounts from 15 to 24 per year, I've had enough of Belmont.

The New York Racing Association, in its wisdom, is raising prices for everything that special day, and I don't want any part of it.

Our package last year (at $27 a seat in section S) was $486. This year NYRA raised our ticket costs (for the 18 seats) to $60, or $1,080.

For section R, right next to where we were last year, they raised the price to $100 a seat.

NYRA also announced it is prohibiting people from bringing booze into the track on Belmont Day. Absolutely no alcohol, NYRA said, in the interest of patron safety.

So now they want you to line up for a $6 beer, line up to wager, and on and on. Others can line up. I have better plans, which do not include attendance at Belmont. NYRA can go jump into the infield lake.

Alan Hirsch
Port Washington, N.Y.

A career of highlights merits Eclipse for Eddie D.

Eddie Delahoussaye, who retired as a jockey two years ago, will be honored at Santa Anita on Saturday. Delahoussaye won 6,384 races. He won the Kentucky Derby in back-to-back years with Gato Del Sol and Sunny's Halo. He won the Breeders' Cup Classic aboard A.P. Indy. He received the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in 1981. He was inducted into racing's Hall of Fame in 1993, In addition, he earned respect from everyone in the sport for his professionalism and integrity.

During his time as a rider, however, Delahoussaye was never voted an Eclipse Award. Fortunately, this is an oversight that can be rectified.

The Eclipse Award of Merit honors an individual or entity displaying outstanding lifetime achievement in, and service to, the Thoroughbred industry.

The Eclipse Special Award honors outstanding individual achievements in, or contributions to, the sport of Thoroughbred racing.

No one is more qualified to receive either of those Eclipse Awards than Delahoussaye. Isn't it time for Eddie Delahoussaye finally to get an Eclipse Award?

Jon White
Monrovia, Calif.