03/04/2005 12:00AM

Letters to the editor

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Longtime vet bids drug foes the best of luck

Adlai Stevenson was asked how he felt in the wake of his loss to Dwight Eisenhower in the 1952 presidential election. He replied that he had once taken off in the seat next to the pilot in a private airplane. As they roared toward liftoff, they saw that a bull was charging straight at them. The twin-engine Cessna safely, though too closely for comfort, lifted over the horned charger, but Stevenson said he had always wondered what it might have felt like if that bull had gotten to the plane before it got off the ground.

"As the result of that election," Stevenson continued, "I now feel that I know."

This is sort of the way I feel after the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority essentially limited the medications to be used on Thoroughbreds within 24 hours of a race to Salix (formerly called Lasix). For many years I have been in the ring, so to speak, battling for what I believe to be in the best interest of the horse. The areas I have championed include the use of medicine that, as the result of the racing authority's Feb. 22 action, will soon no longer be legal ("Stricter medication rules approved," Feb. 24). Well, after more than 40 years on the front lines and as passionately as I have played my role as paladin for those issues in which I believe, to paraphrase another "old soldier," I am now "just fading away." I will not reiterate my oft-stated reasons for the positions I have taken on this matter. Like Eddie and Shoe and Lazaro too, my bones should soon be with Ben and Jimmy Jones.

And so I take this loss in good stoic humor, knowing that we who lost fought the good fight, and let it be said of us, by God, we were in the arena. We take solace in knowing that those who were on the winning side are, by and large, sincere and dedicated horsemen. We are confident that while they saw this one differently than we did, they will not go too far astray.

I close in the hope that time proves the racing authority right. As custodians of the industry and sport that I loved for generations, the authority certainly has my support, and if it should ever find that it was wrong on this one, as I suspect, if I am still around I will try not to say I told you so.

Alex Harthill, D.V.M.
Louisville, Ky.

Owners largely silent on crucial issue of drugs

Being a longtime fan and bettor, I have been avidly following the ongoing saga of the performance-enhancing drug situation and the industry's response to it.

Many serious and not-so-serious horseplayers have long and loudly voiced the opinion that something unnatural accounts for many race results. It's pretty obvious where much of the betting public stands on the issue.

Professional handicappers, numerous racing writers, veterinarians, and many racing officials have weighed in publicly on the subject, but except for a lonely voice or two out there, the folks who seem to have the most to lose or gain from all of this have been silent. I am referring, of course, to the owners.

It is puzzling, given the substantial financial commitment that goes with ownership. It is puzzling that there has been almost no public discourse or expression of outrage from people who own and train and who by now must realize that their chances of winning are often skewed by the real possibility they may be running against some juiced-up beast. Am I the only one who thinks that owners and trainers are in the best position of anyone in the industry to push for and demand changes and solutions that will ensure the integrity everyone in the sport deserves? Why the silence?

It's encouraging that several racing jurisdictions have initiated tests and penalties for "milkshakes." But if anyone believes that these simple concoctions are the only problem, they need only observe the profound effects steroids, growth hormones, and the like can and do have on the human racers of track and field.

Isn't it long past time for everyone who cares about this wonderful sport to stand up, speak out, and be counted?

Ronald J. Hodges
Elk Grove Village, Ill.

Fans thrown a curve, and NYRA strikes out

When the New York Racing Association announced its 2005 Belmont Stakes Day pricing ("Belmont Day tickets soar," Feb. 13), its website called the race "one of the great values in all of sports." When I called NYRA and expressed my incredulity at price increases well in excess of 100 percent, the initial response I received was that the Belmont was "the cheapest game in town" and that a price increase was due to put it "on par with the big boys."

Last time I checked, NYRA didn't just spend $119 million on Carlos Beltran and $53 million on Pedro Martinez. The best seats available for a New York Mets baseball game would set you back $60 ($5 less than I am being charged for seats nowhere near the best available on Belmont Day), and a baseball game lasts for three-plus hours, while the Belmont Stakes lasts about 2 1/2 minutes. How could anyone possibly think that a seat an eighth of a mile past the finish line should cost more than a ticket behind home plate?

The idea is to get people in to see great racing on Belmont Stakes Day, which might encourage them to come back. By increasing ticket prices to ridiculous levels, not only is NYRA going to eliminate completely the casual fan's interest in the event, but completely cheese off some pretty loyal fans as well.

John Spinello
Jersey City, N.J.

Raindrops keep falling . . .is anyone listening?

I wish someone would contact the powers that be at Santa Anita Park and ask them why, when every weather report in the country is predicting heavy rain seven days in advance, they still card races on the turf during the period of time when it is supposed to rain.

Every race-goer knows that those races are going to come off the turf, but doing one's handicapping turns into a guessing-game in trying to figure out who is going to run and who is not.

I remember a few years back, when rain was predicted the track would card substitute races, whereas if the race had to go off the turf, then the substitute race would go. I realize the track can't control the weather, but it can control how the races are carded.

Bertin D. Guillory
Los Angeles

A jockey's challenges don't change by venue

In regard to the Jan. 23 letter to the Racing Form "Baze's greatest strength: His circuit's weakness," I think it's time to lighten up on Russell Baze and give him the credit he deserves.

A jockey stands as much of a chance of getting killed or maimed at Front Wrap Downs just the same as at a major racetrack, perhaps even more so. We should honor these brave athletes, no matter where they ride.

Jim Loepp
Oceanside, Calif.