03/18/2005 1:00AM

Letters to the editor

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Owner makes case for Mullins and detention

As one of Jeff Mullins' longtime owners, I wanted to address some of the issues of recent weeks.

First, I am not pulling my horses from Jeff Mullins, as so many people have suggested I should. I have trained with Jeff for 10 years, and we have enjoyed tremendous success together. He is a great horseman who sees things in horses that many others don't. Horses from the Mullins barn receive the best of care, and, accordingly, look the part.

After I read Jeff's widely publicized remarks in the Los Angeles Times, I was troubled but decided not to hang Jeff before I heard his side of the story. I can assure you Jeff does not think gamblers are idiots or addicts. I am a gambler, as are many of his owners. I'm sure we've all said things we didn't mean or later regret when our tempers got the best of us. Hopefully we are forgiven and move on.

Contrary to what some may assume, I do not suggest to any of my nine trainers how they should do their jobs. If they administer a medication or feed supplement too close to the legal limit or too close to a race, they will have to deal with the consequences.

Although I appreciate the efforts being made to clean up racing, I feel current testing is just a Band-Aid. Any testing will always be months behind newly developed performance-enhancers. There is also the question of what is illegal or not. Should a vitamin, herb, or feed supplement that improves performance and is good for the horse be illegal?

The goal is to ensure that horses are not getting anything performance-enhancing within 24 hours of a race. This would give all concerned every assurance that the playing field is as level as possible. This can be achieved only if every horse in every race is placed under 24-hour detention. Obviously, tracks would have to build a facility to achieve this goal, but in the long run it would be cheaper than all the current testing. Only then would the public have the confidence that all horses racing that day had been in a totally secure environment for a full day before their races. The horses would adjust over time. Most trainers with whom I have spoken about this concept are supportive of it, particularly Jeff Mullins.

This is not a Jeff Mullins issue, it is an industry issue. Sodium bicarbonate is currently the hot topic, but it is just the tip of the iceberg. It would be much more constructive to stop wasting time and energy piling on a single trainer and determine the best way to deal with this issue on a national level.

Robert D. Bone
Shingle Springs, Calif.

Eyes of the world scrutinizing California

I am one of the "idiots" who enjoys betting on California races. The horses are good, the trainers are good, the jocks second to none, and scratches are minimal (unlike other states where you handicap the night before and look the next day to find half the fields are scratched).

I read with great interest both the the Los Angeles Times column about trainer Jeff Mullins and the March 13 letter to the Racing Form by Richard Shapiro of the California Horse Racing Board, "Trainer remarks showed a poor grasp of reality."

Mr. Shapiro should recognize that California racing does not operate in a vacuum. With offtrack betting parlors and the Internet, all race meets play to a national audience, some to an international audience.

There is a definite conflict of interest in the Mullins affair regarding Ingrid Fermin of the California racing board, who is the sister-in-law of Bruce Headley, a Mullins rival in training, as well as with Dr. Rick Arthur, a veterinarian supervising medication testing who also works for another trainer, Richard Mandella. To suggest otherwise is the same as suggesting that fans are idiots, just not saying it aloud.

The California racing board should take immediate action to eliminate any potential conflicts of interest. Otherwise, it should not pretend to have the bettors' best interest at heart.

Wayne Meyer
Louisville, Ky.

No getting around conflicts involved

A conflict of interest either exists or it does not. Conflicts cannot be explained away by addressing the integrity of the conflicted as Richard Shapiro of the California Horse Racing Board has attempted to do in discussing the remarks of Jeff Mullins. The facts are in Mullins's corner when he states that Ingrid Fermin of the racing board and veterinarian Rick Arthur have conflicts of interest.

Jerry Andersen
Pacific Palisades, Calif.

It's a no-brainer to see sport's statewide decline

I'm a middle-aged banker, and every day I wear a suit and tie. The Wednesday afternoon before last was no different, except for one added accessory: a bright orange dunce cap emblazoned with the word "Idiot" front and back. On that day, though, I wasn't going to the bank, I was going to Santa Anita.

Was I going to bet? Sure. But my true purpose was to refute the statement recently made by trainer Jeff Mullins about horse racing fans ("Stewards will discuss remarks with Mullins," March 12). Mr. Mullins, we are not idiots.

I do, however, lament the idiocy that is allowing the precipitous decline of the horse racing industry in California.

This industry employs 50,000 people statewide. Thousands of acres of open spaces are preserved by horse-breeding farms. Southern California's racing facilities are renowned throughout the world. And yet the industry is dying right before our eyes. Something unique and irreplaceable will soon be lost forever.

Any idiot can see that.

Tim Condon
Santa Monica, Calif.

Charles Town horsemen being played by track

Charles Town management struck another blow against its horsemen on March 10, with an across-the-board 20 percent reduction in purses ("Charles Town cuts purses," March 12). With no advance warning or negotiations, the cut took place immediately, without even awaiting the issuance of a new condition book.

Fueled by slots revenue, Penn National Gaming Inc. is making tens of millions in profit running what was once a moribund little racetrack. Using the excuse that the new governor is behind this reduction, concerned over unfunded workers' compensation levels, management has once again put it to the Charles Town horsemen. With perhaps the weakest horsemen's representation in the country, owners and trainers have no place to turn.

Money, apparently, cannot buy happiness, harmony, or satisfaction - at least at Charles Town Races and Slots.

Fred Hart
Jericho, N.Y.