03/25/2005 12:00AM

Letters to the editor

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Talk of 'idiots' and conflicts obscure issue

In the March 20 letter to the Racing Form "Owner makes case for Mullins and detention," the writer, an owner with horses in the Mullins barn, focused on trainer Jeff Mullins's reference to racing fans as "idiots." Most of Mullins's supporters also make this the main issue and refuse to recognize the important issue of giving horses illegal levels of medication in order to affect the outcome of a sporting event.

I do not care if someone calls me an "idiot" for doing something I enjoy, but I am upset with racing for allowing some trainers to get away with criminal behavior. What is the difference between doping horses and fixing a basketball game?

Two other March 20 letters mentioned conflict of interest on the part of the people involved in trying to uncover the trainers responsible for the continuing slide of customer confidence in horse racing. This is known as killing the messenger. Obviously the work that Ingrid Fermin of the California Horse Racing Board and veterinarian Rick Arthur are doing is very effective (finally), since all the affected trainers are winning at much lower percentages than they were before being caught.

Horse racing is a sport of conflict of interest. As one example, the owner of Santa Anita, Frank Stronach, races horses at his racetracks, and as has happened in the past, inquiries involving horses he owns had been resolved in his favor. Talk about conflict of interest.

Let us not stop the efforts of racing to punish criminal behavior. Let's support the efforts and get on to resolving other issues, such as late-changing odds and illegal betting patterns, and make racing the great sport it could be.

Sandy Weinstock
Sherman Oaks, Calif.

Defense of Mullins ignored key aspects

Regarding the whitewash of trainer Jeff Mullins by one of his owners in a March 20 letter to the Racing Form, let's address some of the points the letter missed. Mullins's illegal medications caused the following:

1. Harm to trainers who did not cheat.

2. Harm to owners who lost purse money.

3. Harm to bettors who did not know if Mullins was using that "medication" on that particular day. Did Mullins's owners know?

Just where is the integrity here?

James McFeeters
Glendale, Calif.

California should follow Louisiana's testing lead

In his letter to the Racing Form, "Owner makes case for Mullins and detention," Robert Bone, an owner with horses with trainer Jeff Mullins, said that he does not suggest to any of his nine trainers how they should do their jobs. Was he saying it was all right for Mullins to cheat?

I also read in the Racing Form that the state of Louisiana is switching to prerace testing for alkalizing agents ("Louisiana to test prerace," March 20). It is switching to prerace testing because it is generally considered more accurate than postrace testing and because evidence has emerged that indicates alkalizing agents are more typically being administered through feed supplements. What I want to know is why tracks in California aren't making the same change.

I have been handicapping the races for more than 50 years, and I honestly believe I have a chance to win. I am not an idiot. People buy the Racing Form to handicap the races. How can you, though, if the trainers are cheating?

Robert J. Barboza
Phoenix

Detention a safer bet than so-called disclosure

In his March 13 letter, "Trainer remarks showed a poor grasp of reality," a California Horse Racing Board commissioner, Richard B. Shapiro, wrote that "racing owes the wagering public as much information as possible. While it is impossible to know about every sore hoof, the guardians of the sport are trying to make the public aware of everything possible."

This means, I hope, that from now on, the programs at Santa Anita, Hollywood Park, etc. will contain previously undeclared veterinary information (other than sore hooves, of course).

Will people now be told which horses have been recently "tapped" - a common veterinary practice of injecting cortisone in joints to replace natural fluid - to provide temporary relief to wonky knees and ankles? Will they learn that one horse is running on a previously bowed tendon? Will they know what physical disabilities caused another to miss a year's racing?

Does anyone think that this is about to happen? Probably no chance. Revelations of this nature would be bad for some horsemen. If gobs of dough were paid for Mr. Worldbeater, who now couldn't beat a fat man to the feed bag without some serious veterinary attention, public knowledge of his frailties would considerably dull the possibilities of getting rid of him via the claim box or some other form of sale.

Unfortunately, Mr. Shapiro and racing officials around North America are in perpetual conflicts of interest - those of owners and trainers versus those of the betting public. This is not meant so much as criticism of Mr. Shapiro but more to acknowledge that he and others in similar positions are in a tough spot.

Forget testing for alkalizing agents. Just start digging the foundations for prerace detention barns at every track in North America. It would seem to be the only way to overcome the clouds of suspicion that exist today.

Robert Leno,
Shelburne, Ontario

New Hall voting limits recognition of excellence

Thoroughbred racing's Hall of Fame just came out with their new voting and selection procedures. Are they supposed to be considered an improvement? ("Zito on Hall of Fame ballot; voting procedures changed," March 23.)

The trainers nominated include Dale Baird, who in 2004 reached the unprecedented milestone of 9,000 victories, and Nick Zito, who last year completed a personal Triple Crown sequence by adding Birdstone's Belmont Stakes to earlier Kentucky Derby victories with Strike the Gold and Go for Gin and his Preakness victory with Louis Quatorze. Also nominated were John Veitch, trainer of Hall of Famer Alydar and four champions; Mel Stute, trainer of 1986 champions Brave Raj and Snow Chief, among nearly 100 stakes winners; and Gary Jones, trainer of champion Turkoman and the popular Best Pal, among more than 100 stakes winners.

Under the "new and improved" system, only one of these guys is going to get in this year. Is this to say that four of these five men aren't worthy of standing in the Hall? Give me a break.

At this rate, it will be Buster Millerick's 300th birthday before he gets into the Hall of Fame, and that, my friends, is a tragedy.

Jude Feld
Lexington, Ky.