04/22/2005 12:00AM

Letters to the editor


You can't claim public wasn't taken for a ride

I just read April 17 letter to the Racing Form "Racing board's attention better focused elsewhere." The writer claimed that "the public was not harmed in any way" by owner Marty Wygod's withholding word of Sweet Catomine's physical problems until after her loss in the Santa Anita Derby.

That's funny, since there was a pool of more than $1.9 million bet on that race, not counting the pick threes, pick fours, and pick sixes in which Sweet Catomine was sure to be singled on many wagers.

No one wants to admit the truth, that trainer Jeff Mullins was right on the money when he said horseplayers are stupid. Every day we bet on horses who have no chance of winning, because a trainer is not trying with a horse. You can call it a training tactic, but when a horse is not ready to run, you have no chance of winning.

I have been writing to the racing boards in New York and California complaining about trainers not having horses ready to run. In the last 20 years I have never seen a trainer fined or suspended for not trying to win a race. The complaint against Wygod in California is the first ever I can recall.

About half the time, no matter how good the horse looks on paper, you have no chance winning because the trainer simply doesn't have the horse ready to run. But don't expect the state, the tracks, or a racing writer to tell you this.

Frank J. Zoll
Baldwin, N.Y.

Sometimes signs are there waiting to be read

In reading one letter in last Sunday's Racing Form - "Racing board's attention better focused elsewhere" - I couldn't help laughing out loud at the writer's contention that the California Horse Racing Board should investigate a first-time starter at Santa Anita, with slowish Fairplex works, who easily won at 12-1 after opening at 30-1 on the morning line. The horse's trainer and jockey were both low-profile, only adding to the writer's suspicions that something was rotten in Denmark.

I was at Bay Meadows watching the race in question, and without any inside information whatsoever, I held a winning ticket as the horse crossed the finish line well in front of the field. I used all the information (slow works, low-success connections, lower-than-expected odds) to make an educated guess that the eventual winning horse was "well meant" for the race. In this case, my educated guess was proven correct. Making educated guesses is, has, and always will be, an integral part of handicapping.

There's nothing criminal about a first time-starter working slowly, then proceeding to run very fast in his/her initial race.

And when it comes to the public being privy to information only a trainer and owner would otherwise possess, I am reminded of many years ago when I was standing outside the paddock area of a northern California racetrack as the horses headed onto the track. When the trainer of one walked out of the paddock, he was approached by a racing fan, Racing Form in hand, who asked the trainer if he "liked" his horse. The trainer took off his cowboy hat, and with a look that could kill, told the fan, "If you pay the training bill, I'll tell you anything you want to know about the horse." Amen.

Bill Heib
San Francisco

Misguided thinking did wrong by a champion

When Marty Wygod announced that his champion filly, Sweet Catomine, was not right heading into the Santa Anita Derby, it was a shock to me as a horseman, owner, and bettor. As horsemen and owners, we have a fundamental obligation to our horses to protect and care for them. Any horse who is not in proper racing condition should not, under any circumstances, be placed into a race. No amount of money, prestige, or fame should cause an owner or trainer to make that decision.

From a bettor's perspective, it is my opinion that Sweet Catomine was overbet at even money, since Wilko, the 2-year-old champion colt, was also in the field. Furthermore, the filly's performance was not something that was easily criticized. She raced in excellent position for most of the race, had every chance at the top of the stretch, and ran on down the lane. She did not have her typically ferocious closing kick, but she didn't get beat 100 lengths, either. For me, it appeared it just wasn't her day.

Anyone thinking of claiming foul against the connections because they lost money on the race is wasting everyone's time. Provided the track veterinarian passes a horse during a mandated prerace inspection, an owner or trainer is under no obligation to provide information to the wagering public, and by simply not telling of a condition, one is not "misleading" or giving false information. In this sense, in the world of wagering, it is caveat emptor.

The only crime committed here is that the owner, and perhaps his trainer, had a complete lapse of judgment brought on by a strong desire to prove he or his horse was bigger than the rest of the world. Had Mr. Wygod and his trainer been as good to Sweet Catomine as she has been to them, they would have simply abandoned the Kentucky Derby trail and pointed toward other races, such as the Alabama and Breeders' Cup Distaff. That being said, many owners are certain to believe the type of conduct engaged in by Sweet Catomine's connections is inherently detrimental to the sport of Thoroughbred racing, and the California Horse Racing Board needs to investigate the facts fully.

Anthony J. Perrotta Jr.
Colts Neck, N.J.

Once again, potential fans get driven away

This year on our anniversary, my wife and I took a couple to enjoy the Wood Memorial, Illinois Derby, and Santa Anita Derby at our local satellite wagering facility. It would be a great day for them to get a feel for the game.

I explained to my friends about the horses and trainers and situations leading up to one race in particular, the Santa Anita Derby. I told them about the filly running and why she was favored against her male rivals. I explained the who's who of trainers and how they do with 3-year-olds. I even told them about trainer Jeff Mullins and his trials and tribulations leading up to the race.

Well, I have bet on the wrong horse before, but what occurred with the Marty Wygod-owned Sweet Catomine was nothing short of criminal. We as the betting public were not privy to vital information that would have made Sweet Catomine a toss-out in my book. This information should have been disclosed. Sweet Catomine was not fit, and we the fans were the suckers left holding the bag.

Maybe Mullins was right after all. I, for one, feel like a big, fat idiot. When I told my friends of the shenanigans, they said they would not be returning any time soon. Way to go!

Daniel Laxen
Kokomo, Ind.