04/28/2005 11:00PM

Letters to the editor


Quick retiring of filly champ hardly sporting

I believe that the reason for the premature retirement of the champion filly Sweet Catomine ("Sweet Catomine retired from racing," April 22) is directly attributable to the petulant and self-serving actions of her owner, Marty Wygod. As a Thoroughbred owner myself, I can say unequivocally that anyone who retires so early in her career a sound multiple Grade 1-winning filly who he believes is "one of the best of her generation," as Wygod told the Thoroughbred Times, while she is in "magnificent shape," has an alternate agenda.

In this case, Mr. Wygod's behavior reflects a whimsical and capricious philosophy of racehorse ownership that willfully detracts from the sport he so strongly professes to love and support.

Mr. Wygod is symbolically taking his ball and going home following the embarrassing incidents surrounding Sweet Catomine's defeat in the Santa Anita Derby, when only after the race were the filly's recent medical problems revealed. This speaks volumes about his failing sense of sportsmanship, his lack of resilience in a game marked by a far greater number of disappointments than successes, and his obvious disregard for the thousands of fans who were poised to express their allegiance to this remarkable filly. In his effort to chastise the California Horse Racing Board and to make a scapegoat of others, Mr. Wygod has indirectly punished bettors and fans alike.

Perhaps Mr. Wygod would do well to take a lesson from fellow owner Ken Ramsey. After his debacle of attempting to bribe his horse's way into a race (which harmed no one but himself), Mr. Ramsey showed the class and humility to apologize for his actions on television and in print. Accordingly, Mr. Ramsey has closed this chapter in his racing life and will be remembered for his sportsmanship and his willingness to take responsibility for his actions. All Mr. Wygod will be remembered for is his tantrum-like behavior, and for being the guy who denied Sweet Catomine the opportunity to demonstrate her fullest potential because of his own personal feelings

Lawrence Smith
Jackson, N.J.

Money had last word in owner's exoneration

Was owner Marty Wygod cleared of wrongdoing by the Hollywood Park stewards because the California Horse Racing Board didn't have sufficient evidence against him (as his attorney argued), or because he has a "massive investment in the sport" ("Stewards clear Wygod in 'Catomine' case," April 25)?

It sounds to me like this van driver, Dean Kerkhoff, is going to be made the fall guy for this mess.

What was it Jeff Mullins said? "Anybody who bets on a horse race is an idiot"?

I know I have quit gambling on racing after nearly 30 years of following the sport on a daily basis, and the reason is because of situations exactly like the Sweet Catomine controversy. Good riddance.

Carson Horton
Portland, Ore.

Board favored ruling class over the commoners

It was certainly not unexpected to watch the stewards in California cave in like a cheap piece of lawn furniture under an NFL lineman. How can anyone honestly believe that the horse-van driver was the mastermind behind the deception of the racing public in the Sweet Catomine incident?

The stewards' No. 1 responsibility is to protect the integrity of the sport and the interests of the betting public. In this case they listened to Marty Wygod whine that he was going to take his ball and go home, and couldn't act fast enough to kowtow to the interests of Wygod, a Del Mar board member.

The stewards have failed, once again, to serve the interests of the betting public, and they have exonerated those who knowingly try to deceive us.

Jim Trudeau
Madison, Wis.

Horse sense needed for true barn security

Barn-area security has become a hot topic around horse racing's marquee events. And so as we approach this year's Kentucky Derby, the racing community must ultimately define this concept of "security." We must ask: Exactly what is being secured and from whom?

Are we securing the integrity of the event by trying to prevent nefarious trainers and veterinarians from administering on race day performance-enhancing drugs inside the barns? Or are we merely securing the barn area - from the outside - in an effort to whisk away unwanted media or stargazing picture-takers?

The tale of the past two Breeders' Cups was, from numerous on-the-grounds accounts, a tale of two vastly different types of security. Santa Anita in 2003 saw trained horsepeople patrolling inside the barns, people who knew exactly why they were there and what they were looking for.

Lone Star Park in 2004 saw plenty of security personnel. According to event participants, however, they weren't horse-savvy individuals, and they stayed completely outside of the barns. They functioned exclusively to keep pesky people from being pesky. What happened inside the barns stayed inside the barns.

It seems obvious which type of security is needed to ensure that events like the Breeders' Cup and the Kentucky Derby are conducted without doubts as to the legitimacy of their results. We cannot allow them to slip into the abyss of suspicion that now surrounds so much of American racing.

The racing community needs to get serious about this issue of barn-area security and adopt the Santa Anita, Breeders' Cup 2003 example as the standard, not the Lone Star 2004 misstep.

Michael O'Malley

Derby TV coverage could use revving up

Now that workers at Churchill Downs have put the finishing touches on the extravagantly remodeled facility ("After a three-year face-lift, there is floor after floor to explore," April 30), what are the executives of racing's most prized event, the Kentucky Derby, doing about prepping television coverage on NBC? Will NBC be offering a scene as eloquent as the new marble under the twin spires?

Pan shots for a significant portion of the race make the horses look like ants. Microphones are farther away than the race's distance. The view of the start is from a camera on the far side of the clubhouse - about as good a view as a drunkard in the infield is getting.

NBC should take a cue from coverage of another venerable and cherished sporting event, the Daytona 500, with its action-packed scenes and sounds. Electronic markers identify individual participants and enhance the viewing pleasure. Daytona 500 coverage will very rarely leave a racing enthusiast watching on television at a loss of who is running where.

It's time NBC (or any network that broadcasts horse racing) implemented technological enhancements to make viewers feel not as if they are sitting in Millionaires Row, but as if they are on one of the horses thundering around the 1 1/4 miles.

J.P. Lanson
Rochester, N.Y.