05/05/2005 11:00PM

Letters to the editor

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Rules overdo it in prohibiting what's natural

I write because I don't understand why trainers are being taken to task and punished for giving their horses alkalizing agents, or so-called milkshakes.

Let us first define what the problem is. The alkalizing agents give the horse an advantage. Why? Because they slow down the lactic acid buildup in a horse's system during a race. That, in turn, lets the horse run longer before getting fatigued.

Why is this a problem? I feed my horses high-fat feed for the same reason: to help them become less tired during a race. You might think that someone paying less money for a lower-quality feed is at a disadvantage to me and my horses. I feed quality hay to get the right balance of nutrients. Someone else I see feeds second- and third-rate hay, with dust galore. Once again my horse should be at an advantage.

Shoot, I should be winning races left and right. I'm not.

So-called milkshakes are composed of three things. All three are defined as feedstuffs. Number one is sugar. Are the racing commissions testing for sugar now? Number two is electrolytes, also know as salts. Are there no salts in feedstuffs? And last but not least, the dreaded baking soda. All three of these components are feedstuffs. I want to know why they are illegal.

Is feeding my horses good feed going to be outlawed? There are no drugs involved here. So who is determining this wrong and illegal? And most importantly, why?

Scott Zeltt
Wilmington, Del.

Sponsor free-for-all could get ugly

I was quite saddened to read that Visa is ending its 10-year sponsorship of the Triple Crown races ("Visa in Derby-only deal," May 4).

Spin this anyway you want, it's bad.

And who is at fault here? Why, the horse racing leaders, of course.

Start with the New York Racing Association breaking off from Triple Crown Productions and getting its own sponsor for the Belmont Stakes, the world-renowned Argent Mortgage. How exciting. NYRA also cut a Belmont deal with ABC-TV with no regard for NBC whatsoever. Did NYRA even wait to see if perhaps there could be a sponsor for all three Triple Crown races? Of course not. It grabbed up what it could for itself and the heck with everyone else.

The thing the folks behind the Belmont Stakes should realize is that they are solely dependent on who wins the first two legs of the Triple Crown. Do they think there will be a possible Crown winner every year leading up to their race? If there isn't, who really cares about their race then? The entire public will be out barbecuing, watching baseball, and obliviously apathetic.

By doing this, they have made it all but impossible for anyone to consider seriously being a blanket sponsor for the entire series (good-bye bonuses).

Now Visa has followed suit by bailing and will sponsor the Kentucky Derby only.

It's a sad statement that racing cannot stay together and cooperate even for its biggest showcase. It just so typifies what is wrong with the industry.

So now, look for poor Pimlico to unveil its new sponsor in the days leading up to its premier race. I can hear it now: "The Jack-In-The-Box Preakness . . . Those other Triple Crown races don't know Jack," or perhaps "The Oscar Mayer Preakness . . . We're the meat in your Triple Crown sandwich."

Jerry Hauck
Studio City, Calif.

A fan appreciates Gill's aggressive approach

I hope that all of the racing "purists" are happy that they have run Michael Gill out of racing ("Gill to disband his stable," May 5). All Gill was looking for was a chance to compete in our game, and he ultimately was denied the chance.

With declining attendance and casinos popping up everywhere, one would think racing would embrace a man who is putting money into this game, but instead, many in the business have offered nothing but a cold shoulder.

Is aggressive claiming a crime in this sport? Is claiming a horse, waiting the jail period, then dropping him against the rules? As a horseplayer, I will miss Gill, because I know all of his horses were well meant and all his trainers were trying to win.

Zack Plano
Santa Monica Calif.

New York did wrong by a native son

Funny Cide is a popular New York-bred. Aqueduct is a racetrack in New York. Funny Cide had a tough 4-year-old campaign, and his presence would have created a buzz on the last day of Aqueduct's meet, a card that would otherwise be quickly forgotten.

Assigning Funny Cide 127 pounds at the beginning of his 2005 campaign was idiotic ("Funny Cide toting big load," May 1). What was more unbelievable is that this occurred in his home state. Fire the idiots responsible.

Ricky Willette
San Diego

Theories of track bias considered track bunk

All I seem to hear and read about concerning racetrack surfaces is bias. Whether it's inside speed, outside closers, a golden rail, etc., none merits consideration.

How is the track playing, experts ask. I'll tell you: Horses run, tracks don't play. If the first six races are won by horses on or near the pace, those six horses had the ability to carry their speed the distance of the race. If this situation goes on for two or three weeks or longer, it is a matter of ability, probability, and coincidence, not a bias of racetrack surface.

I ask you, what in the constitution or conformation of a racetrack favors one running style over another? Nothing.

When it comes to a track's base and cushion, each type of horse runs over the same surface, with no style favored. When it comes to tight turns vs. sweeping turn, tight-turned tracks may favor horses with the ability to accelerate and change leads, but note that key word: ability.

If there is anything approaching a bias, it is because of rain. Water drains to the inside because of the pitch of the track, often resulting in a deep rail. But who can predict where one's choice will run, so why even discuss it?

"Speed is dangerous on a wet track," I have heard said by many. Speed is dangerous on all tracks, I say. So look for a horse with the best ability at a particular distance, judge pace dynamics, parimutuel underlays and overlays, and leave bias to law enforcement.

Carl J. Fratello
Brentwood, N.Y.