05/12/2005 11:00PM

Letters to the editor


Derby musing seen as unfair rap on trainers

When I read Andrew Beyer's May 7 column about the invincible Bellamy Road, "Answer obvious to Derby puzzle," I should have realized that he offered up a "kiss of death" by picking Bellamy Road to win this year's Derby.

Even to suggest, however, in his May 11 column,"By any standards, this Derby was a dud," the theory that tighter-than-usual barn security at Churchill Downs somehow contributed to the upset win by preventing the use of drugs or dubious training methods, is unconscionable.

As a handicapper, there is no way I could have picked Giacomo. Had I listened to his jockey, Mike Smith, though, I certainly might have given him another look. All I can say is the first four home did not appear to be "staggering" - not running very fast, but far from staggering. The old adage that pace makes the race was never more clear than on the first Saturday in May 2005.

We all are entitled to our opinions, and in mine Beyer crossed the line by raising the possibility that "miraculous" training methods were absent at Churchill Downs because of tighter security and that is why a 50-1 shot won and a 71-1 shot ran second. I would be willing to wager that Nick Zito and Todd Pletcher might have something to say about that.

D. William Davidge
Wilmington, Del.

Owner found much to like in overall spectacle

As a horse owner (Ashado, Purge, and others), and after reading Andrew Beyer's May 11 column, "By any standard, this Derby was a dud," I have come to the conclusion that Andrew Beyer may be able to crunch numbers, but he has no feel for the game.

The 2005 Derby was anything but "dismal," as Beyer wrote, especially relative to the possibility of creating or renewing interest in the sport across the country. While race fans love to root home heroes, a broad range of Americans really love to root for the underdog.

In a time when interest in Thoroughbred horse racing has been eclipsed by the marketing efforts of other sports, Beyer seemed intentionally to demean the industry and the quality of its athletes. He characterized the Derby as a "crashing anticlimax - a race that will rank among the worst Derbies of recent decades." He apparently has no concept of how the sport could be aided by romanticizing characteristics and achievements of its participants. A creative writer could spin a wonderful story by focusing on: (1) the toughness and unpredictability of the Derby by the number of entrants and commotion; (2) the tremendously exciting stretch run; (3) Mike Smith's win as he nears retirement, days after he indicated on national television that his Hall of Fame career would be empty if he retired without winning the Derby; (4) Jerry Moss as a most deserving winner after supporting the sport for decades; (5) John Shirreffs's first Derby win with his first Derby starter; (6) the fact that one of the greatest attributes of horse racing is that the unpredictable often happens in dramatic fashion; and (7) the $864,000 $1 superfecta payoff.

Beyer's closing paragraph rambled on about illegal drug use, leaving one to infer that the poor finishes of his picks were somehow caused by restrictions and testing procedures. Rather than focus on the positives of the world's most famous race, his column was negative, whiney, and detrimental to all racing participants and fans.

Paul H. Saylor

Given the scenario, not such a shocker

The funny thing about Andrew Beyer's May 11 column, "By any standard, this Derby was a dud," is that Beyer laid out the scenario for something of this magnitude happening, by describing in detail the pace factor with Spanish Chestnut in the field, etc. He made the point about how when the Derby pace in the first quarter-mile is run between 21.80 and 22.30 seconds the speed collapses and the winner rallies from far back. He wrote about how forwardly placed running styles will take their toll on anyone in the proximity of the pace. With all this knowledge, how was Beyer convinced that Bellamy Road would win the race? Bellamy Road was most likely going to be one of these "habitual front-runners," as Beyer referred to them - everyone could see that. It was a question of if he was good enough anyway.

Well, the answer is, no, he wasn't that day. The way the race shaped up, something like this was bound to happen, and sure enough it did. (By the way, I played Bellamy Road, too.)

Gregg Guiol
Monarch Beach, Calif.

Unlikely finish showed a changing breed

The highly unexpected results of this year's Kentucky Derby, with the attendant blockbuster payouts, are a testimonial to the fact that almost anything can happen in a horse race.

It is singularly interesting to note that both speed figure maven Andrew Beyer and pedigree expert Lauren Stich - two people I greatly admire - ended up with almost as much egg yolk on their faces as did the sacrificial lamb of the day, Nick Zito.

This just may be a testimonial to something else: Namely, that over the last few decades Thoroughbred breeders have finally succeeded in ruining what today passes for the Thoroughbred, right up to the point where even the most astute handicappers cannot tell one horse's head from another's tail.

John J. Marshall
Toronto, Ontario

For a true classic, it's wait till next year

How sweet for Mike Smith to have the roles reversed in this year's Kentucky Derby after finishing second last year on Lion Heart. He must be glad that Smarty Jones was not around, or half of last year's field, for that matter.

What a mediocre Derby this year's was. It was reminiscent of a mid-level allowance race at Golden Gate Fields. It confirmed the lackluster quality of this year's bunch of contenders. The results, however, beg for reevaluation of our handicapping tools.

Let's hope for better luck, and a better race, next year.

George Couris
San Francisco

Churchill strip yielded familiar result

I am starting to wonder if Churchill Downs is the Bermuda Triangle for some great horses, as many great ones have disappeared there only to turn into stone-cold monsters in the next two legs of the Triple Crown. For example: Risen Star, and Point Given. I have also seen the same scenario in the several Breeders' Cups that have been held there.

Michael Dean
Fremont, Calif.