05/19/2005 11:00PM

Letters to the editor

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Running Derby as mob scene robs good ones

Ron Hale's May 15 History Challenge, "Refreshing your Preakness memory," which pointed out that the Preakness has had more winners who have gone on to become Horse of the Year than the Kentucky Derby, also served to remind what oversized fields do to deserving champions. Both Damascus and Risen Star, in my lifetime, were compromised by horrendous trips owed to larger-than-desired fields in the Derby.

One of these days, Churchill Downs is going to have a pileup on the Derby's first turn akin to a smashup at the Indianapolis 500. I have seen horses lifted off their four feet in that turn with the jockey helpless to alter the situation.

There needs to be a change in the maximum number of starters allowed before a jockey and a horse get crushed.

The Kentucky Derby field should be limited to 14 starters, period. Ten of them should be assigned by earnings and the last four by a panel made up of racing experts who would allow for an exception if some great horse who had been laid up is ready to race again but lacks earnings.

There have been quite enough of these entries who have no chance and start going backwards at the mile pole. Let's make the Derby a race of high caliber and less luck.

Steve Orton
Los Angeles

Lasix and genetics mutually exclusive

In her May 12 column, "Speed shoving stamina into extinction," Lauren Stich wrote despairingly about changes in the breed, specifically the emphasis of speed over stamina. At the end of the column she noted that "For more than 30 years, we have been breeding to stallions who raced with Lasix."

The point was that breeding for speed plus changes in medication policy have worked together to weaken the breed. The statement could also be misread to mean that stallions who have been on Lasix have compromised DNA (genotype) as opposed to compromised physical expression (phenotype). Lasix may be a bad thing for the sport, but it is not responsible for the genetic engineering of more fragile horses.

Eric Singer
San Francisco

Lost in the Fog deserves his proper place

Let me see if I have this right.

Lost in the Fog has run six races at four different tracks and won all six by open lengths. His lowest Beyer Speed Figure has been a 102. He has set two track records. And yet, according to Daily Racing Form's Watchmaker Watch, he is not one of the top 10 3-year-olds in North America, nor is he one of the top 10 sprinters.

I submit that the infamous "East Coast bias" is alive and well.

E.J. McVey
Santa Rosa, Calif.