07/15/2005 12:00AM

Letters to the editor


Rider's plight again raises coverage issue

All of us - owners, trainers, and fans - have issues that need resolution. But none seems as noteworthy as the need to provide reasonable insurance for its riders. This deserves top billing, as underscored by the July 16 article "Paralyzed rider's coverage: $50K."

No doubt tracks need to generate more revenue, or there will be no brave souls who will invest in racing. Trainers and owners deserve higher purses for their hard work and financial investments. Fans deserve better-informed legislators who understand that less (takeout) is really more. And our grooms, many Hispanic, need to be able to go home and return without having to sacrifice six weeks of wages to accomplish that. All these are worthy of debate and reform. But the plight of our jockeys should be moved up on the ladder of importance.

Most of them cannot afford to buy any insurance - let alone "adequate" insurance. Most insurers don't want them, understandably. We have all seen it happen. Nothing brings a sick feeling to the gut of a racetracker more profoundly than seeing horses and riders go down. Jockeys know the dangers all too well; most have been sent awkwardly to the turf many times during their careers. Many sustain injuries that eventually heal, allowing them to ride again. But others are not as fortunate.

Jockeys are extremely vulnerable to head, back, and neck injuries. A rider can be slammed to the turf with such violence that he or she does not have enough time to cushion the impact of chin to earth. Ask the great Ron Turcotte. Ask the talented Gary Boulanger, hurt so badly at Gulfstream in January. And now Shannon Campbell.

There are too many to ask them all.

Riders are great athletes who compete on an extremely dangerous field where they do not control all the variables. Their physical risk is unmatched in any athletic arena.

Trainers, grooms, owners, and fans - all risk something on race day. But they don't risk the ability to walk. They don't risk death. A rider's reasonable request to have affordable insurance for his or her family seems to be just that: reasonable. We must find a way to get it for them.

Bill Shuman
Pembroke Pines, Fla.

Common pools won't stop the everyday underlay

While I agree with the idea expressed in the July 6 article "Commingling with U.S. pools starts," regarding some advantages of Canadian wagers going into into U.S. pools, one item I took great exception with is that there will be bigger win and exacta payouts because of larger pools. Other than in situations where there is only one or a few tickets sold on a winning exotic combination, there will not necessarily be larger payouts because of commingled Canadian wagers.

Examples of increased win and exacta payouts are misleading. For every overlaid or increased win or exacta payout, there will be an equal number of decreased or underlaid win and exacta payoffs for other horses in the same race.

Vince Piscitelli
Martinez, Calif.