07/22/2005 12:00AM

Letters to the editor

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Banning rider showed track's callous attitude

The July 20 and 21 articles "Prescott claims track ban" and "River Downs defends ejection" related that jockey Rodney Prescott speculates he was banned from River Downs by its management based upon his criticisms of the track's racing surface. One man displays courage, while a team of bullies displays cowardice.

It seems track management cared not about their professional responsibility when they failed to alert Prescott in an effort to resolve the issues attendant to his remarks. And why should they? They might have to ponder a complicated issue, causing them actually to have to think. And if management thought hard enough after giving Prescott an opportunity to be heard, it might have found that he was correct in his simple proposition that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Instead, in the fashion typical of a coward, River Downs management resorted to the easy way out. River Downs's general manager didn't even have the minimal courage or decency to advise Prescott personally that he was barred. To rid itself of the plague of Prescott, management dispatched the only form of courage it knows: the head of security.

River Downs management deals with a real problem by sticking its head in the sand. No inventiveness. No foresight. No answers.

Joseph P. Reiff
Las Vegas

New York shouldn't rush to eliminate handicaps

In his July 9 column, "Weights just a burden to Grade 1's," Steven Crist renewed his campaign to eliminate handicap weights. While the observation that the weight spreads for the Suburban, Hollywood Gold Cup, and Smile handicaps were "meaningless" may be accurate, the conclusions drawn are not the only possible interpretation of the results.

It is hardly surprising that the unusually competitive finish of the 2004 Suburban was not repeated this year. While the Suburban may not have attracted more runners in 2005, the Gold Cup did following its return as a handicap after continually drawing small fields as weight-for-age.

That both races competed for the division's best at virtually the same time had to detract from the size and quality of both fields. Perhaps there would be some merit to action by the American Graded Stakes Committee - which last year declined to eliminate Grade 1 handicaps - to downgrade either the Suburban or the Gold Cup.

What evidence is there that any of those races might have (a) been more competitive, (b) attracted more entrants, or (c) had the winner's margin of victory over the last-place finisher reduced if it had been run as weight-for-age? Even though the weight assignments for all three handicaps in question once again reflected the unwillingness of many racing secretaries to assign higher weights for fear of losing potential contestants, it should also be noted there was no dominant division leader or reigning champion entered in any of those events to justify an assignment capable of bringing it back to the field.

If the New York Racing Association is indeed seriously considering converting its 15 Grade 1 handicaps to weight-for-age, it should delay action at least until the work of its incoming racing secretary can be fairly evaluated. If his views regarding the scale of weights are that of a strict constructionist, he might reverse the trend of diminishing starting highweights and weight spreads.

Steve Abelove
Lawndale, Calif.

Kentucky legislators have wrong constituents

After reading Stan Bergstein's July 14 column, "Legislators blind to the obvious," about legislative apathy about medication reform in Kentucky, I now know that my instincts were correct two years ago when I decided that other than the Kentucky Derby, I would no longer wager on any races at Churchill Downs.

In Oregon we have many choices at our offtrack facilities, and I have been encouraging my colleagues to make their wagering investments at one of the many other excellent tracks to which we have access. My suspicions have now been fully confirmed by the arrogant, narrow comments expressed by some members of the Kentucky legislature. Their apparent attitude is that the continued enrichment of unscrupulous horse trainers at the expense of the horseplaying public is perfectly acceptable. Given the deplorable current state of Thoroughbred racing conditions in Kentucky, one would hope that those members of the Subcommittee on Licensing and Occupations who were quoted in the column would figure out who it is that really keeps racing alive.

I used to love this game. I have seen some wonderful races and won some nice wagers that were based on sound handicapping factors. Those days are now gone, and where Kentucky racing is concerned, they will continue to be.

Stephen States
Eugene, Ore.

Two rulings demonstrate stewards' follies

I felt compelled to write after witnessing the stewards' decisions on two inquiries during Del Mar's opening day this past Wednesday. (I must preface my comments by stating that I do not believe Patrick Valenzuela should even be riding because of his past, but I believe whenever he is involved in an incident he is sure to be taken down.)

In Wednesday's third race, a stewards' inquiry led to a disqualification of Valenzuela's mount when there was light bumping in midstretch involved. Valenzuela's horse, Sunshine Dreamer, went on to win by two lengths, and the horse he bumped continued on to finish second. Valenzuela's horse was clearly rolling by horses, and without the bumping she would have still easily won the race.

In the fifth race, the second-place jockey had to claim foul for the stewards even to look at the incident. This involved more bumping than the first inquiry and the margin of victory was a half-length. I assume that it was because Valenzuela was not involved that the stewards decided to make no change.

I know from speaking with several other patrons at the races that we are sick and tired of horses' numbers being taken down when the order of finish in a race was not affected. Who cares how light or severe any bumping is during a race if it doesn't affect the outcome?

Jon Crain
Huntington Beach, Calif.