09/02/2005 12:00AM

Letters to the editor


Kentuckian urges integrity for state's good

I was very pleased when the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority approved the new race-day medication rules for Kentucky. I applaud Gov. Fletcher for his expediency in declaring these new rules an emergency ("Kentucky board finalizes proposed drug regulations," Aug. 17; "Kentucky governor signs new drug rules into law," Aug. 21).

The Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association does not represent all Kentucky horse owners and breeders. It is much more convenient and economical to medicate a horse than to stop running it when there is a soundness problem. But we are also faced with the care and safety of the jockey and horse with this issue of drugs.

For many years, Kentucky has been considered ridiculously liberal by allowing such a broad range of race-day medications. We have been out of step with all other racing jurisdictions across the nation. From the point of view of convenience, it is difficult to ship horses in and out of the state where the rules are not uniform.

Kentucky is the leading area in the world for breeding and raising Thoroughbred horses. Thoroughbred horses are Kentucky's leading commodity. There are many reasons why we need to preserve the integrity of the breed.

Alice Chandler, Mill Ridge Farm
Lexington, Ky.

Entire sport enhanced by steeplechasing's allure

As a trainer of both flat and steeplechase horses, and also president of the National Steeplechase Association, I feel compelled to express my disappointment in the media's criticism dished out with regard to jump racing at Saratoga.

This reached a peak after the Aug. 17 race at Saratoga in which just two horses finished. Obviously, the number of fallers and unseated jockeys was as disturbing to us as it was for anybody else. We want to put on a good show, especially in Saratoga, and watching a field of good jumpers flowing over their fences can be quite a thrill. Steeplechase racing has been a part of Saratoga since the beginning, and the tradition should not be stopped simply because of a bad race or two.

Thoroughbred racing is a risky sport with an inherent element of danger. In the Aug. 17 race, thankfully every single horse and jockey survived the spills without injury. It was extremely bad luck and unfortunate, but not a signal that the races should be discontinued or carded as exhibitions. To vilify us at a time like this seems a bit like kicking a man while he is down.

Steeplechasing offers a second career to former flat runners, an introduction to racing for owners and trainers, and a chance for racing fans to see multitalented Thoroughbreds do something different.

Hopefully, things can be kept in perspective and people can appreciate the beauty of our races and the skill and courage of our horses and jockeys. Racing has often been called the Sport of Kings, and a good horse is often described as majestic. A steady diet of minimal-distance, low-quality flat racing reduces these wonderful animals to nothing more than a commodity in a giant numbers game controlled by gamblers. We must be careful not to forget what made Thoroughbred racing great, or pretty soon the only people going to the track will be those who are simply trying to cash a bet or, when they have a choice, play the slots.Jonathan Sheppard
West Grove, Penn.

Jump foes ought to get over their attitude

In his Aug. 24 column, "Borrego's win proves nothing," Mike Watchmaker's "Get steeplechases off main card" item told readers, "When you put large objects in front of Thoroughbreds racing against each other and force those horses to jump over them, ugly spills will happen . . . ."

These so-called large objects, the hurdles at Saratoga, are mere lines on a sidewalk when you compare them with fences such as Beecher's Brook, the Chair, and the Canal Turn at Aintree, England, over which Thoroughbreds jump in three- and four mile-plus races, in fields of 30 and 40 horses. The Saratoga two-mile hurdle races are nothing more than a sprint in steeplechasing.

That issue aside, I ask: What's wrong with horse racing? The debate over steeplechase races is a perfect example. Instead of working objectively to accomplish what is best for the entire racing industry in general, each element is cannibalizing the other to the extent that it is weakening the entire sport.

As a flat-race fan, I vote not only to retain the jump races at Saratoga, but to increase them. The location is perfect, and a lot of livelihoods are at stake. Don't jeopardize them just to keep a pick-four bet intact.

Tom Stewart
Satellite Beach, Fla.

Nonstop negativity has a reader reeling

I was just wondering if Stan Bergstein, in his entire career as a harness racing writer and a Thoroughbred writer, has ever had a positive thing to say about the games that he writes about.

I am so tired of hearing him talk about the cheaters and the druggers and all the people who ruin the game he supposedly loves. He has been on this same crusade for years now and has never once been specific or named a name of a guy he "knows" is cheating but hasn't been caught. He reminds me of all the people who walk around the grandstands of racetracks everywhere claiming every race is fixed because they are too lazy to do the work required to be a winning player, or the touts who walk around the track saying that the mythical "they" like this horse.

Just like I tell the touts, give me a name, don't tell me "they" are cheating, tell me who.

In every sport and in every aspect of life, we have people who are better at their jobs than anyone else, but in horse racing that is apparently an impossibility - everyone in the world apparently has exactly the same amount of talent to train a horse and only the ones who cheat succeed. That notion is absolute nonsense. Bergstein should stop perpetrating this very hurtful and harmful myth about sports he claims to love.

Rob Clayton
Wilmington, Del.

Racing gets weakened by two departures

What is wrong with this picture? The two best racing secretaries in America today are no longer in their positions or any positions in racing.

Mike Lakow, formerly of the New York Racing Association, and Frank Gabriel, formerly of Arlington Park - two very talented people - are no longer doing what they do best. And that is being the best at what they do. ("NYRA shakes up its staff," July 16; "Lakow named Hill 'n' Dale GM," Aug. 13; "Gabriel takes Dubai post," Aug. 21).

Racing itself suffers greatly from their absence. We should all take a step back and look at the big picture. What is happening? Racing can't afford to lose these special kinds of people.

Joe Rosen
Toms River, N.J.