09/15/2005 11:00PM

Letters to the Editor

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Slaughterhouse not the place for our icons

Over the past couple of weeks, America has been devastated by the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina. The degree of suffering by humans and animals alike has been unfathomable. It is now within our power to help thousands of horses destined to be slaughtered for human consumption.

There are currently three foreign-owned horse-slaughter plants operating in the United States. In 2004, nearly 66,000 horses were slaughtered and their meat sold overseas as a delicacy. Photographs of the horses in the kill pens reveal that many are healthy and young, not old and infirm, as the pro-slaughter faction would like us to believe.

The horses suffer unmercifully in transport. Federal regulations do not require food, water, or rest for a 24-hour period. Death by slaughter is brutal. The horses are often struck repeatedly with a pneumatic bolt, hoisted by a back leg to the ceiling, where their throats are slit, legs dismembered, and hides stripped, for some while still conscious.

Senators John Ensign of Nevada and Robert Byrd of West Virginia have introduced an amendment to the 2006 agriculture appropriations bill that would prohibit federal funding to be used to pay United States Department of Agriculture inspectors at the horse slaughter plants. This legislation deserves every thinking person's support. Horses are American icons. We must protect them.

Donna Caplan
Sun City, Calif.

Rabbit tricks made for a bad act

As a dedicated fan of the racing game for more than 20 years, I am absolutely appalled at the tactics employed by trainer Richard Dutrow and his gang of thugs in the Woodward Stakes ("Saint Liam picks up the pieces," Sept. 13). I am well aware that the use of "rabbits" has been going on for years in big races, but this went far beyond that. This was an extremely unappetizing betting race, so this is not a sour grapes, lost-a-bet letter.

A rabbit is usually entered to ensure a fast-paced race, not allowing another horse to steal away on an easy lead. Show Boot, ridden by Raul Rojas, did precisely that. This year's Woodward, however, went far beyond this. Not one, but two rabbits were entered. The second, Crafty Player, ridden by Rudy Rodriguez, was another story. After breaking alertly, the jockey put the horse in a hammerlock until Commentator moved alongside. He then vigorously began riding his horse to harass Commentator.

The second part of this sad episode was that these horses were not coupled in the wagering with the beneficiary of the actions, Saint Liam. How in the world could another owner or owners be talked into allowing their horses to be used in such a manner? How many new bettors actually gambled and lost money on this chanceless entry that had no intention of even trying to win the race? It seemed like business as usual, that nobody cares what is in the best interest of the bettors.

Mr. Dutrow should be ashamed of himself, as should the jockeys of the rabbits, as well as their owners. They took a great race, steeped in tradition, and made a mockery of it and the sport.

The real irony is the result would have been the same without these tactics.

Craig J. Milkowski
Mons, Belgium

Woodward scenario has a fan hopping mad

This year's Woodward Stakes at Belmont was a disgrace in many ways.

For one thing, if the owners of the two rabbits conspired with the owner of Saint Liam to beat Commentator, I call that race-fixing. What's next, running three rabbits against Lost in the Fog to box him in to help Silver Train win the Breeders' Cup?

Second, with the rabbits entered to run last and next-to-last, there shouldn't have been any betting on them. The fact they went off at only 13-1 doesn't say much for the skills of bettors, but the New York Racing Association and the New York State Racing and Wagering Board should have prevented wagering on these horses.

Third, if trainer Richard Dutrow had just sent Show Boot to the lead to set a quick half-mile pace, no one would have complained. But Rudy Rodriguez, who rode Crafty Player, should get days for taunting Commentator. Rodriguez was pulling his mount up in an effort to stay alongside. With the horses' heads bouncing all over, there could have been an accident if either horse got spooked.

It was the bettor who was unprotected once again.

The New York Racing Association and the New York State Racing and Wagering Board should be ashamed at what they allowed.

Frank J. Zoll
Baldwin, N.Y.

Fairplex incident raises two concerns

As a racehorse owner for about 20 years, and an avid fan for a lot longer, I am very concerned about what I witnessed at Fairplex Park last Sunday. The race favorite, Continentalmeeting, flipped and fell behind the gate just before the start of the fourth race. In a very short time, the horse was reloaded into the gate and allowed to "run" in the race, then was pulled up and eased before the race was half over.

It seems to me that at least two critical issues arise as a result of this.

One, how could the horse have been adequately examined in such a very short time period for its own safety as well as the safety of all the riders and other horses in the race?

Secondly, as she was the betting favorite, was it fair to the betting public, many of whom are newcomers to the racing game at the fair, to allow this horse to participate in the race without a little more consideration on the part of the track veterinarian or the stewards?

By the way, I did not make any wager in this race.

Dennis Decauwer
Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.

New York front office called into question

As a longtime horseplayer, I can't help wondering if there is some connection between the recent personnel changes in the racing office at the New York Racing Association ("NYRA shakes up its staff," July 16) and the embarrassingly short fields in several Grade 1 races at Belmont Park.

Wouldn't these races provide great opportunities for up-and-coming allowance winners or, perhaps, turf horses experimenting on dirt? Commentator, Saint Liam, and Leave Me Alone are all very nice horses, but hardly the next comings of Cigar and Personal Ensign. Is new management doing its job ?

Bill Feingold
Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.