10/14/2005 12:00AM

Letters to the Editor


Midwesterner notes a trend: Coastal erosion

Amid all the hubbub created by the sudden reversal in the fortunes of Thoroughbred racing in Maryland (see Andrew Beyer's Sept. 23 column "Amid Maryland gloom, Laurel booms,"), the nearsighted racing media is missing this salient point: The current trend in attendance and simulcast wagering is going against the vaunted products of New York and California.

This is not exactly a surprise to anyone who has kept up with dwindling sizes of the fields and the payoffs on both coasts over the past few years. If you throw out the Del Mar meet, it has been pretty dismal. In fact, most serious players know that the best meet to bet on either coast has been the winter inner-dirt meet at unheralded Aqueduct.

Crow all you want to about field quality, bettors are increasingly less likely to wager on five-horse fields of upper-level allowance horses when they can bet on full fields of cheaper claimers all over the country. Someone ought to tell the folks at Belmont that they won't last long into their second century of racing unless they get a little more creative in generating fan interest, their attempts to pump up ontrack handle by limiting the amount of simulcasting at the cavernous facility notwithstanding.

Even Saratoga's summer meet was not that great this year. And if that track ever really coughs, New York racing as a whole is sure to get pneumonia.

But New York's problems are nothing compared with California's, where a workers' compensation insurance crisis put some trainers out of business before it was addressed (temporarily by the state legislature), and a fundamental change in neighborhood demographics has put the viability of Hollywood Park in doubt.

The decision by Churchill Downs Inc. to rid itself of the once-thriving Hollywood plant illustrates how tenuous the situation is in California, but the larger issue may be how many people outside the immediate area of the iconic racing venue will care if it is bulldozed.

It is likely that the cost of maintaining the great venues for the few days their capacity is needed will make more of them victims of the wrecking ball. If the trend continues, the coasts, long considered the center of the Thoroughbred racing world, will continue to be marginalized.

Tim Vana
Des Plaines, Ill.

NYRA deserves a shot to restore old glory

The Oct. 8 article "Bruno wants to speed up the NYRA bid process," reported that New York's Senate majority leader, Joseph Bruno, "is pressing to speed up the work" of a special committee formed to find bidders for what is now the New York Racing Association's franchise, quite possibly, one assumes, to a for-profit company.

This would be a colossal mistake. Many of the racetracks owned and operated by Churchill Downs Inc. and Magna Entertainment Corp. have seen the quality of daily racing eroded. Let's give NYRA's current management a chance to return New York racing to the best in the country.

Joanne Burghard
Melville, N.Y.