11/18/2005 12:00AM

Letters to the editor

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Betting public in California deserves better

These days, taking the honor as America's premier racing venue is a lot like a paceless race on a mundane Wednesday card. Typically, New York and California vie for the top spot, with Kentucky a close third. Lately, however, racing in California has taken a turn for the worse.

Northern California racing has always been an afterthought, with short fields and marginal horses, but Southern California racing has more than made up for it. Recently, several unfortunate circumstances have contributed to an overall decline in the state's racing product at its flagship venues. Poor management, insurance issues, inconsistent decisions from stewards, a depleted jockey corps, an overall lack of quality fields, and bad luck (in the form of Hollywood Park's recent turf-course debacle) have placed California behind New York, Kentucky, and Florida.

Some may counter with the notion that California has a top-flight purse structure; produces quality horses such as Stevie Wonderboy and Lost in the Fog; and has successful jockeys like Garrett Gomez. These arguments would be fine if Thoroughbred racing were a sport like baseball or football. But racing has always been about gambling and the people that fuel the pari-mutel pools every day. If the product as a whole is inconsistent and poor, the whole system suffers, and highlights get lost in the quagmire.

How long will it be before those individuals who wager on the sport daily leave California racing for greener pastures? There are many people across the nation who don't want to see this once-great racing product slip into the abyss. Action is needed to correct the trend, because it's in terrible decline.

Anthony Perrotta
Colts Neck, N.J.

Belmont grass could be one big go-round

I'd like to offer some advice to the New York Racing Association, or whoever controls its destiny: Get rid of the two turf courses at Belmont Park. Well, not get rid of them, exactly. Make it one big one.

The expansion of the turf course at Laurel should have most people convinced by now that turf racing offers bigger fields and more competitive races. Consequently, there have been more betting opportunities, larger handle, and, gee, it's more fun.

If Belmont were to get rid of the hedgerow barrier that separates the two turf course and perhaps reposition the rails, the course could expand even further.

The folks at the helm of New York racing should be able to realize what an expanded turf venue could create. It'll be worth it.

Ron Lee
Scarborough, Maine

Let's give the public an eye in security barn

In the wake of Breeders' Cup Day, I was highly upset by information I read about two horses. These horses had the same problem, and both were on my tickets for their respective races and on multi-race tickets: Joey P. and Lost in the Fog. Joey P. put forth a dismal effort in the Sport Page Handicap, one that is not reflective of his true sprinting abilities. Similarly, Lost in the Fog ran an inexplicably poor race in the Breeders' Cup Sprint. In the days following these two poor performances, it was noted that both had problems in the security barn at Belmont Park, as noted in the Nov. 4 article "Defrere the Smile ready for Futurity" about Joey P. and "Lost in the Fog rattled in barn, Gilchrist says" (Nov. 2).

I am all for having a system that will deter cheating as much as possible, but I am against withholding information regarding the behavior of horses held in a security barn. It is unfair to everyone who wagers to have such critical information withheld. Had I known that neither of the aforementioned horses took to the detention barn, I would have changed my wagering strategies.

To ensure the integrity of this game, something needs to be changed. There needs to be a live feed of the horses in a security barn at all times. This will allow the wagering public to see for themselves the behavior of the horses, just as we can in the paddock and post parade. It would also be helpful to have a commentator in the detention barn, noting any signs of distress, discomfort, or odd behaviors that may be signs of an impending poor performance. Instead of waiting until a day or week after the fact, let us know beforehand, so that our wagering money doesn't go down the drain on a horse who had no chance.

Past performances, trainer stats, jockey stats, track condition, track bias, class of the horse, and pace scenario are all important factors in handicapping a race, but they mean nothing if the horse loses the race before it gets to the track.

Lenny Moon
Glen Burnie, Md.

Recent scandals should have officials on alert

If there is anything that can be learned from the confessions of Bill Romanowski and the congressional inquiry into the baseball steroids scandal, it's that the cheaters are far out in front of the testers. No one should be naove enough to think that shady equine vets and trainers who are seeking an edge are not using the easily attainable substances for racehorses at every racing meet.

Racing officials are still trying to sugarcoat the situation and give us band-aid remedies, but serious horseplayers just can't afford to ignore the "super-trainers" that seem to defy logic with their stock. We need the voices from the DRF to pound the drum for the millions of racing fans who merely want a level playing field. Racing needs to do a much better job policing its own, otherwise Congress may soon provide a dramatic wake-up call. The problems of the NYRA and the controversial shake-up of the Jockeys' Guild shows us all that corruption and mismanagement is everywhere in this industry.

Mark Gilluly
Bradenton, Fla.

Have we already forgotten about Alex?

In reading Jay Hovdey's very intriguing article "Waiting for Next Year" (Nov. 16), I was struck by a notable absence that indicates Mr. Hovdey either has inside information or was somehow blinded by reality. When discussing that the East has Flower Alley and Bellamy Road and the West has Buzzards Bay, Wilko, and Giacomo to compete in the older horse division next year, Mr. Hovdey ignores the most famous and significant horse in training on the entire planet - Afleet Alex. Isn't every other horse a perceived also-ran if Alex returns to his 2005 form? Do we care to guess the morning line on Buzzards Bay for a Sunshine Millions Classic where Afleet Alex is present? How does 25-1 sound?

Mark Miller
Boston, Mass.