03/15/2002 12:00AM

Letters to the Editor

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Last-minute turf-to-dirt has fans livid

So, Gulfstream Park "management," in its infinite wisdom, took the last race off of the turf last Sunday, while the horses were already in the walking ring ("Late call to take race off turf leaves Gulf bettors stuck," March 13).

They say that the jockeys, who rightfully made this choice, had just informed them of their decision. The jocks say they told them way before that.

But the problem isn't who, or even when. The problem is what they did next.

The real problem is that the pick threes and daily doubles were all locked in by then. Players were either stuck with their picks on dirt or, in the pick threes, they got the post time favorite, as three horses were immediately scratched.

Obviously, (and this is obvious to me, a schmo in L.A.) they should have made consolation payoffs to all bettors with live tickets. This would have been the right thing to do. Also, it would have protected the integrity (such as it is) of the game.

But no, instead they chose to rob the fans completely of almost any fair chance at winning their bets. This from what is supposed to be a major racing circuit.

Oh, yeah, the favorite ran fourth and the longest shot in the field won.

The good news is, by the 11th race, who has any money left to lose, anyway?

Jerry Hauck

Studio City, Calif.

Information deficit a serious disorder

How appropriate, the day that "A Season on the Brink" was being aired on ESPN, Gulfstream Park was having a season on a stink!

I was alive to two turf horses for a nice pick three when in horror I heard the track announcer give the absurd news that the race was taken off the turf - as the horses were entering the paddock!

Memo to Frank Stronach: This is a wagering game where accurate, timely information is paramount. All I can say is I'll be glad when Keeneland opens!

Mike McGuire

Louisville, Ky.

Management's gaffe typically shameful

Sunday's fiasco at Gulfstream should not come as a surprise to anyone.

It's easy to blame the jockeys, but it's not their fault. Let's see a management official pilot an 1,100-pound animal a mile or more. How about the board of stewards? What were they doing after the ninth race? I'll tell you what - hiding out. If they side with anybody, it's with management. The bettor is the last one to be considered.

The jockeys did the right thing. The track should have and could refunded daily doubles and pick threes as no-bets, but it's about the money.

No matter how things got handled, things like this happen a lot in pick sixes: late scratches, surface switches, etc. But the board of stewards was not there for us, the bettors, on Sunday.

I guess it wasn't in the best interest of racing. So what is, then?

Gene Davenport

Lodi, Calif.

Bettors fell victim to blind switch

When Sunday's 11th race at Gulfstream was taken off the turf after the 10th was run, ruining many a late double bet, you would figure there must have been a lot of rain, right? Not quite: The weather was sunny and warm like the people in Florida brag about.

So why, then, such careless disregard of the betting public? If after the ninth race, which was run on the turf, the riders and/or track personnel determined the course was not safe, why wasn't the race pulled immediately before the late double wagering?

The people in charge at Gulfstream must give more consideration to the bettors, as we are the ones who pay their salary.

Mark Levin

Brooklyn, N.Y.

Gulfstream's woes have several facets

Andrew Beyer, in his March 6 column "Fiddling while Rome burns," accurately cited the loss of stalls at Hialeah this winter as a main cause in the lack of quality racing at Gulfstream in 2002.

The reason the Hialeah situation occurred was not so much the loss of stalls, but the loss of a good surface over which to train horses.

Nobody I know is happy about training at Gulfstream Park. The track has long had serious problems with its racing surface and management has taken a band-aid approach.

Faced with a choice of having to train at Gulfstream and going elsewhere this year, Team Valor - like many other owners - decided to skip Florida this winter with most of its stock.

Frank Stronach cannot be blamed for the situation at Hialeah. And he deserves credit for taking immediate action with his Boynton Beach facility. If this track does turn out to be a good place to train, the good horses once again will return to Florida in the winter.

But Stronach needs to address the track and turf course at Gulfstream to really solve the problem of high-class horses racing at Gulfstream Park.

Barry Irwin

Team Valor

Versailles, Ky.

Current testing standards make for bad blood

My hat is sincerely off to Stan Bergstein for his March 2 column, "Blood-boosters present real threat." It's naive to think that, if these drugs are being used in bicycle racing and cross-country skiing, that they're not being used in horse racing, where so much more is at stake and so much more money is changing hands, from purses and betting to stud fees and horse sales. And I take little comfort in the recent racing symposium that supposedly found little illicit drug use in horse racing.

But how many more times do we have to see a horse outrun his pedigree or turn in an uncharacteristic performance?

Unfortunately, the industry's testing procedures aren't capable of detecting these blood-boosters, which are much more relevant to increased performance than morphine or the other drugs that are tested for now. And let's face it, the horse racing community is a pretty tight fraternity, and trainers aren't likely to voice their suspicions publicly about fellow trainers.

Perhaps Bergstein could interview some racing officials and find out if they plan to get a hold of the test used at the Olympics for EPO and the other blood-enhancing drugs.

Morty Mittenthal

Pasadena, Calif.

Booting D'Amico reeks of double standard

I read with disgust that the trainer of Repent had removed jockey Tony D'Amico for a more proven, "name" rider, in the Louisiana Derby ("D'Amico shrugs and bears it," Feb. 28).

D'Amico did everything right aboard Repent and still lost his mount for the completely silly notion that a Kentucky Derby winner will make the difference. No rider will ever learn more about Repent between now in the Kentucky Derby, and that experience is invaluable.

Based on the logic that dismissed D'Amico, Repent's owners should immediately remove the horse from the Kenneth McPeek stable and turn him over to Bob Baffert, D. Wayne Lukas, or Nick Zito. After all, if you want to win the Kentucky Derby, you might as well go with someone who has been in the winner's circle before.

Kevin Honig

Altamonte Springs, Fla.