01/13/2006 12:00AM

Letters to the editor

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Rules no boon in Kentucky - new surface is

On Jan. 8, Mr. David Switzer, executive director of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, wrote in a letter to the Racing Form, "New standards on medication boost business," that new medication regulations, instituted by the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority, not only had no negative effect, but to the contrary were part of the recent success enjoyed by Turfway Park, Keeneland, and Churchill Downs.

That new policy he referred to, which caused a boycott of entries by owners and trainers last fall at Turfway Park, has never been implemented and probably won't as initially written. Thankfully, the racing authority realized some of the provisions that caused the "boycott" needed to be looked at and have been rewritten.

The rules - which could have resulted in owners losing purse money and trainers getting suspended for merely having the presence of aspirin and Advil - were a little more than they intended.

What has led to a greater success this fall and winter is directly attributed to a commitment to racing by Turfway Park management, investing in a new and innovative racing surface, resulting in a meet that has fewer lost days and bigger fields.

Churchill Downs also had a great fall meet with large and competitive fields. This, too, was helped by Polytrack being added at Turfway Park and on Keeneland's training track. Both brought new stables into Kentucky just to train on it.

Hopefully we will get a new medication policy that brings Kentucky in line with other racing jurisdictions, and that policy will be owner-, trainer-, horse-, and fan-friendly - not one that merely is rushed through without a great deal of thought and discussion from all segments of the industry.

Walter Bindner
Goshen, Ky.

Excellent business sense from Big A race secretary

Steven Crist was right in his Jan. 8 column, "It's good to play Big A now," to applaud the more imaginative races being written at Aqueduct. I have often wondered, as both an owner and a bettor, why so many incentives had been put in place for New York-bred ownership but such a limited set of races written for them.

In an era of dwindling horse populations, it was simply good business to create races for hard-trying racehorses who otherwise would have to go to Finger Lakes or tracks with casino-inflated purses. I hope the track's new racing secretary, P.J. Campo, continues the good work.

Bill Feingold
Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.

Umphrey had the stuff of top-grade racing

Many in racing were saddened by the recent death of Calder Race Course's racing secretary, Bob Umphrey ("Bob Umphrey dies at 53," Jan. 5). Respected nationally for his knowledge, integrity, and creativity, he touched a great many lives during a long and distinguished career that took him to tracks from coast to coast. Rather than being aloof and conceited, he was always approachable and friendly. His job as a racing secretary certainly wasn't easy, yet it was a rarity to see him without a smile.

Largely through his efforts, Calder will run its first Grade 1 race in 2006, the Princess Rooney Handicap. I would love to see the name of this race changed to the Bob Umphrey Handicap.

Jon White
Monrovia, Calif.

A turf horse for the Derby makes for foolhardy pick

Enough is enough already. Everyone knows how much Dick Jerardi loves mid-Atlantic racing and its stars. We get it.

And coming from New York, home of some of the world's biggest "homers" (such as some Yankee announcers), we're sick of it. But even those homers pale in comparison with Jerardi's mentioning the Maryland-based Barbaro and the Kentucky Derby in the same sentence at this stage of the game ("Barbaro bred for Derby's dirt road," Jan. 13). That would be like having mentioned Bubba Crosby as an MVP candidate last season.

In that Jan. 13 column, Jerardi explained how he was looking past the obvious - First Samurai, Henny Hughes, et al. - and was looking for a Giacomo of this year.

Firstly, Barbaro, while ultra-impressive thus far in a short racing career on turf, has never run on dirt. And yes, Jerardi did mention that in his column, but does anyone else realize how absurd it is to tout a horse in January - who has never run on dirt let alone won a dirt race - to win the most prestigious race in the world?

Secondly, what makes anyone think this horse will be anywhere near the 50-1 that Giacomo closed at on Derby Day? Jerardi has not been the only one who has watched Barbaro compete. If Barbaro breaks from the Derby gate, he'll be 10-1 at best.

Next thing you know, Jerardi will be telling us the Flyers will win the Stanley Cup, the 76ers will be NBA champs, the Phillies will win the World Series (thanks for Billy Wagner, by the way), and the the Eagles will win the Super Bowl next year. On second thought, that would be better than pushing a grass horse to win the run for the roses.

Anthony J. Stabile
Howard Beach, N.Y.

Gulfstream races need a logical progression

Gulfstream has been calling its races for 3-year-olds the "Florida Derby series." In reality, it should be called "A bunch of races for 3-year-olds that happen to end with the nine-furlong Florida Derby."

What about these races constitutes a series? They start off on Jan. 7 with the one-mile Aventura, a perfect starting point. But then things begin to go awry. Next comes the 1 1/8-mile Holy Bull on Feb. 4. The timing makes sense, as a late-starting or late-developing 3-year-old can begin his season here, and also because Aventura runners can wheel back. Also, a flashy horse eligible for a nonwinners-of-one allowance can progress here. But how can the Holy Bull be run at nine furlongs? Wouldn't the proper progression be to 1 1/16 miles?

But let's move on, because now things get really weird. The Fountain of Youth, to be run on March 4, is the final prep for the April 1 Florida Derby. Sounds easy enough, right? The problem is, though, that the Fountain of Youth is also run at nine furlongs. Does anyone sense a problem? How can you have two races leading up to the showcase race be run at the same distance as the showcase race? It makes no sense whatsoever. I would think the proper progression would be to have both the Aventura and Holy Bull run at one mile, the Fountain of Youth at 1 1/16 miles, and then the Florida Derby at 1 1/8 miles. You can't have a series of races leading up to a finale without having some sort of progression.

Brian Nadeau
Saratoga Springs. N.Y.