01/27/2006 12:00AM

Letters to the editor

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Fellow jockey regards Bailey as the greatest

I wanted to say goodbye to someone who, in my opinion, was the greatest rider who ever sat in the saddle - my friend Jerry Bailey. It was an honor to ride with him, and I can honestly say that riding with him, especially the years we battled for leading rider at Gulfstream Park, elevated my riding to a level I never thought possible.

We never had a problem, and that's because of the mutual respect we had for each other. He always sincerely cared about, and fought for, a better life for the little guy. It was a blessing to ride with him day in and day out, but an honor to call him a true friend. Our sons Justin and Saban are still best friends, and I wish him, his wife, Suzee, and Justin the best.

Shane Sellers
Louisville, Ky.

An interested observer saw a classic performer

Re: "Thinking man's jockey ready to say farewell" (Jan. 27): Jerry Bailey will always be remembered as one of the greatest jockeys in the history of Thoroughbred racing.

As an avid racing fan, owner, and handicapper over the last 50 years, I have observed top jockeys riding in every major stakes run in America. On a scale of one to 10, Jerry rates a high 10. He has proven himself to be the Joe DiMaggio, Michael Jordan, and Arnold Palmer of Thoroughbred racing. There are certain traits in his makeup that bore this out.

His talent extended beyond the ordinary skills required to be a top rider. The bigger the challenge and stronger the competition, the more his adrenaline rose to the occasion, the keener his senses and concentration became. The bigger the race, the more cool and collected he became during the running. He was aware of what and where the competition was and what the other jockeys were doing with their horses. He took advantage of this, placing his mount strategically, saving valuable ground, and at times coming through an opening in a split second. His timing was superb, and he could close to win by a nose, or hold his mount together, coaxing the horse to hold on to win by a nose, or a bob of the head. In addition to his record of Breeders' Cup wins, his ride on Arcangues at 133-1 to win the 1993 Breeders' Cup Classic is legendary.

When he dismounted after a winning ride, you couldn't tell by his demeanor whether he just rode in a million-dollar race or a $10,000 claimer. In a sport where nothing is ever perfect, Bailey came awfully close. I wish him the best of luck in his new career, and I'm sure he will exhibit the same excellence he has given the racing world.

Bob Ades
New York City

California board vote thumbs nose at race fans

So the California Horse Racing Board has decided to table a motion to increase backstretch surveillance on trainers suspected of drugging their horses, eh? It did, however, see fit to move the question on splitting entries on all races in the state ("CHRB votes to eliminate the coupling of entries," Jan. 21).

Let's see, now: Anybody's ox gored in either of these two Solomonic judgments? Stables? Nooo. Racetrack operators? Nooo. The state of California? Nope. Gee, that must mean these decisions are win-wins for all parties. Oh, wait, it seems we forgot about the fans. Are they affected in any way by these decisions? Hmmm.

These guys remind me of Louis XVI's courtiers, assuring him about the commotion in the public square - nothing to worry about. Let them eat cake.

Kenneth M. Steele
Bensalem, Pa.

Gulfstream's makeover proves a letdown

I was in south Florida for opening week at Gulfstream Park, and what I found was quite astonishing.

The quality of racing was pretty decent - big, competitive fields. But I was stunned at the new grandstand facility at Gulfstream. First, I saw it from the parking lot. Not too bad, I thought, looks a little like Del Mar.

When I walked to the front of the building, though, to sit down and watch the races, I was stunned: no seating along the apron of the track. There were, on the second level, five rows of seats, no more than 1,000, by my estimate. The track's owner, Magna Entertainment Corp., wanted $10 per seat, but most went to owners and trainers.

Next, I checked out the paddock. They have got to be kidding me. The horses are saddled in a dark hallway, not visible to the public.

This is the most fan-unfriendly racetrack that I have ever seen, In fact, it's not a racetrack - it's a casino that happens to stage live horse racing. There was no effort to cater to the live horse racing fan when this place was built. It was simply made to be a gaming house with a very extensive simulcast area. It was designed to cater to the casino crowd, once a gaming license is finalized.

The racetrack itself is very nice, but it amounts to a television studio to broadcast live racing to a simulcast audience. With the limited seating, Gulfstream must not even want to attract large crowds to watch live racing.

Granted, the old Gulfstream was rarely full in recent years, But on a few Saturdays during the meet, it did draw large crowds. This new place could never handle those crowds. The whole thing is very disappointing to those of us who like live horse racing in a beautiful setting.

Lou Grim
New Castle, Del.

Fan fears New York invasion by Magna empire

I am an avid racing fan who greatly looks forward to two trips yearly. One is to Saratoga, the other to Gulfstream Park. I am not afraid to spend my money at both venues, but I don't like to feel as if I am being robbed. The folks at Magna Entertainment Corp., the owner of Gulfstream, have made me feel just that.

Last year, while the track was being renovated, I knew going in that there would be some inconveniences. I thought Magna would offer fans something to offset that. Wrong. What we got was a $5 charge to enter a tent or the option of staying in the backyard while an overbearing loudspeaker blasted some fool who treated us like we had never made a bet before in our lives.

Now, as I ponder my trip to sunny Miami, I am told that I will be charged $10 a seat on normal days and $20 a seat on special days like this weekend's Sunshine Millions.

Why don't these people get it? All we want is the good racing they already offer and a somewhat comfortable place to watch it in. Installing these ridiculous charges will keep fans away instead of attracting them. The idea that Magna might someday own my beloved Saratoga horrifies me.

William Brites
Raritan, N.J.