02/24/2006 12:00AM

Letters to the editor


Lewis brought a great spirit to the sport

Over the course of almost four decades of racing experience, I have had the opportunity to have brief, in-person conversations with some of the sport's most iconic figures. Among these giants have been Penny Chenery, Willie Shoemaker, Charlie Whittingham, Wayne Lukas, and Allen Jerkens. While each of these people has a unique chapter in my personal racing diary, perhaps the most valuable and memorable lesson was provided by Bob Lewis.

I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Lewis on three occasions. Each time we met he was receptive, courteous, and engaging. Even though he didn't know my name, he always met me with a welcome smile and a down-to-earth demeanor that belied his standing as a leader in a highly competitive industry that is played on a global scale by the world's wealthiest people. His self-confidence and joie de vivre always shown through with glaring certainty, and one could never discern if he had just won the Kentucky Derby or if his stable was experiencing the inevitable dry spell. Seeing him with his wife, Beverly, I often thought that much of his balance and strength stemmed from her, and that much of her grace flowed from Bob.

In a sport that seems to promote cynicism, Bob Lewis had no detractors. Through my limited encounters with Mr. Lewis, I was taught a few things about sportsmanship, and a great deal about life. Mr. Lewis's legacy is most assuredly one of hope in the face of adversity, unwavering respect for humans and equines alike, and the maintenance of a positive and balanced approach to life's peaks and valleys. In a business that is characterized by a far greater number of disappointments than triumphs, Mr. Lewis took both in stride with elegance and humility.

For a small owner like myself, Mr. Lewis was a role model and a mentor, without trying to be either. His passing leaves a void that can never be filled. I feel honored to have made his acquaintance, if only briefly.

Lawrence Smith
Jackson, N.J.

Late owner's graces won't be forgotten

Thoughtful, dedicated, enthusiastic, insightful, respectful, energetic, warm, knowledgeable, dapper, approachable, wise, gentle, classy, articulate - a great man, and irreplaceable, too. That's Bob Lewis! Racing is fortunate to have captured his interest. He will be forever remembered.

Gregg Anderson
Palmdale, Calif.

Recognizing rider's actions showed class in crisis

I am sorry to say I never met Bob Lewis. But what I heard from trainers and other people who knew him was all good.

His family should be so proud. I can just look up and see Mr. Lewis and Chris Antley together, Lewis still praising the great job Antley did with the injured Charismatic in the Belmont.

Too bad this world does not have more like Lewis, a man who apparently made everyone he met a better person.

Santiago Jojola
Downey, Calif.

Abrupt agent switches reflect badly on rider

I just heard that jockey Garrett Gomez fired his agent, Jim Pegram ("Gomez switches agents," Feb. 19 Santa Anita notes). How soon one forgets.

Not so long ago, Gomez was sitting in jail, and nobody wanted anything to do with him ("Gomez to spend weekend in jail," Sept. 26, 2004). Pegram was willing to take a chance. Jockey and agent both worked hard to get a riding career going again. Gomez started winning races. He was back, giving interviews on how great life was, what a great job his agent was doing. Then he had the best year he had ever had, winning more than $14.2 million in purses and two Breeders' Cup races (probably should have been three, but who's counting). How could things get much better than that!

Now all of a sudden comes a bad month, so the agent gets fired. I guess those last two years didn't mean anything. Gomez then hired someone else. That lasted one day, so he hired someone else the next day (Santa Anita notes, Feb 20).

As a former jockey's agent, I think Gomez needs to take a long look in the mirror. The guy he's looking at might be part of the problem. The only other problems I see for him are Patrick Valenzuela, Victor Espinoza, and Alex Solis.

Bill "Bear" Barisoff
Long Beach, Calif.

Rare commodity of loyalty brings on rewards

As a fan of the great game of horse racing, I would like to acknowledge the agent-jockey team of Richie Silverstein and Martin Pedroza on the exceptional success that they have achieved over the past several months on the Southern California racing circuit.

Reading about the recent shuffling of a number of agent-jockey alliances on the Southern California circuit in Daily Racing Form ("Desormeaux to stay in California," Feb. 20 Santa Anita notes) should not surprise me, I suppose, as I have witnessed these types of changes somewhat regularly for as long as I have followed racing. Partnerships like those of Bill Shoemaker-Harry Silbert and Chris McCarron-Scotty McClellan, which lasted year after year, are rare, and I believe that the Pedroza-Silverstein team can be considered in the same category.

It seems as though, oftentimes, upon the slightest hint of a racing slump, owners dump trainers, trainers bump jockeys, jockeys switch agents, etc. (It's too bad that the horses don't get a vote.) I guess it is just part of the game - or, more accurately, an example of the "trickle-down effect" that is most commonly chalked off by the party doing the firing with a simple mea culpa as being "just business."

Pedroza has a reputation of being an expert rider of 2-year-olds and being the longtime king of the Fairplex meeting, but I am sure that both rider and agent have had plenty of opportunities over the years to opt for a change during hard times or slumps. But they have always seemed to weather the storms. Now they are reaping the benefits.

Winning stakes races for such noted trainers as Richard Mandella, Darrell Vienna, and Julio Canani over the past months and taking the riding title at the most recent Hollywood Park meeting will attest to the fact that loyalty and perseverance do pay off in the end. At least they do to me.

Congratulations to Pedroza and Silverstein. Let's hope they keep up the good work. And I wish them good luck in the Big Cap with Spellbinder for Mr. Mandella.

Seamus Callanan
Orange, Calif.