03/17/2006 12:00AM

Letters to the editor

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Horsemen want their views part of N.Y. future

The March 12 article "New alliance rattles NYRA" suggested that the New York Racing Association has lost the support of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association in its potential bid for the state's Thoroughbred racing franchise. The article misquoted me and was unfair to both NYRA and the horsemen's association. While I appreciate that Racing Form published a clarification last week, I feel that further comment is necessary.

The New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association has not withdrawn its support of NYRA. NYRA's franchise is expiring and it must be renewed or awarded to another entity. I believe there is almost universal agreement that under current New York law, a not-for-profit cannot survive, and the law must be changed to facilitate an industry that must be able to adapt to a very changed and competitive marketplace.

Given the speculation about NYRA's future, and the fact that there are numerous entities expressing interest in the franchise, the horsemen do not trust that the process to award the franchise will adequately ensure that their interests will be protected.

In this context, the horsemen's association concluded that it needed to become involved in the franchise process so that someone was speaking for, and protecting the interests of, the thousands of owners, breeders, and trainers who collectively have the largest investment in racing in New York, in determining the future of New York racing. In doing so, it proposes to align itself with a broad-based coalition of horsemen and breeders whose sole mission is to insure that racing will be the core of the business model, whoever gets the franchise.

The horsemen's association didn't sell itself out to anyone, nor should its support be taken for granted. The horsemen's association is not going to bid for the franchise, nor is it even clear that the new entity will do so. Nonetheless, I believe that horsemen's support will be critical to any potential bidder, and their commitment to live racing, stronger purses, a healthy bred-fund program, marketing and promotion of racing, facilities-enhancement and respect for the horsemen's contribution to the business will prevail. NYRA, judging by its knee-jerk reaction, appears not to want the horsemen to have a voice in the process and seeks to limit its influence. This is a mistake.

To me, a partnership of a reconstituted and restructured NYRA, together with the interests of owners, trainers, and breeders, creates the most powerful entity and the most compelling group to ensure that racing will prosper in New York, which is why I am so disappointed when NYRA suggests that it has been betrayed by the horsemen, who it believes should be grateful that NYRA hasn't cut racing days or purses while it bleeds money. NYRA should acknowledge and respect the fact that it owes its continued existence and ability to vie for the franchise, in part, to the fact that the state's horsemen have stood by them cooperatively through very difficult times.

We all need to focus our energies on preserving and protecting New York's Thoroughbred industry for the 21st century.

Alan M. Foreman, general counsel,
New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association Inc.

Franchise's top priority should be horses' well-being

As a farm owner, breeder, and one who races year-round in New York, I have decided to become a shareholder of Empire Racing Associates and accept a seat on its board of directors. My decision is based upon a desire to advance my views on two subjects of extreme importance: the health and safety of our racehorses during their careers and the care and protection of retired horses. The latter requires a comprehensive, well-funded plan to provide for the tracking of racehorses and proper shelter and training to assist them in developing second careers or being placed in good homes as pleasure horses or pets. The New York franchise-holder must assume its share of responsibility that no racehorse ever reaches its end in a slaughterhouse or is otherwise abandoned.

Enhancing the health and durability of our racehorses confers upon us a host of benefits, including bigger fields, and longer and sounder careers, critical to attracting and retaining fans and owners.

Synthetic racing surfaces may well play a pivotal role in achieving this goal. Turfway's 80 percent reduction in catastrophic injuries is extraordinary. Horsemen at Keeneland and Turfway uniformly praise Polytrack, particularly in its use this winter. California tracks will have synthetic tracks by the end of 2007, and racing interests there have recruited the help of the legislature in funding the installations.

I am sympathetic to the plight of the New York Racing Association, which must operate under onerous legislative constraints. Taking sides and drawing battle lines, however, is a terrible mistake. We all want the same thing. Those horsemen who support the Empire Racing Associates plan will do so because the group shares our views regarding the future of racing.

Other horsemen will embrace alternative proposals and should be free to choose without repercussions. We live in a country that encourages the type of competition envisioned in the pursuit of the New York franchise.

Multiple views, approaches, plans, etc. will likely improve the end result. The future is full of potential. A well-designed business model integrating racing, casinos, and, possibly, the offtrack betting corporations, can produce high-quality, safe, year-round racing. That is where our focus must center, not name-calling and sniping which demeans the whole process.

Jeffrey Tucker
New York City

Owner's actions, remarks a sort of no-brainer

Re: "Parting shots as Pedersen splits with Paraneck," (March 11). If there is a bigger meathead in racing than Ernie Paragallo, I haven't seen him. First, he lets go a trainer, Jennifer Pedersen, who has done nothing but good for him, then says "mentally she's not there." He adds that training a horse "ain't no great shakes." This from a man who ran a horse in the Kentucky Derby wearing two egg bar shoes.

Good luck, Mr. Paragallo. You'll need it

Jim Walsh
North Andover, Mass.

'Biased' bettors foot racing's bills

A March 12 letter, "Callous attitude shows its own bias," sounded off on Andrew Beyer's Feb. 25 column, "Diet of all Polytrack awfully bland," about the loss of the track bias at Turfway park because of the new Polytrack surface.

The letter-writer went on to say he found Beyer's comments "shocking." I just want to remind the writer that having an edge is the No. 1 goal if you want to stay alive in this game. Yes, the safety of jockeys and horses is important. What everyone needs to realize, however, is that the jockeys and the horses are there because of the betting, not the other way around.

Paul Weinstock
Mukwonago, Wisc.