04/07/2006 12:00AM

Letters to the editor


Sale veteran defends ethics from detractor

I feel obligated to reply to the retired Wall Street trader who was so critical of the 2-year-old sales in his April 2 letter to the editor, "Potential buyer more than wary of sale tactics." I find his opinions the height of irony, coming from a man who worked in the most corrupt arena in the history of American business. Common sense, however, tells us not all traders are bad. So why should every agent or consignor in the horse business be painted with the same brush?

In response to his questions, which are rhetorical in nature and expose his true lack of knowledge:

1. The same agents buying the expensive horses every year do so because they have more money and bigger budgets than everyone else. Mind-boggling, isn't it?

2. The insinuation that 2-year-old consignors take turns to have the big horse and "share the wealth" is ludicrous and insulting. The majority of pinhookers are smart, talented, hard-working people who compete in a high-risk, all-or-nothing environment. We take a lot of lumps with the gravy.

3. Ocala-based pinhooks bring the most profit simply because 90 percent of consignors and 2-year-olds presented for sale train in Ocala and are based there all winter for prospective buyers to inspect.

4. Nobody promotes "covert bidding." Some people have big egos and like to be seen bidding, while others prefer to be less conspicuous. It's not practical to have hundreds of bidders at horse auctions carry placards like they do at Sotheby's and Christie's. Surely somebody would get hit over the head, probably on purpose!

May I suggest that the letter-writer attend one of the many educational seminars for prospective owners held by the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association at racetracks and auction companies around the country? Obviously, the writer has been successful in business. As such, I am surprised by the lack of due diligence shown in investigating thoroughly the sport he would so much like to invest in.

Over the past 25 years, I have been privileged to travel the world working with Thoroughbred racehorses and meeting wonderful people, and I can state emphatically that this is the greatest game on Earth. We are blessed to be around these magnificent animals, and for anyone representing "new money" not to get involved and "pursue dreams" is undoubtedly their loss.

Niall Brennan
Ocala, Fla.

Fan senses conflict in battle for New york

Well, here we go again. Just when I thought I had heard the last of Friends of New York Racing, here comes Empire Racing Associates ("Friends official has ties to Empire," March 19). Haven't these folks ever heard of a conflict of interest, or a possible platform for corruption, if only in the minds of the horseplayers who pump billions of dollars through the wagering machines?

Let me put it this way: How would you like to be a heavyweight contender, and for your championship bout, your opponent's trainer is the referee? Or, taking it outside of sports, how about the police commissioner being the only avenue to crack down on abuse and corruption on the police force? Ever hear of the Knapp Commission?

Now, don't get me wrong. Should any of these owners, breeders, or trainers wish to run the industry, they should simply drop off affidavits that they will no longer maintain any proprietary interest in the game. We'll be waiting.

Well, how about the New York Racing Association? As I approach my 60th birthday this year, I realize that NYRA has always been running the show during my involvement. What has that gotten me? Only the most consistent, respected, high-quality racing, year-in and year-out. Sheikhs and princes would give truckloads of cash to approach what we take for granted. Even our Kentucky horse friends know that what we have here is lights-out the best. Yes, they have the Kentucky Derby, the Keeneland sales, and the bluegrass, but we have what everyone watches and bets on. Come on, you know it's true.

So, lets make a few adjustments with NYRA. Combine the offtrack betting companies with NYRA and sprinkle in the slots. Keep some of those great American industry leaders and add a few regular folk with real-life racing experience. Sorry, I can't join - I'm not willing to give up my breeding and racing interests.

Frank J. Cipriano
Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Baze admiration society not universal

I take issue with the Russell Baze fan who praised the efforts and the effectiveness of the Hall of Fame jockey in the April 2 letter "Baze fan can't tolerate disrespect of top rider."

Once again, Baze proved that he could not ride with the class jockeys when, in the 2005 Breeders' Cup, he rode the 3-5 chalk, Lost in the Fog, and finished seventh. I am relatively new to horse racing, but I have heard tales about Baze getting whipped when he went to Southern California some years ago. Now Baze has met his match in Martin Garcia and may no longer wear the northern California crown. Baze is a great fair and "cheap horse" jockey, but he cannot come close to the best.

Joe Puccinelli
Carmel, Calif.

Let smaller bettors lock in their price

The art of handicapping has two components: (1) Selecting the probable winner, and (2) determining whether the probability of winning justifies a wager at certain odds. In short, I like "Blueboy" at 3-1, but not at 4-5.

Ontrack bettors at small tracks like Finger Lakes and Penn National have become increasingly demoralized and cynical because the value component of handicapping has virtually been eliminated by large post-time wagers from off-site simulcast venues. As a result, "Blueboy" often leaves the gate at 3-1 but may find himself turning for home at 4-5.

Why do tracks waste electricity flashing probable odds for 23 minutes before post when the actual odds will be determined after a race is half-finished? This is clearly unfair on a very fundamental level and must be rectified.

My suggestion? Tracks should be persuaded or required to install software that will enable the mutuel machines to mimic old-time bookmakers. Under such a system, the player would be paid off at the odds extant at the time of his bet, not the final odds. If I make a successful $10 bet with eight minutes to post on a horse then quoted at 5-1, I will be paid off at 5-1 whether the horse's final odds are 15-1 or 2-1. To avoid abuse, large bets would automatically be recalculated to take into account their own impact on the mutuel pool.

This solution would not only eliminate the present scandalous problem but also would interject some new fun and excitement into betting by adding the timing of a bet to the overall handicapping strategy.

Robert F. O'Connor
Hershey, Pa.