05/04/2006 11:00PM

Letters to the editor

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Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Funny Cide wins the Kings Point Handicap at Aqueduct last Sunday for his first victory since 2004.

Kentucky lab rates priority for state funds

In the recent state budget cuts made by Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher, there is one item that was eliminated but one that shouldn't be delayed for long: the University of Kentucky Livestock Disease Diagnostic Center. I understand the challenges the governor faced in reviewing the budget and making some hard decisions, but for the agricultural community, this lab is a necessity.

Currently, the project has received $8.5 million of its total funding cost of $22 million. The $13.5 million in bonds cut from the budget would have completed the project. The expansion and upgrades to the diagnostic lab are vital to our state's signature equine and cattle industries. The improvements would provide for new technologies to promote animal health and productivity, as well as equip the diagnostic center to address biosecurity issues for both animals and humans.

To continue to serve and promote our agricultural community, it is vital that we provide the adequate funding for the diagnostic center. A recent survey among 20 accredited laboratories nationwide revealed that the UK Livestock Disease Diagnostic Center ranked first in equine necropsies (postmortem exams), second in bovine necropsies, and third in total necropsies, yet it has one of the smallest spaces available for such procedures. This expansion is critical.

Again, I understand the difficulties the governor faced when reviewing the budget. Cutting a key item that affects our state's signature industry and the cattle industry, however, could be devastating in the long term.

James K. Navolio, executive director
Kentucky Equine Education Project

Harsh judgment of jockeys undeserved, uncaring

I would like to respond to the April 30 letter "Put riders on notice: No more rainouts."

The writer was upset because two racing cards within three weeks were cancelled at Aqueduct because of rain, and that "some of the jockeys" said the track was unsafe - not all, but some. He also urged the New York Racing Association to "make a list of jockeys willing to ride on wet tracks and tell the others to stay home."

As a jockey agent for the past 10 years, I found those comments absolutely ridiculous. These brave men and women put their lives on the line every time they are legged up on a horse when the racing surface is in tip-top condition. Now someone is questioning their decision when the track was off. I am sure the jockeys talked things over both days and came to the conclusion, after three races were run, that the racing surface was no longer suitable for racing.

It shouldn't matter if one, five, or the majority of the jockeys didn't want to ride the remainder of the card - they are the ones who put their lives at risk.

So what if two cards were cut short because of bad weather? Racing is conducted all year long, and the horses and jockeys who did not race on those two days will live to race another day.

Glen Miki
Monterey Park, Calif.

Funny Cide co-owner declares debt to horse

As one of the owners of Funny Cide, I greatly appreciated Steven Crist's April 30 column, "Funny Cide's career isn't a flop," for hitting the nail on the head in regard to what we are trying to do with our horse. In his last two races, he showed he still has a desire to compete and win. Fellow owner Jack Knowlton and I have said all along that when he loses his desire to perform we will retire him. He sure does not owe us anything - we owe him.

Funny Cide is as sound as he has been in the last couple of years, so we will run him in races that he has a chance to win, whether it is a $100,000 minor stakes race or a graded race. He will give us a pretty good idea what level he fits best. You can be assured we will not run him with the hope of capturing the "big pot" if we and our trainer do not think he has the talent nor the will to compete at a higher level. We owe him that and more.

David Mahan
Watertown, Conn.

Riders' weight lament falls on deaf ears

After reading Alan Shuback's April 30 column, "Traditional jockey weights no longer realistic," I have a question: Who is to gain from changing the scale of weights?

That would be (a) fat jockeys and (b) jockey agents working in a state with a two-jockey rule. That is all, as far as I know.

There are plenty of small, light, and extremely talented riders who can make the weight on the current scale of weights. Racing should be careful not to go in the wrong direction.

Patrick A. Johnson
Lewisport, Ky.

Handle jump attributed to green of a different sort

I had boycotted Maryland racing since 2000 when takeout rates were increased. Last September the takeout on pick three wagering was reduced from 25 percent to a very generous 14 percent. Now comes word that total wagering on Laurel's winter meet increased 48 percent ("Laurel handle takes large jump," April 22).

The Maryland Jockey Club attributed the increase to the revamping of its turf course. I think bettors like myself know the real reason.

Robert H. Lee
Pasadena, Md.

Injured trainer's tale a compelling one

Jay Hovdey's profile of trainer Dan Hendricks, "Daredevil whose luck had run out," (April 30) was a must-read for any devoted fan of Thoroughbred racing. In inspiring detail, Hovdey superbly augmented the story of Hendricks and his horse Brother Derek.

Hovdey's gift for storytelling shone through as he wove quotes from other famous paralyzed figures to illustrate the human struggle each victim faces in coming to terms with such a life-changing event.

Hendricks didn't seem inclined for racing fans to lament his tragic circumstance, so I won't. But my heartfelt sympathies do go out to the trainer and adrenaline junkie who never got to take a spin on his prized pupil.

Phil McSween
Toronto