05/11/2006 11:00PM

Letters to the editor

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Derby posts shouldn't be left to chance

If we're going to run 20 horses in the Kentucky Derby, I think it's time to follow the lead of virtually all major sports, which seed their playoffs to reward teams or players who have performed well in the regular season or prelims.

Nascar wouldn't dare determine the pole-sitter by the luck of the draw and neither should horse racing. Post position preferences for the classics should be determined by previous earnings or stakes performances.

Jerry McMahon,
Barretts Equine Limited
Pomona, Calif.

Remind the world: The gambling's fun

Reading a local Chicago television critic's review of coverage of the Kentucky Derby and Oaks, I noted that the critic pointed out the fact that very little time was spent showing the big exotic payoffs. He correctly pointed out that no winners of these wagers were found and interviewed.

With the explosion of gambling-related national broadcasts, when will those in charge of horse racing realize that there just might be an untapped market of potential players out there if only they were made aware that a $2 trifecta paid more than $11,000 with the second betting choice and a Todd Pletcher trainee in the top spots?

Why does racing seem so embarrassed to showcase this very exciting aspect of the sport?

I'm one of those who actually like racing for racing's sake, but I would have no problem seeing at least one human-interest story replaced with a segment on how to win a bet at 5,000-1!

Ron Rashinski
Lemont, Ill.

Two garner praise in Maryland deal

I was amused, and a bit embarrassed, by Stan Bergstein's April 20 column, "One conflict ends while another still rages," praising my work in the settlement of the Thoroughbred/harness disputes in Maryland. I was given far more credit than I deserve, particularly when there were two "generals" of the Thoroughbred industry whose contributions were equal to, if not greater than, mine.

Lou Raffetto, recently promoted to president of the Maryland Jockey Club, was determined to make a peace treaty with the harness industry. He spent countless hours trying to find common ground with his harness counterpart. Raffetto accomplished what none of his predecessors could. His willingness to make a deal that was of no economic benefit to his operation in the short term, but which has great upside potential in the long run, was essential.

Wayne Wright, executive director of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, has represented Maryland horsemen for 30 years. He is dedicated to his horsemen, tireless in his work, and passionate about racing. He has worked on a long-term peace treaty with the harness industry for two years, at times in the face of unwarranted accusations that he wanted to put Rosecroft out of business. Wright made this deal happen, and it's a good deal for everyone.

This was truly a team effort, and we're proud of the outcome. More importantly, this is an important moment for Maryland racing as we move to restore our industry to the prominence it deserves.

Alan M. Foreman
Columbia, Md.

Takeout should follow curve

The April 16 letter to the Racing Form "A vital measure for game's health: Adjust takeout" was correct in urging that the industry should try to convince state legislators to lower the takeout.

I'm not a big fan of Republicans, but maybe horse racing should adopt their philosophy that less taxes means more income.

George Bush and Ronald Reagan built their careers on Arthur Laffer's famous curve, which says that the less you tax, the more revenue you will receive.

The theory is suspect, but horse racing should at least give it a try. Lower the takeout to, say, 10 percent. That would attract thousands of new patrons and new money to the tracks. If Laffer, Bush, and Reagan are right, horse racing and state revenue coffers will flourish.

Al Sheahen
Sherman Oaks, Calif.

Synthetic surfaces need more analysis

As a longtime racing enthusiast, lover of the game, student of its history, and quite frequent horseplayer, I am encouraged by recent calls to sanity by some turf writers and television analysts in regard to the topic of Polytrack racing surfaces, such as Steven Crist's April 22 column, "Tread lightly on Polytrack."

In some of these cases, I can't help but detect a bit of restraint in the expression of their opinions as not to seem insensitive to the well-being of our favorite sport's true heroes, the Thoroughbreds themselves.

A synthetic racing surface of some kind probably can play some positive role in the horse racing world. Preferable would be a limited, sensible, and deliberate presence at a few weather-sensitive tracks as opposed to an immediate and rampant omnipresence nationwide. The ramifications of synthetic racing surfaces are really nowhere near understood at this time and won't be for some years to come.

The breeding industry, an economic interest that could potentially stand to lose the most with widespread use of synthetic surfaces, has been surprisingly unagitated on the topic. I am surprised at the lack of noise coming from the serious and more erudite members of the handicapping community, for they stand to lose what could be their biggest edge, a chance to employ their understanding of varying track speeds and biases.

Racetracks have publicly stated that their patrons would prefer a consistent surface. I say it is the last thing that many serious handicappers and players - students of the turf who are capable of arriving at their own individual opinions and back those opinions accordingly - would really like to see.

Lost in the entire debate is the simple fact that dirt form does not transfer directly over to Polytrack form. Polytrack is as different from dirt as grass is. Are we really ready to say farewell to North American dirt racing so abruptly? How many of the great champions of the past would have been champions on synthetic surfaces? This is a question I've yet to see raised, but one worth pondering.

Robert Pelton
Mystic, Conn.