06/22/2006 11:00PM

Letters to the editor


Keep in mind who's holding purse strings

This past Monday, Delaware Park's tote system failed shortly before the fourth race, and the decision was made to run the remaining seven races on the card anyway, for purse money only ("Etc. . . .," June 21).

The incident should serve as a gentle reminder to horsemen as to just where their purse money comes from, and to racetrack personnel as to just where their salaries come from. It all comes out of the pockets of the bettors, for without parimutuel wagering the whole business would grind to a halt.

I felt the decision to go ahead and run the races that day for purse money only was wrong. There is nothing more aggravating than, after having spent hours picking a race card, having to watch your selections come home in front without having been able to wager on them.

Sure, the tote crash was not the fault of the horsemen, but if we bettors had to suffer, they could have suffered alongside us for one day. Instead the racing went on. John Curran called out the races one by one to a virtually empty grandstand.

Truth be told, a horse race without any betting interest really isn't all that compelling. It's pretty much just animals running in a circle. Yet after each race the winning connections were laughing it up, posing for pictures in the winner's circle. We horseplayers, meanwhile, moped around aimlessly, strung along with promises that the tote system might be fixed any minute. Worse, many bettors had to sit for hours in front of betting machines because they had fed in vouchers and couldn't retrieve their balances after the system crash.

We bettors are sometimes asked to fork over a little money for the retired geldings and other racing charities. We're supposed to shed a few tears when a champion breaks down. We're supposed to stand idly by as racing surfaces are changed from good old dirt to wax-coated kitty litter, a move that would undermine hard-learned handicapping practices. But where are the horsemen when we bettors scream year after year for a reduction in the obscene takeout levels that we must battle day in and day out? The same place they were Monday at Delaware Park: laughing it up in the winner's circle. And yet, on Tuesday we horseplayers came crawling back for more. We always do.

Steven Martinka
Newark, Del.

Crown jewels in perfect setting

A June 18 letter to the Racing Form, "Spacing of jewels needs adjusting," about the spacing of the Triple Crown races and not seeing any similar schedule outside the Crown was off base.

May I remind the writer that in 2000, trainer Jay Robbins entered 3-year-old Tiznow in the Sept. 30 Super Derby and won at 1 1/4 miles, setting a Louisiana Downs track record. Next came the Oct. 15 Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap at Santa Anita, which he won at 1 1/8 miles, avenging his loss to Captain Steve in the Swaps. Then, on Nov. 4, in the 1 1/4-mile Breeders' Cup Classic, from a far outside post at Churchill Downs, he defeated a star-studded field led by Giant's Causeway.

That makes three graded routes in five weeks all over the the country, as a 3-year-old, outside the Triple Crown.

The spacing is perfect.

Thomas Tassinari
Encino, Calif.

Artificial intelligence in surface switches

I am perplexed at the haste with which the powers that be in California are moving to synthetic racing surfaces. One meeting at Turfway Park and synthetic racing surfaces are the answer to all the problems related to Thoroughbred injuries. (See "Tracks line up for artificial surfaces," June 11.)

I am not an expert, but a horse racing enthusiast who is worried that with synthetic surfaces invading California racing it will soon become a more lonely place for all. For one, I noticed how many horses seemed to dislike the synthetic surface at Turfway only to be resurrected when arriving at a conventional dirt track. What if the majority of horses on the California circuit dislike the synthetic surfaces that are mandated? Well seems to me they will have to move to racing jurisdictions that don't have synthetic racing surfaces, further depleting the already shallow amount of racing prospects in California.

Also, how much do we really know about the effect of the synthetic properties of the surfaces on the health of both horse and human? From what I have read, not much.

I am all for increasing the safety for horses, but where are the calls for limiting so many of the drugs that almost certainly have hurt the Thoroughbred breed in North America. I find it more than a coincidence that Europe doesn't allow drugs such as Lasix, etc., and from what I know suffers far fewer breakdowns. No doubt it may be the prevalence of turf racing, but it surely also has to do with the restriction on drugs as well.

While it's still early in the process I have great fears for racing in California as we adopt synthetic racing surfaces at our major tracks. I hope my fears are not borne out in the future, but something tells me it's the wrong path to be taking. I liken it to many stadiums in football who moved to artificial surfaces only to have many stadiums revert back to natural grass years later.

Will the powers that be in California indemnify all the tracks that are mandated to install synthetic surfaces when they are forced to move back to conventional dirt? Seems to me this has happened with Oklahoma's Remington Park when it installed Equitrack upon opening in 1988 only to switch to dirt in 1991. Again, I hope I am wrong, but as a racing fan of almost 30 years, I am seriously concerned.

Robert Huweiler
San Diego