07/07/2006 12:00AM

Letters to the editor

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Guild vote takes riders down wrong path

History seems to have taught the Jockeys' Guild nothing.

When the guild arrived at its decision in November to terminate the contract of its chief executive at the time, L. Wayne Gertmenian, I held cautious optimism that the guild was finally moving in the right direction for the first time since 2001.

That optimism, however, was replaced by stinging disappointment when I heard that the guild's board of directors had again chosen to succumb to the rhetoric of two people who have absolutely no experience in the horse industry ("Guild names new leaders," June 30). Much like the previous ineffective leadership, new management appears to be taking an argumentative, confrontational approach to dealing with jockey-racetrack relations, an approach which will only further alienate the guild from the people they need to work together with to achieve results.

Instead of electing David Stevenson, who brought a lifetime of experience in the racing industry to the table, as well as a detailed, step-by-step plan that, if implemented, would restore the guild to its former cohesive, respectable status, the guild again chose to elect individuals who will conveniently tell them only what they want to hear.

This was a crucial time for the guild, and it was squandered by those who obviously do not have the insight or the ability to examine past mistakes, take responsibility for them, and avoid making them again.

Suzanne Funk
Orlando, Fla.

Owner rebuffs fan's 'wish list'

As a horse owner and bill-payer since 1979, I would like to respond to a July 2 letter to the Racing Form, "Fan has suggestions for a racing czar."

For one thing, Jesse Jackson has nothing to do with racing - just with jockeys who continue to self-destruct. As for the letter's "wish list":

1) There is no "over-breeding" in the United States, just under-funding to owners.

2) Who will foot the bill for owners waiting for the next race meet to open if there is a reduction in racing dates?

3) The "rampant drug abuse" mentioned: Would that be in horses or humans?

4) Surveillance cameras didn't do much good in last summer's Lasix fiasco with Intercontinental at Del Mar ("Intercontinental win upheld," July 8).

5) It's not past-posting, it's slow computers processing the bets.

6) Slot machines to benefit racing - what a novel concept! Too bad the governor disagrees.

7) Mike Pegram is a great guy - but what's wrong with Ernie Paragallo? The letter-writer probably doesn't like Mark Cuban or George Steinbrenner.

8) Anyone who would prefer "just one racing network" probably wants just one political party, too.

9) If the writer cares so much for the poor horse, why not stop talking and contribute to one of the many relief funds already set up?

The unsung heroes of the sport of racing are the horse owners - not the jockeys, not the veterinarians, the track owners, the trainers, the backside people. They all get paid regardless of a horse's performance. Some owners get lied to and billed to death.

The only horse owner I know who made an actual profit in this era was Sam Rubin with John Henry. Why not set up a fund to assist the owners and bettors, who are already endangered species?

Jim D. Ford
San Diego

Barbaro plight makes strong bond

Racing is a humbling sport to be involved in on every level, right down to us fans. I wish that right now, seven weeks after the Preakness, we were discussing Barbaro's Triple Crown.

Instead, we stayed up nights wondering whether or not he would even survive ("Barbaro 'progressing well,' "July 6). In the past weeks, some fans have seriously questioned their involvement with the sport. But strangely enough, I have felt strengthened in my identity as a racing fan. Yes, I was devastated by Barbaro's injury, but through the devastation, I felt closer to the horse racing community than I have in a long time.

In those first agonizing hours after Barbaro pulled up, I turned to other fans, knowing that they would understand. That night, I talked to people much older than I am and some much younger, people from all over the world. Some of us had been following racing for years, others just since that spring. It didn't matter. We were all alike in our feelings. Unable to sleep, we kept a worried vigil that night, glued to the television or the Internet for news. We were hoping for the best, fearing the worst. It was a night I won't soon forget.

I'm glad we reacted that way. Racing, while a wonderful and exhilarating sport to be involved with, is also terribly flawed, and needs much change for the safety of the participants and the good of the industry.

At times I get discouraged, because such changes tend to come at a snail's pace. In the weeks that have followed the accident at the Preakness, however, I witnessed the uplifting reminder that those of us who truly love the game realize what its soul is: the horse. If people from so many different ages, backgrounds, and walks of life can bond in their love and their fear for one single horse, imagine what they could do if together they became committed to changing the sport they love for the better. Maybe this will be just what racing needs to solve many of its problems.

Nicole Russo
Rochester, N.Y.