07/13/2006 11:00PM

Letters to the editor


Monmouth's day showed the futility of isolated stakes

It's nice that New Jersey's inept state government was able to save this year's United Nations Stakes at Monmouth Park ("Last-minute diplomacy saves U.N.," July 8). Too bad the track couldn't save the rest of the day from itself. The United Nations "supporting" card was an abomination. It had to be the worst for any Grade 1 race in 2006 to date.

The first 30 days of the Monmouth were tough. Monmouth's loyal fans endured small fields, mediocre quality, and the absence of a turf course. As a reward for our loyalty, we were looking forward to a United Nations day featuring high-quality racing and a strong supporting undercard that would attract both local and national attention.

Instead, we got two maiden claimers, a $7,500 claimer and a $10,000 claimer. As a result, on what should have been a really big day, attendance was a paltry 11,063 (a typical Saturday), total handle was only about $3.3 million, with only $1 million on the U.N. Compare that with more than $12 million on the day's Belmont card, $10.5 million at Churchill, and in perhaps the worst comparison of all, about $3 million at Calder, which was off the turf and offered no races of meaning. Monmouth didn't even meet the measly $100,000 pick four guarantee it offered.

The weak United Nations card and resulting disappointing business reinforces the notion that Monmouth should bundle its stakes races to energize the local fans and attract national attention, a tactic successfully employed by other tracks.

What is the point of running Grade 1, $750,000 graded race if nobody is paying attention?

Andy Pinto
Little Silver, N.J.

Guild must consider its public image

Steven Crist hit the nail on the head with his July 2 column, "Guild's decision a giant step back." There is noo one in racing, including consumers, who does not want to see jockeys receive adequate insurance, improved safety measures, and equitable fee structures. That they are not as celebrated as other professional athletes is, I believe, because of the ignorance of the public at large.

All of us would benefit from a constructive relationship between the guild and the rest of the industry. Such a relationship could promote the game in the same manner as the National Basketball Association heightened its image several years ago. Jockeys deserve this recognition, but they must also recognize that they have a responsibility to the good of the game. Broadening the appeal of the sport will lead to an expanding pool of resources to meet their needs and improve the racing environment for all of us.

If Rev. Jesse Jackson becomes the face of the industry, it will be his reputation and image that will be stamped on horse racing for years to come. Regardless of your personal opinion of the man, there is no denying that his is a divisive personality. Alienating the public with labor-relations conflict would not be in the best interest of the sport.

Gregg Thomas
Flower Mound, Texas

Riders need support from owner ranks

So the Jockeys' Guild has decided to hire Dwight Manley and Jesse Jackson as its new national managers ("Guild names new leaders," June 30). What happened - Abbie Hoffman and Max Bialystock weren't taking calls?

Honestly, why is it that in a sport that is bountiful with high-powered owners, most of whom have brilliant legal and business experience, these courageous and dedicated athletes are left to fend for themselves in matters such as this?

Doesn't this industry, top to bottom, realize that these athletes could use some guidance and expertise from the people who inhabit the luxury boxes and turf clubs. From New York to California, people who spend millions and millions of dollars on racehorses should be able to offer some organized advice to these brave souls who are integral to the continued well-being of this great game.

Fred Ward
Secaucus, N.J.

California standards strike one as lax

I have been reading Racing Form since I was less than 10 years old, and I know how to handicap pretty well. In California these days, however, handicapping skill and Beyer Speed Figures are not important if any one of a handful of trainers has a horse entered. We now have to handicap owner-trainer combinations, and that's ridiculous.

No trainer with a decent number of starters at a major track can win at 30-plus percent rate on ability, period. It is ludicrous to think a trainer can claim a horse who averages a Beyer Figure of 60 to 65 at six furlongs over the course of a year and have him run a 90 Beyer 30 days later at six furlongs on training ability alone.

There was one trainer in Southern California who went to another jurisdiction last year and won at a rate of about 30 percent. The next meet there he was given two stalls. Good for that jurisdiction if it doesn't want that garbage. But in California it is embraced by the tracks and the state racing board.

It is silly to put together a pick three or pick six ticket and have to add a horse who shows nothing on form, but is in the barn of a "supertrainer," aware that if you don't you may get beaten by a horse who, based on past performance, has no chance.

To make matters worse, such a trainer can now enter two horses in a race as an uncoupled entry. Way to go, racing board. I will now bet Belmont Park and Churchill Downs, where handicapping skills still matter.

Greg Scherr
Monrovia, Calif.