08/11/2006 12:00AM

Letters to the editor


Ripping stewards a skewed approach to Crosby flap

The debate over the Del Mar stewards' decision in the Bing Crosby Handicap continues to rage. In his Aug. 2 column, "It's hard to have all the angles," Jay Hovdey quoted Scott Chaney, one of the stewards, as to the reasoning behind the non-disqualification of Pure as Gold. The Aug. 6 Racing Form contained a letter to the editor, "Bordonaro whacked by stewards' call," that criticized Chaney's comments as carefree and flippant. The author also impugned the stewards' decision as being in total disregard of the bettors.

Instead of being criticized, Chaney should be complimented for bringing transparency to the stewards' stand by explaining the rationale of their decisions. Like any set of judges, the stewards must remain unbeholden to the crowd and objectively make the difficult decisions where so much money is at risk.

Anyone who watched the Bing Crosby is entitled to his or her opinion as to the result. Lost in the focus of one specific race, however, are two more important issues.

First, there is the overall admission that the stewards do not have the best technology available to view the race. If the duty of the stewards is to protect the horses, riders, and betting public, this deficiency should be remedied with more cameras and better equipment. Stewards should not need to rely upon a third party to rule upon a race, especially where the third party focuses on only one horse ("Stewards using TVG images," Aug. 11 Del Mar Notes).

Second, the rules governing horse racing are often ambiguous. The current rule reads that stewards "may" disqualify a horse if its rider strikes another horse and if the incident affects the order of finish. If people in racing believe that an incident such as the Crosby's warrants disqualification, then amend the rule so that disqualification is mandatory.

Tony Ventura
San Jose, Calif.

California, there he goes

The failure of Del Mar stewards to disqualify Pure as Gold in the Bing Crosby was the worst call I have seen in all my years at the races. I'll never bet one cent ever on a California track again.

Thanks, Del Mar, I have more time and money to spend on tracks like Saratoga and Arlington.

As for Bordonaro and his trainer, Bill Spawr, I look forward to seeing them back at Oaklawn next year.

Tom Weeks
Morris, Okla.

New York slot cash should trickle down

In all the ink spilled recently over who will operate the slot machine business that is up for grabs in New York under the guise of a Thoroughbred racing franchise, not one word has been mentioned about the racing fan's future status. Government, racetrack management, and track owners consistently fail to realize that horseplayers sit at the top of the pyramid, yet get nothing from the game they support, with the exception of higher expenses and larger takeouts.

The quest for profit seems to overshadow the respect the fans deserve. On any race day at Saratoga a fan pays $10 to park, $5 for admission (no seat), deals with the heat, pays $9 for a sandwich, and pays a 25 percent cut on his pick six play.

On the other hand, look at how slot players are often treated: Free admission, air-conditioning, a comfortable seat, and a cup of fresh coffee. Something is very wrong.

The bidder who gets the New York pie should be obligated by law to take care of the racing fan. If the fans refuse to bet, you can say good-bye to government tax revenue, racetrack employment (both backside and trackside), purse distributions to owners, jockey earnings, and a host of other items.

Slots are the so-called salvation of racing. How about salvation for the fans? The coins that fuel the machines must reach the racing fan. If that squeezes the profiteers, well then, that is the cost of getting things done under the canopy of horse racing.

In addition, workers' compensation for jockeys should be paid for from the huge profits that the new racing operator will amass. One-armed bandit players will never get a bruise sitting on stools pressing the repeat button. In a race, jockeys risk their lives taking part in the process that legally allows the slot player the opportunity to play the machine. Their insurance should not be paid for by the racing fan.

Carmine DeSciora
Hollywood, Fla.

Injury causes go beneath the surface

Even though I somewhat agree with the July 30 letter "Lack of consistency a contributing factor to track breakdowns," that track surfaces may be the cause of some recent breakdowns, there are many other factors that I have noticed, especially at Del Mar.

Playful Blint, an older, low-level claimer, was a classic example of a horse who was being overraced. In a little more than 2 1/2 months, the horse raced seven times with an average of fewer than 13 days between races. She had to be vanned off on July 21. Another horse, 3-year-old Blazing Sunset, broke down on the turf at Del Mar in the Oceanside Stakes. Nineteen days earlier, he had run a very game and taxing Iowa Derby, where he led throughout, only to be beaten in the closing strides. To come back so soon after that just seemed a little too much and it proved fatal to the horse.

Then there was Ugotadowhatugotado, a veteran who was pulled up and vanned off the track at Hollywood park on May 28. After running second in his next start and being claimed for $25,000, he came back to Del Mar running for $16,000 on July 20. This was termed "not a healthy pattern" by the Racing Form's analyst that day. Ugotadowhatugotado broke down before the half-mile pole.

I'm sure the connections of these horses didn't want these breakdowns to happen, but with year-round racing, something more has to be done to protect these horses.

Bob Malconian
Northridge, Calif.