08/31/2006 11:00PM

Letters to the editor

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New York can gain as California loses with synthetics

Reading in Steven Crist's Aug. 27 column, "Brave new world underfoot," that "the New York Racing Association's bid for a renewal of its franchise will include a plan to convert two of its surfaces to a synthetic footing" scared the handicapping passion out of me.

The mention of NYRA and synthetic racing surfaces in the same sentence is mind-boggling, considering many factors, one being that West Coast racing is on the brink of its demise. Mark these words, after a year or so of racing on synthetic racing surfaces at Del Mar and the soon-to-be-a-parking-lot Hollywood Park, don't be surprised to see names like Neil Drysdale, Richard Mandella, Ron Ellis, Ron McAnally, Bob Baffert, and Doug O'Neill start popping up in everyday races at Belmont. Can you seriously imagine the Hollywood Gold Cup and Pacific Classic being run over this stuff? Blasphemy.

Belmont and Saratoga, by maintaining traditional surfaces, have a very good chance of becoming, more than ever, the mecca of American horse racing. Imagine an everyday first-level allowance with Drysdale, Mandella, McAnally, and Baffert competing with Bill Mott, Christophe Clement, Kiaran McLaughlin, and Todd Pletcher? No doubt a stakes horse is coming out of that race.

I'll wager that many mainstream fans haven't seen a race on this synthetic stuff yet. But they will when it's there in California, and I can't wait to hear the complaining.

The prestige and history of Belmont and Saratoga are at stake. Let's not throw it away.

Stephen Gonzalez
Detroit

Politics of racing make for potboiler

Following the gold rush in search of the New York Racing Association's franchise is better than "The Winds of War" ("Four bids and many miles to go in N.Y. franchise," Aug. 31). That Magna Entertainment Corp. and Churchill Downs Inc. have joined forces with Empire Racing Associates recalls any number of nefarious political alliances in history. Add the presence of Tim "Go, Baby, Go" Smith, who went directly from the Friends of New York Racing to Empire and enlisted Marylou Whitney as an honorary something for Empire, and it looks like the robber barons are licking their chops.

But wait. Eliot Spitzer is a bigger lock to be the next governor of New York than Spectacular Bid in a walkover, and all the chaos that he helped create as attorney general will be his to deal with. It will be back to the drawing board, because the governor-elect will not be able to be as casual as a lame-duck governor has been in handling this kind of money.

Robert L. Fabbricatore
Altamonte Springs, Fla.

NYRA's Bailey day showed class

The New York Racing Association - fighting for its existence and the extension of its franchise - showed professionalism and sportsmanship by honoring Jerry Bailey, a Hall of Famer and adviser to Excelsior Racing Associates, a group bidding for NYRA's franchise ("Bailey hired by New York bidders," Aug. 2, "Bailey is glad the pressure is off," Aug 13).

Hats off to Charles Hayward, NYRA's chief executive, and his staff for staying above the fray.

Joseph R. Monaco
Ridgefield, N.J.

Web networking can build fan base

Thoroughbred horse racing has been looking for new ways to promote itself, but there is a way that as little as a year ago no one would probably ever have thought of.

The last 18 months or so has seen the explosion in a site called MySpace.com, which now has more than 100 million members and continues to grow. Where there has been some controversy with MySpace because of the way some people have used (and abused) the site, overall, it has still been a great way to create networks of people.

Turfway Park and TVG already have pages on MySpace, with a circle of friends numbering more than 400 on Turfway's page and about more than 1,000 on TVG's. That may not sound like a lot until you consider that I stumbled onto their pages (which have had no publicity at all) only by accident. This could be just the tip of a potential gold mine for creating new fans of the sport, just like many struggling musicians have been using the Internet to get the word out that they are there.

Tracks should take a long look at using MySpace and similar websites to help promote their tracks as well as the sport as a whole. This could include as incentives to join a "circle of friends" for each track and exclusive offers for these friends that would give a real incentive to be at the track. These could include serious discounts on admission, food, and other things.

Breeders' Cup Ltd., in turn, should also look at using MySpace to promote the World Thoroughbred Championships, and perhaps work out deals to provide free past performances for the entire Breeders' Cup card for those who are in the Breeders' Cup circle of friends.

It amazes me that so few tracks are currently on MySpace, a site that likely will continue to explode, and one that may be the sport's best chance to introduce new people (especially those ages 18 to 34) to the sport and make them fans for life.

Walter Parker
Philadelphia

Thirsty fans feel the pinch

If only the security at our nation's airports was as thorough and effective as is the security outside the entrance gates at Del Mar, air travel would be that much safer.

Heavens to Betsy if any alcohol somehow found its way from outside onto the premises of the Del Mar racetrack. At $7.50 per bottle of beer, imagine the catastrophic loss of concession revenue.

Glenn Alsdorf
Chino Hills, Calif.