09/15/2006 12:00AM

Letters to the Editor

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Trainer cries foul over his penalty for Illinois positive

I have been training Thoroughbreds since the 1970's. When I first started training horses, I was very selfish, concerned only about myself, not my fellow horsemen. As I have matured in this industry, I have realized I must be concerned for trainers and owners who have all put their hard-earned money, time, and effort into making Thoroughbred racing a better place.

Winning well over 200 stakes - 52 in the last three years - I had never had a positive of any kind. On July 22, 2006, my horse finished second in the American Derby at Arlington Park, Two weeks later, I received a phone call from the stewards at Arlington Park citing a positive trace of the Class 4 medication isoxsuprine, used for horses who have hoof problems. In most states, Class 4 and 5 violations usually carry with them fines of $50 to $200 but no purse redistribution, let alone suspensions. I was fined $1,000, and the purse money was redistributed.

Not only does Illinois suspend or fine (from $500 to $1,000) trainers for therapeutic medication, all purses are redistributed automatically. Withdrawal times are from three weeks up to two months for such medications.

I feel it is only fair that the Illinois stewards and members of the Illinois Racing Board should have their blood tested to see if any of them has any trace of aspirin or an antihistamine in their bloodstream for up to two months. If so, they should automatically be suspended or fined, their wages lost for a period of time.

I am thankful to be in south Florida, where our stewards make decisions and weigh opinions without being told what to do. I urge any horsemen shipping into an Illinois track to make sure none of their horses has been given any therapeutic medications for up to 60 days. Wake up, Illinois. Get with the times.

Martin D. Wolfson
Miami

European drug rules make good, clean fun

I have always opposed the use of drugs in racing, and my money is where my mouth is. Several years ago, I claimed a filly for $25,000. She placed twice for $40,000, then things went wrong. After a few wins for $6,250, I was told I would have to use drugs to continue. I took her off the track and gave her away for breeding, and it is not as though I could afford to do so.

Anyway, that is not totally what this is about. In the summer of 2005, I opened a wagering account with an English firm that shows, for about 40 cents, races on video. I started to follow races designated between Class 4 and Class 1. For five-cent boxes I could play exactas and tris to my heart's delight in races that are invariably made up of large fields - 12 to 18 horses.

The main point here is that because they don't use drugs in England, I can rely on horses to perform to their proven or estimated class. For each race I evaluate pedigree, class, recency, horses for courses and distances and surfaces, and I am winning at a 75 percent clip. I am paying less and less attention to North American racing, although I have been involved for 30 years.

This Euro thing is fun. In North America, I have to put up with small fields, daily scratches, races taken off the turf , track bias, drugs, etc., etc. I love racing, but it worries me that the continuation of the way it is here today will make it slowly die off.

John Kertesz
Mississauga, Ontario

Fan feels locked out of information loop

Between the smattering of racing coverage in the mainstream press and on ESPN, it feels like I'm peering through a keyhole to ascertain what's going on. Track management must know this, yet in few instances is anything done to open the door.

Case in point: Earlier this month, Shermanesque was tabbed the morning-line favorite in the Arlington Washington Futurity. I had been following this regally bred 2-year-old through the summer but found myself unable to watch the race on television. When I checked out the result chart, I was surprised to see that he had been scratched.

After e-mailing Arlington to see if the horse was okay, I received a stock response from what appeared to be a machine (or a staff member doing his finest robot impersonation):

"I don't have any information on that horse. A trainer can scratch a horse out of a stakes race at any time up until 45 minutes to post without having to give a reason."

How is the sport supposed to attract and retain a following if such lazy and careless customer service remains commonplace?

Racing goes out of its way to advertise upcoming stakes, towel giveaways, and concerts. Why are tracks unwilling to make a phone call to a trainer to determine why a morning-line favorite in a graded stakes race was scratched?

I'm waiting at the keyhole for an answer.

Patrick Bove
Baltimore

TVG sending out scrambled signal

Andrew Beyer was right on the money in his Sept. 14 column, "TVG needs content upgrade." TVG needs to go after the serious player.

I also turn the sound down, especially when they pipe in the twangy guitar background music, like you hear on Fox Sports and ESPN. Listening to the talking heads is bad enough without the music.

Information on what tracks give the player a fair shake on takeouts and breakage would be very informative. Information on coupled entries (such as scratches from them) and scratched-horse-to-favorite changes in multi-race wagers, would be helpful. For instance when Philadelphia Park has a 1 and 1A, and the 1 is scratched, the tote board shows only a 1, so you don't know which horse you're betting on.

They also should explain why living in Pennsylvania precludes me from opening an account on TVG.

Keep up the good work, Andy.

Robert Wagner
Pittsburgh

Discretion the better part of the sport

Everyone wanted to see Discreet Cat run in the Kentucky Derby and stake his claim to greatness. Fortunately, better heads prevailed. Though Discreet Cat has suffered setbacks, look what kind of horse remains: still undefeated, powerful as a tank, and still as quick as a jaguar.

I know that once you win the Derby, the temptation to press on is nearly impossible to resist. Sorry, but let the horse tell you when to run, and Barbaro had been telling his people he needed five weeks between races. Imagine, if they had waited for the Belmont instead, what kind of championship season we might be in for.

What would Mack Miller have done? Or Woody Stephens? It's time to be frank about the lure of the Triple Crown and the money and glory that goes with it. Unfortunately, Barbaro wasn't the first and certainly won't be the last casualty.

Anthony Burdi
Sacramento, Calif.