10/06/2006 12:00AM

Letters to the Editor

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California claimers shouldn't be prisoners

of misguided rules

There are many ways to make California racing better.

The first and most obvious would be getting rid of "jail" time for claimed horses. What possible sense does it make to keep a horse away from the races for 30 days? In many cases you are making the connections race the horses above their heads, and racing above their levels exponentially increases their chances for injuries.

Let's say there are 12 to 15 horses claimed each week at a given track. That is nearly 50 to 60 horses out of circulation. Add in injuries, and you are losing 70 to 80 horses per month. What possible difference does it make if the horse runs for the price for which it was claimed or less?

With day fees, veterinary bills, farriers, and exercise riders, costs can reach $3,000 per month. That is $3,000 out of pocket for the new owner before the horse ever races. When you are talking about a $10,000, $12,500, or $16,000 claimer, this is a significant cost added to the claim price, from 18 to 30 percent.

Another possible solution is to lower the bottom claiming prices. This will increase the number of entries for cheaper claimers and bottom-level maidens. It will also make the fair meets unnecessary. As it is now, the fairs have to round up horses from all over the West and Southwest to fill these race cards. Most of these horses at these meets are horses who are way past it, or horses who will never be. In the case of those horses whose best days are long gone, we are prolonging the pain and injuries of horses who should have been retired years ago. The others not good enough to compete in California will find a home in Arizona, New Mexico, Oregon, or Washington.

Greg Loshkajian

El Cajon, Calif.

Possible gloomy forecast for Bay Area stakes

Last night, as I was walking home from work, the first rain of the season greeted me, and I thought about the upcoming stakes schedule at Bay Meadows ("Bay Meadows stakes: $725K"). Of the nine stakes scheduled for the upcoming meet, the two graded stakes will be run on turf. These races, the Bay Meadows Breeders' Cup Handicap and the Bay Meadows Derby, are scheduled for Oct. 28 and Nov. 5. While perhaps we may be lucky and there will be no significant rainfall until after Nov. 5, the scheduling of stakes on the grass for our potentially wet season raises the question: Why card stakes races for a surface that will potentially be unavailable?

When races are removed from the turf, particularly in stakes, usually at least half the field will scratch out, and this leads to a decrease in on- and offtrack handle. Why make a decision in advance that will potentially be bad for both fans and for business?

Eric Singer

San Francisco