10/19/2006 11:00PM

Letters to the Editor

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High-tech surfaces offer a new world for brave players

The Oct. 15 letter to the Racing Form "Newfangled surface throws tradition to the wind" took me aback, because I feel that handicapping racing on synthetic surfaces is the beginning of a new frontier for horseplayers. I also would hesitate to draw conclusions about analyzing races on synthetic surfaces before a single race has been run at Hollywood Park on Cushion Track.

I, for one, am tired of speed-favoring racetracks in Southern California. Look no further than the current Oak Tree meeting at Santa Anita, where nearly 70 percent of the six-furlong races have been won by horses on the lead or dueling within a half-length. Moreover, an even higher percentage have been won by horses within 2 1/2 lengths of the lead at the second call. This is a handicapping challenge?

A more neutral racing surface means that pace handicapping all of the horses in a race will be crucial. This creates a new handicapping challenge for those of us who don't mind doing the extra work to find value in a race.

That Oct. 15 letter lamented the slower times being run. Well, you'll just have to make the fractional time adjustments necessary if you want to keep up with the Joneses. Betting $2,000 claimers at Philadelphia Park presents the same slow fractions - you still have to handicap them.

The letter also predicted a drop in handle "when serious players realize they have no edge." To this I reply that there's always an edge, you just have to find it. I find mine in the areas of pedigree analyses and workout reports, others use Beyer Speed Figures, and still others bet jockeys. We all break down the races in our own way - that's what makes parimutuel betting work.

The horse population in Southern California is thin, so any advancement in racing that creates a sounder equine population means an increase in field size, something local racing sorely needs. Larger fields mean better handicapping opportunities (i.e., value), which translates into larger handles. Look no further than the racing at many East Coast tracks or on any Breeders' Cup day.

Whether races are run on wood chips, grass, dirt, synthetic surface, or peanut M&M's, one must still handicap the horses, the trainers, the pedigree, workouts, and more. And, do it better than the guy sitting next to you!

Paul Miller

Ventura, Calif.

Poker targeted as menace to youth

I read with interest two recent columns in regard to Congressional passage of the Safe Port Act of 2006, prohibiting most forms of gambling via the Internet, with an exemption for horse racing: Steve Davidowitz's Oct. 13 "Bill torpedoes gaming websites" and Steven Crist's Oct. 15 "Racing keeps its head in sand."

I think there is at least one major difference between horse racing, lotteries, and online poker that accounts for poker being targeted.

There may be literally several million bright, young Americans playing poker as often as possible instead of focusing on their educations and careers. One contributing factor is that sign-up and reload bonuses are lucrative enough that even a break-even player can make an attractive living by four-tabling micro-limit poker for 30 to 40 hours per week. The poker message boards are full of exceptionally bright, young people discussing poker hands and where the latest available bonuses are. Why work or study when you can make more gambling? Add to that the lure of hitting it big as a professional, and it's almost irresistible for many of the brightest among us.

I'm obviously not going to make a value judgment on this behavior, because I engage in it also and don't think it's my place. It's obvious, however, that many parents, teachers, faculties, etc., can't be all too pleased about the diversion. That adds to the heat put on politicians.

No one cares about lotteries and horse racing because no one is dropping out of school or quitting a job to play lotteries. Winning horseplayers are few and far between, and even those that win usually continue employment of some kind.

None of this makes this new Prohibition right, but I think at least one of the contributing factors is clear.

Wayne Crimi

Glen Oaks, N.Y.

Vacare and Co. put on great show

After seeing Vacare's breathtaking maiden win at Arlington in June (and wondering how she could possibly have paid $30!), I have been infinitely intrigued by this filly. Her equally impressive performances in a conditioned allowance and the Grade 3 Pucker Up solidified her standing as a great local turf runner. What a treat it was to see her prove her mettle in her first try against Grade 1 competition last Saturday in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland ("Vacare 4 for 4 after QE II victory," Oct. 16).

While her QE II performance showed what an incredibly talented animal Vacare is, the big congratulations of the weekend have to go to Chris Block, Vacare's trainer. Fans of Chicago racing have known Block for years as an expert campaigner, most notably with turf horses. Having seen his incredible success with many great local horses, it still hasn't sunk in that this was his first Grade 1 triumph as a trainer - he certainly deserved it years ago.

I want to congratulate Chris Block and his team for achieving this huge milestone victory. It was long overdue and is a sure tribute to a great, respected horseman.

Good luck to Team Block and owner Lothenbach Stables in continuing on with this magnificent filly.

Brian W. Spencer

Chicago

Baze's pending feat needs more fanfare

I cannot even begin to reason why the non-sporting press (both local and national) is ignoring Russell Baze's pending feat of riding the most winning horses in a career ("Sometime this meet, Baze should break record," Oct. 18).

Baze is a stellar jockey, dedicated family man, and just a plain old great person. All in racing, all in sports, should be counting down to this historic event. Having seen John Longden, Bill Shoemaker, and then Laffit Pincay Jr. get their props, isn't it time to pour the accolades on a jockey so deserving? Russell the Muscle is soon to be the number-one rider.

Eric W. Anderson

Santa Rosa, Calif.High-tech surfaces offer a new world for brave players

The Oct. 15 letter to the Racing Form "Newfangled surface throws tradition to the wind" took me aback, because I feel that handicapping racing on synthetic surfaces is the beginning of a new frontier for horseplayers. I also would hesitate to draw conclusions about analyzing races on synthetic surfaces before a single race has been run at Hollywood Park on Cushion Track.

I, for one, am tired of speed-favoring racetracks in Southern California. Look no further than the current Oak Tree meeting at Santa Anita, where nearly 70 percent of the six-furlong races have been won by horses on the lead or dueling within a half-length. Moreover, an even higher percentage have been won by horses within 2 1/2 lengths of the lead at the second call. This is a handicapping challenge?

A more neutral racing surface means that pace handicapping all of the horses in a race will be crucial. This creates a new handicapping challenge for those of us who don't mind doing the extra work to find value in a race.

That Oct. 15 letter lamented the slower times being run. Well, you'll just have to make the fractional time adjustments necessary if you want to keep up with the Joneses. Betting $2,000 claimers at Philadelphia Park presents the same slow fractions - you still have to handicap them.

The letter also predicted a drop in handle "when serious players realize they have no edge." To this I reply that there's always an edge, you just have to find it. I find mine in the areas of pedigree analyses and workout reports, others use Beyer Speed Figures, and still others bet jockeys. We all break down the races in our own way - that's what makes parimutuel betting work.

The horse population in Southern California is thin, so any advancement in racing that creates a sounder equine population means an increase in field size, something local racing sorely needs. Larger fields mean better handicapping opportunities (i.e., value), which translates into larger handles. Look no further than the racing at many East Coast tracks or on any Breeders' Cup day.

Whether races are run on wood chips, grass, dirt, synthetic surface, or peanut M&M's, one must still handicap the horses, the trainers, the pedigree, workouts, and more. And, do it better than the guy sitting next to you!

Paul Miller

Ventura, Calif.

Poker targeted as menace to youth

I read with interest two recent columns in regard to Congressional passage of the Safe Port Act of 2006, prohibiting most forms of gambling via the Internet, with an exemption for horse racing: Steve Davidowitz's Oct. 13 "Bill torpedoes gaming websites" and Steven Crist's Oct. 15 "Racing keeps its head in sand."

I think there is at least one major difference between horse racing, lotteries, and online poker that accounts for poker being targeted.

There may be literally several million bright, young Americans playing poker as often as possible instead of focusing on their educations and careers. One contributing factor is that sign-up and reload bonuses are lucrative enough that even a break-even player can make an attractive living by four-tabling micro-limit poker for 30 to 40 hours per week. The poker message boards are full of exceptionally bright, young people discussing poker hands and where the latest available bonuses are. Why work or study when you can make more gambling? Add to that the lure of hitting it big as a professional, and it's almost irresistible for many of the brightest among us.

I'm obviously not going to make a value judgment on this behavior, because I engage in it also and don't think it's my place. It's obvious, however, that many parents, teachers, faculties, etc., can't be all too pleased about the diversion. That adds to the heat put on politicians.

No one cares about lotteries and horse racing because no one is dropping out of school or quitting a job to play lotteries. Winning horseplayers are few and far between, and even those that win usually continue employment of some kind.

None of this makes this new Prohibition right, but I think at least one of the contributing factors is clear.

Wayne Crimi

Glen Oaks, N.Y.

Vacare and Co. put on great show

After seeing Vacare's breathtaking maiden win at Arlington in June (and wondering how she could possibly have paid $30!), I have been infinitely intrigued by this filly. Her equally impressive performances in a conditioned allowance and the Grade 3 Pucker Up solidified her standing as a great local turf runner. What a treat it was to see her prove her mettle in her first try against Grade 1 competition last Saturday in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland ("Vacare 4 for 4 after QE II victory," Oct. 16).

While her QE II performance showed what an incredibly talented animal Vacare is, the big congratulations of the weekend have to go to Chris Block, Vacare's trainer. Fans of Chicago racing have known Block for years as an expert campaigner, most notably with turf horses. Having seen his incredible success with many great local horses, it still hasn't sunk in that this was his first Grade 1 triumph as a trainer - he certainly deserved it years ago.

I want to congratulate Chris Block and his team for achieving this huge milestone victory. It was long overdue and is a sure tribute to a great, respected horseman.

Good luck to Team Block and owner Lothenbach Stables in continuing on with this magnificent filly.

Brian W. Spencer

Chicago

Baze's pending feat needs more fanfare

I cannot even begin to reason why the non-sporting press (both local and national) is ignoring Russell Baze's pending feat of riding the most winning horses in a career ("Sometime this meet, Baze should break record," Oct. 18).

Baze is a stellar jockey, dedicated family man, and just a plain old great person. All in racing, all in sports, should be counting down to this historic event. Having seen John Longden, Bill Shoemaker, and then Laffit Pincay Jr. get their props, isn't it time to pour the accolades on a jockey so deserving? Russell the Muscle is soon to be the number-one rider.

Eric W. Anderson

Santa Rosa, Calif.