11/11/2006 12:00AM

Letters to the Editor

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Media coverage shouldn't highlight a sport's low points

Last Saturday night, ESPN showed a couple of highlights from that afternoon's Breeders' Cup races. One was Invasor crossing the line, and the other was Pine Island's tragedy.

Our industry must convey to all media types, especially television, that breakdowns do not need to be shown as a highlight for our biggest day at the races, or any other day. They do not occur often. We have enough issues with the animal-rights people without reliving something as tragic as last Saturday's catastrophe. Remember, this is not stock-car racing or pro wrestling, and it shouldn't be handled that way.

Bonnie and Kim Heath - Reddick, Fla.

Canadians blinded by technology

I am the last one in the world to cry discrimination, but I cannot understand why the Breeders' Cup accepted a Canadian-owned horse, Brother Derek, in its $5 million race and gave the television coverage to a system that would deny it being shown in Canada via regular programming ("Only one way to catch BC telecast," Nov. 3).

I already have all the digital cable channels available to me in Canada, but neither ESPN nor ESPN2 is allowed in Canada. Oh, if I had gotten a special television set and spent $200 for the decoder box, I too could have received ESPN's Breeders' Cup feed through a high-definition channel.

This was the first time in a long time I have not been able to watch the Breeders' Cup. What is so sad is that I am not in the minority - there were several million horse racing fans and potential fans who were prevented from seeing the Breeders' Cup 2006.

John Cantarini - Kelowna, British Columbia

Even in the States, many shut out

On Breeders' Cup Day, I felt that I could not have been be the only horse racing fan in the country who was unable to watch the races this year in the privacy of my own home because I do not have cable or satellite television or other modern technological doo-dads.

It would appear that those in charge of the show didn't give much thought to those fans who don't have, or cannot afford, such conveniences.

Lynn M. Grabowski - Northampton, Mass.

Cup call had sound of wrong number

When the change was made to have Trevor Denman replace Tom Durkin as Breeders' Cup race-caller, I knew I was going to miss the races that we have heard from the inception of the Breeders' Cup.

Denman always seems to anticipate the developing flow of a race and starts calling horses he thinks are making an impact on the running. In the Juvenile Fillies, he was anticipating the move by Octave as if she were going to run over Dreaming of Anna - announcing it like he had a bet on Octave. I, personally, failed to see what he was calling. Call the race - not what you think is going to happen.

The final straw was in the Distaff. When the ill-fated Pine Island fell, it went unmentioned in the race-call. It left me longing for Durkin, as he would surely have handled that horrific event with the style and class that he had displayed over 22 years.

Robert D. Brown - Lakewood, Calif.

Star cast needs color coordination

I went to a racetrack near my house last Saturday to watch the Breeders' Cup. All I heard all day was: Who was that? Who won? Who ran third? That was the 11! No, it was the 3! And so on.

Nobody could tell the horses because they all had on the same purple saddlecloth. We are not talking about novice horseplayers here, either. We are talking about knocking-over-old-people-to-get-a-bet-in types. Nobody could tell who it was at the wire half the time.

This wasn't the Haskell with five horses, this was the World Series and Super Bowl of the racing year. Please, next year, how about letting them wear the colored saddlecloths? It would be a little easier in a blanket finish to say, "I saw teal and red - I think it was the 9 and 1." All I ask is for it to be made it a little easier for the public.

Matt Hefter - Old Bridge, N.J.

Early retirement saps vital resource

All race fans could appreciate the effort put forth by Bernardini in the Breeders' Cup Classic last Saturday. Now comes the announcement of his retirement ("Bernardini and 'Henny' both retired," Nov. 8).

What is the purpose of having a world-class racehorse who races fewer than 10 times in his life, shows potential for greatness, then is whisked away to stud ?

Racing needs more Invasors, Perfect Drifts, etc., who can withstand the rigors of many seasons of racing and still perform at their best.

Anthony Fontaine - Walnut Hill, Va.

Stop the coronation of a pretender

The Nov. 8 Racing Form article "Some titles clear, some cloudy," gave Bernardini the 3-year-old of the year award without a fight. That's wrong.

It's time racing writers take off their blinkers and wake up. The first time Bernardini runs against top competition he lost. He had a golden inside post to ride the path to victory at Churchill Downs last Saturday, and he lost.

Barbaro rode the tough Derby trail, took on full fields in every race. He won on every track condition. He won the Kentucky Derby by a margin that hadn't been seen in 60 years. And now he's an afterthought as 3-year-old of the year?

Bernardini didn't beat much in the Jim Dandy and Travers and defeated possibly the worst field ever assembled for the Jockey Club Gold Cup. I'm not saying he's not a good horse - yes, he won those races, but against weak competition.

Bernardini had a chance to prove his mettle in the Breeders' Cup Classic, and the one time he was tested, Invasor waltzed on by. Barbaro ran against whoever showed up in the most important races on the road and on all surfaces and went undefeated. Eclipse voters must consider all variables involved before naming the rightful male 3-year-old champion.

Debbie Jones - Bay Minette, Ala.

Barbaro's year merits top honor

It would be fitting for the Eclipse Award voters to recognize Barbaro as Horse of the Year, Bernardini as 3-year-old champion, and Invasor as champion older horse.

Although such a result may defy logic and conventional wisdom, Barbaro's contributions, off the track, to the horse racing industry are far greater than had he gone on to win the Triple Crown.

Barbaro, his owners, Roy and Gretchen Jackson, his trainer, Michael Matz, and his chief physician, Dr. Dean Richardson, should be honored as ambassadors of the Thoroughbred industry through their courage, love, generosity, and unwavering determination.

Mike Tsung - Oradell, N.J.

Oak Tree maintains its figures have handle on reality

The Nov. 5 Racing Form had a letter to the editor, "Tracks should offer full disclosure," implying that Oak Tree was being less than forthright in disclosing its handle numbers for the 2006 meet.

We have no shareholders and have no reason to obscure anything. In the interest of getting out an immediate press release, we met immediately after the last race and announced an increase of 5 percent ontrack attendance and a 1 percent increase in ontrack handle - actually ontrack handle was up 1.3 percent.

These are the significant numbers, as only Santa Anita and Oak Tree have had increases in these areas in Southern California this year.

As to total handle, as you know we operate five weeks on even-numbered years and six weeks on odd-numbered years, and in this particular year, we did not have Breeders' Cup Day within our calendar. This anomaly requires that we use average daily attendance and handle numbers, as well as employ comparable days, or there is no way to compare meets with any accuracy.

All meet long our total handle numbers varied in a narrow band from being 1 percent up and 1 percent down. In our last weekend, because of bad weather in the East, we lost two days of simulcasting from Aqueduct and one day each from Woodbine and Fort Erie, which affected our totals, of course.

Finally, complete account-deposit wagering numbers, including source-market fees, are not available for several days after the event. At the time of our press release, those final numbers were not available. Hence, rather than issue estimates and knowing the results would not be critical, we elected not to guess.

The final total for all handle was down three-tenths of a percent, which has little relevance to an ontrack increase of 1.3 percent, which we rounded off to 1 percent.

I say in all good humor, who could care about a minuscule change in total handle unless they had an over-and-under bet going?

Sherwood Chillingworth - Executive Vice President, Oak Tree Racing Association