11/24/2006 12:00AM

Letters to the Editor

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Week's top story brought bad news of trainer's passing

Many things happened in racing in the past week. There was the recommendation that the New York racing franchise be given to Excelsior Racing. There was Russell Baze's quest of Laffit Pincay's all-time races-won record.

But sadly, to me the most important thing was the passing of trainer Jose Martin. Mr. Martin was not just a great trainer, he was a true friend to our family. He was always fighting for the underdog and stood up to anyone who dared challenge his opinion. He championed rights for backstretch workers and was an "easy touch" for anyone in need.

It's a shame that a trainer like him, who trained three champions, is not in the Hall of Fame. He was a great person, a great trainer, and a true friend. May he rest in peace.

Phyllis H. Stabile - Howard Beach, N.Y.

Riders took different paths to the top

To put Russell Baze's inevitable record for most victories by a jockey into perspective: If Laffit Pincay Jr. were to have ridden all of the mounts Baze has ever ridden, and Baze had all of Pincay's, Baze would not even be in the hunt. His record will deserve multiple asterisks.

George Russell - Thousand Oaks, Calif.

Reform needed for Americans to rule

After reading the Nov. 5 letters to the editor about Andrew Beyer's Nov. 1 column, "Call it checkbook horsemanship," and being a fan of Thoroughbred racing, rather than of Mr. Beyer, or any of the letter-writers, I feel compelled to respond.

Beyer's contributions to this game are many and well documented. Those who responded with a narrow-minded view only confirmed what I believe exists in this sport. The loss of American dominance is the issue here, not Mr. Beyer. If racing businessmen would work at changing the tax laws to look like the ones that existed in the 1980's, then perhaps breeding farms could get their acts together and bring Thoroughbreds back in their full glory.

Mr. Beyer's column was good for the sport - may it wake up those who are taking a nap.

Butch Jakubowski - Trumansburg, N.Y.

Fair Grounds revival makes stirring tale

This is a quick thank you for a tremendously well-written article, "Reborn but not yet back to normal," (Nov. 23) on horse racing returning to Fair Grounds and New Orleans.

Racetracks that stand above others, like restaurants that stand above others, take on a sense of place - they become representative of a community. Fair Grounds certainly is a track that, for many reasons, holds an elevated place in our sport's racing calendar. And without question, Fair Grounds could be in no other place than New Orleans.

The story of a post-Katrina New Orleans is an ongoing rebuilding process. There are undeniable signs of a city that is coming back, yet there are equally stark examples of a city ravaged and still crying out for help. The Racing Form's reporter did a remarkable job of giving voice to this duality. It is a credit to the Form for not just illustrating racing through detailed past performances but also through journalism that could be published anywhere. The tale of racing returning to New Orleans is why people really do read the Form.

Nolan Nelson - Louisville, Ky.

New surfaces raise fan's questions

The good news is that Cushion Track at Hollywood Park and Polytrack at Keeneland and Turfway may actually help relieve the physical stress placed on racehorses during training and competition.

The bad news is that it will take at least one year for Cushion Track and Polytrack form to materialize into some form of handicapping logic. Horseplayers strive for consistency, not interruption. Is it just me, or did Hollywood, Keeneland, and Turfway just erase decades of tradition?

Since when does Lexington, Ky., have the same weather as London? Why does the Hollywood main track need to play like Belmont? Didn't these individual track characteristics make handicapping interesting and challenging?

Perhaps most important, what are we to do with our decades of handicapping knowledge? How do Cushion Track and Polytrack ultimately fit into the equation? In my lifetime, will they ever?

While racetracks pretend to consider horseplayer opinion, the sad reality is that no one dared to include the public vote on this matter. Had they, Cushion Track and Polytrack would have been rejected in a landslide.

Jeff Mende - Howell, N.J.

Track vulnerable without firefighters

So Laurel Park is protected by a volunteer fire department ("Horse dies in Laurel fire; extinguisher's role disputed," Nov. 16)? The racetrack doesn't have its own fire-fighting equipment? Isn't that inviting trouble?

The response time must be timed with an hourglass, and I would question the training a volunteer fire department would have to be able to fight a fire that could consume the barn area or the grandstand area.

Bob Lunny - Wimberley, Texas

Season inspires wishful thinking

With the holidays upon us, it seems like a good time to sort of wish for the perfect race day, which would be:

Jerry Bailey angling any Rokeby horse to the middle of the turf course and charging for the wire.

Hearing some railbird boo Angel Cordero for a bad ride in the eighth race then coming back and betting him in the ninth.

Leaving work early to attend Farewell to Forego Day.

Watching any horse leave the paddock with Chris Antley and that perfect saddle posture.

Standing in the near-empty grandstand at Aqueduct in frigid temperatures rooting home that Reuben Hernandez-Eddie Maple exacta on the inner track.

Listening to Woody Stephens at Breakfast at Belmont.

Watching Secretariat - any time, any place.

Fred Ward - Secaucus, N.J.