12/08/2006 1:00AM

Letters to the Editor

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Stakes committee gets failing grade from one student

Last week, the Graded Stakes Committee chose to elevate the Alcibiades to Grade 1 status and downgrade the Clark Handicap to a Grade 2 ("13 stakes rise in status from 2007," Dec. 3). Curiously, it was just last last year that the committee had upped the Clark to a Grade 1.

My question to the committee would be, "Does anyone actually do any research before making these decisions?" The answer has to be a resounding "no."

Let's examine the facts. In the last nine years, the Clark has had among its winners Silver Charm, Surfside, Lido Palace, Saint Liam, and Premium Tap. That list contains a Horse of the Year, a dual-classic winner, and three other multiple Grade 1 winners (one a filly champion).

As a Grade 1 for the first time this year, the Clark was won by Premium Tap, who won the Woodward at Saratoga and finished third in the Breeders' Cup Classic to Invasor and Bernardini. Is he not the definition of a Grade 1 horse?

As if that wasn't bad enough, the Alcibiades is now a Grade 1. The list of winners in the 21st century reads as follows: She's a Devil Due, Take Charge Lady, Westerly Breeze, Be Gentle, Runway Model, She Says It Best, and Bel Air Beauty.

While we all know Take Charge Lady was as good as they get, was any of the other winners a Grade 1 winner, ever? I'm stretching my memory, but I don't think so. In fact, a few of them went on to win, well, absolutely nothing after the Alcibiades. Bel Air Beauty was a maiden when she won it!

I could list 10 races off the top of my head that are Grade 1's and shouldn't be, and 10 that are Grade 2's and should be Grade 1's. Before the committee's recent decision, the Clark and Alcibiades would not have been in those top 10's. Now, however, they top the lists.

Brian Nadeau - Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Baze has earned his place in history

I continue to take offense at the ignorance of those people who seem to despise Russell Baze for breaking the record for most victories by a jockey, most recently evidenced by the Nov. 26 letter to the Racing Form "Riders took different paths to the top."

Why can't people give credit where credit is due? Baze is becoming the Roger Maris of his time, someone who people want to dismiss as second-rate. Baze's breaking Laffit Pincay Jr.'s record takes nothing away from how great Laffit was, or how great Bill Shoemaker was. Last time I checked, the horses running in northern California have four legs and run their hearts out. Why lessen Baze's thunder because he wins on horses who are probably more inconsistent and vulnerable than those expensive horses in Southern California?

I wish I were 16 years old again and were a jockey. I would just go up to northern California and stay there for my whole career and easily break Baze's record, because it must be so easy. I wonder why no one else ever thought of that, or, more likely, has had the ability to do so.

There is so much more to say against those who denigrate Baze, but I will say only one more thing:

Congratulations, Russell.

Michael Timchenko - El Monte, Calif.

Player finding grass far greener

I found the Nov. 26 letter "New surfaces raise fan's questions" quite interesting regarding the Cushion Track and Polytrack surfaces now in place at Hollywood Park and Keeneland, as well as Turfway Park and Woodbine. With Santa Anita mandated by California to follow suit and Arlington having joined the trend ("Synthetic surface to be installed by spring," Dec. 9), perhaps Florida tracks are not far behind.

Of course the horseplayers, the lifeline of this wonderful game, were not consulted. When have racetracks ever really cared what their clients think? I will not wager on any main-track races at these venues or any others that install them in the future. (Heaven forbid the Kentucky Derby or the Saratoga meet over Polytrack.) I would be interested to see if the handle on main-track races has been affected at Hollywood Park or Woodbine.

As for myself and a number of other serious players, we have already begun to push most of our wagering dollars toward turf racing. Long live the green.

Joe Belfiore - Freehold Township, N.J.

A little frustrating, you betcha

I love my Youbet.com account. It has allowed me the opportunity to wager on the Melbourne Cup and the Japan Cup. Plus, I receive wonderful gifts as I accumulate my wagering points.

Now, if only I could wager on such far-away tracks as Fair Grounds and my hometown harness venue, Yonkers Raceway ("No Fair Grounds on Youbet.com," Nov. 26).

Please, Santa. This year, grant me this one meek request.

Hey, guys. Maybe you should be considering a change of name, to "You Don't Bet."

Steve Viuker - Brooklyn, N.Y.