12/16/2006 1:00AM

Letters to the Editor

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Matz epitomized the true essence of horsemanship

As the Eclipse Awards near, one cannot help reminisce about the year's great performances. In the shadows of all the big statistics and mega-stables, trainer Michael Matz has quietly become one of the sport's greatest achievers. One would assume that he must be considered for the Eclipse Award as outstanding trainer, but in all reality, Matz is unlikely to win because of the voters' tendency to go with big numbers and stats as their main criteria.

Consider this year in the Matz stable. First, without question, we must begin with Barbaro. As Kentucky Derby hopes started to spread, so was the criticism of his training. At the core were those claiming Matz was spreading out the undefeated colt's races too far, and Barbaro could never win off a five-week layoff going into Kentucky. Sticking to his convictions, Matz conditioned Barbaro to his schedule, despite the media cries. The critics stood in awe as Matz sent his first Derby starter out to victory, and the rest is history.

Enter late October and the buzz of Breeders' Cup. Media from around the world came to follow essentially two stories: Bernardini, and Todd Pletcher with 17 entries. In his subdued manner, Matz arrived with longshot Round Pond, a horse many felt was overdue to begin her career as a broodmare. Following the footsteps Barbaro, however, Round Pond convincingly drove home to capture the BC Distaff for her trainer's debut Breeders' Cup race. There were many other winners throughout the year for Michael Matz, but on the two most important days in American racing, when it is in the national spotlight, he delivered with outstanding training and management.

The Eclipse Awards in all divisions should not just be given based on earnings or number of races won, but on outstanding accomplishments and the ability to promote this great industry positively. Michael Matz is a true horseman, listening to his horses, training accordingly, and achieving results at the highest level. He should be rewarded and thanked by the racing world with an Eclipse Award.

Jason O. Richey - Louisville, Ky.

Miesque's Approval had a champ's year

In response to Mike Watchmaker's Dec. 13 column, "This year's turf champ won't be undisputed," as an 84-year-old racing fan, I feel any knowledgeable person cannot look past Miesque's Approval as the Eclipse Award winner as male turf champion.

Not only did this horse and his jockey, Eddie Castro, defeat Jerry Bailey and Silver Tree in Bailey's historic last ride, the Sunshine Millions Turf, but he also defeated last year's Breeders' Cup Mile winner, Artie Schiller, in this year's running of the prestigious Maker's Mark Mile, running the final quarter-mile in an astonishing 22.20 seconds.

He then continued his streak, from Keeneland to Churchill Downs to Monmouth Park, with all his victories accomplished with phenomenal final quarter-mile times. His speed figures never wavered from January to November. To top off his amazing year, he took the Breeders' Cup Mile, defeating Aragorn, Gorella, etc.

Kudos to an amazing athlete.

Irving Ellis - Hollywood, Fla.

New Jersey deal likely to backfire

I realize that the handle may be way down at the Meadowlands this year, but does track management think it will increase revenue by making an exclusive agreement with Television Games Network ("TVG strikes deal in N.J.," Dec. 11.)?

I, and others like myself, rely on online services for our wagering, only at times making it to the track in person. I for one will no longer be able to bet via my Winticket account on Meadowlands races, and I do not desire to have another wagering service, like TVG. I will remove the Meadowlands from my list of tracks after the first of the year and replace it with the new king of harness tracks, Yonkers.

The Meadowlands, by limiting exposure to its races, will surely erode its business to the point of no return. If the track thinks it has problems now, wait till next year.

Bob Zanakis - Canonsburg, Pa.

Whiners ignore change for the better

I would like to comment on the crybabies who complain about Polytrack and Cushion Track because it is different and, heaven forbid, they have to change the way they handicap, as was expressed in the Nov. 26 letter to the Racing Form, "New surfaces raise fan's questions." And no one asked them if it was okay!

Then we have the stand taken in the Dec. 10 letter, "Player finding grass far greener," referring to synthetic surfaces already in place at Turfway Park, Hollywood Park, Keeneland, and Woodbine. The writer vowed that he "will not wager on any main-track races at these venues" or any others that install synthetic tracks in the future. Well, let's have a tantrum.

Obviously these people don't care one bit about the welfare of the horses or the jockeys, just how much money they can win. I love to win too, but I am all for anything that makes this dangerous sport safer for both horses and their riders, and I will adjust my handicapping accordingly. (The added challenge of handicapping the synthetic surfaces only adds to the enjoyment for me.)

My comment to these people is "Grow up, you make me sick."

Diana Leeson - Miamisburg, Ohio