01/18/2008 12:00AM

Letters to the Editor


Industry disputes make customers turn elsewhere

As a racing fan who reads the Form every day, I see more and more articles - such as "Online bettors shut out at Big A" (Jan. 3) - about disputes between this group and that group, or that Television Games Network customers can't bet such-and-such a track, and that the New York Racing Association has suspended its signal until it gets contracts ironed out, and so on and so on.

When I see these articles I laugh, because my offshore account lets me bet whatever track I want, whenever I want, and gives me back 6 to 9 percent of my handle for the privilege of having my business.

Racetracks just cannot seem to grasp that the more disputes over signals, the more people run to the offshores, and when they do they won't come back, because it's nice actually to be appreciated for the action you give.

Rob Clayton - Wilmington, Del.

Tote system needs united front

I can't believe how little I have read about an alleged past-posting incident at Fair Grounds ("Kentucky to probe past-post allegation," Dec. 19) and the tote company that services Fair Grounds, Scientific Games.

Is it any surprise that the company wrapped up in the 2002 Breeders' Cup pick six scandal is now involved with this past-posting issue? Whether it was equipment-related, personnel-related, or process/procedure related, Scientific Games must share most, if not all, of the responsibility for preventing any possible past-posting at the Fair Grounds. It may be, though, that the company doesn't take the issues central to racing as seriously as it does its lottery interests.

I'm not suggesting that the other tote companies don't have their problems - they do. But I can't believe that no one has drawn the connection between two highly visible, poor-public-relations problems for the industry being connected to the same company. This is also the only company that has no real vested interest in horse racing.

Perhaps this industry will wake up one day and realize the best way to solve the problems of past-posting, late odds changes, and endangered pool integrity is if The Jockey Club, Thoroughbred Racing Associations, National Thoroughbred Racing Association, etc. step up to the plate and take collective ownership of a consolidated tote company. Only then will the industry truly be more in control of its own fate, technically speaking.

Caleb Beafort - Chicago

Racetrack emperor needs new suit

Trivia question: Name an American racing track Frank Stronach hasn't destroyed after buying it.

While we ponder that one, consider the collective carnage in the wake of this auto-parts salesman: The replacement of beautiful Gulfstream Park with a track that has no seats, the installation of an "all-weather" surface at Santa Anita that is useless in wet weather, the alienation of Maryland horsemen at a time when that state's tracks are under intense competition, the closing of Great Lakes Downs, etc.

Strewn across the Stronachian landscape are great horsemen and track operators who are fired at the whims of this magnate. As I plot my annual winter racing vacation, I am forced to choose between two once-great facilities - Santa Anita, which may not be open, and Gulfstream, where I can't sit outside.

Mark Belling - Milwaukee

Tropical surface lost to sands of time

In the interest of historical fact, Jay Hovdey's Jan 11 column, "Worst flop ever? Tartan Track," was a little off concerning the green Tartan surface that sat just inside the dirt track at old Tropical Park.

Jay said the Tartan track "lasted a season, and then in subsequent years it was covered by a layer of conventional sand. When the same technology was used at Calder Race Course, the Tartan material was used as the sub-base for a traditional sand track." Jay apparently got this information from my old friend, Tommy Wolski, but it isn't so.

The Tartan track at Tropical not only lasted until Tropical went out of business after Calder opened in May of 1971, I've been told it is still intact at Tropical to this day, although I haven't been by to verify that. I became racing writer for the Miami Herald in October of 1970, and covered the races over the Tartan track into the first week of '71, when Hialeah opened.

For Calder's initial summer season in 1971, co-owner William L. McKnight didn't install a green Tartan track, he installed a new beige/pink synthetic surface called Saf-T-Turf, designed by his 3M Co. Most of the horsemen hated it, as it caused sore shins and shoulders, and McKnight submitted to a vote by owners and trainers concerning its fate. The vote was overwhelmingly in favor of covering the Saf-T-Turf with sand, and that was accomplished during the 10-day break at Labor Day.

It was not conventional sand, either, it came right out of Biscayne Bay, and anyone standing within 100 yards of it could revel in the unmistakable aroma of the beach. Even that didn't work, and eventually McKnight had the Saf-T-Turf base ripped up and the track was finally covered with real sand.

Bernie Dickman - Ocala, Fla.