01/25/2008 12:00AM

Letters to the Editor

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Curlin campaign a welcome sign of conviction

I would sincerely like to express how much I appreciate Jess Jackson's decision to race Curlin ("Toasting '07, looking ahead," Jan. 24). I saw Curlin for the first time in the paddock at Belmont Park before the Belmont Stakes. I have seen hundreds of horses and worked with dozens, and I have never seen a horse to compare with him. There is something so extraordinary about him that my breath was literally taken away. I knew I was seeing one of the greatest horses of all time. Curlin has not let me down. Needless to say I am now a huge fan.

I will find Curlin again as he races. I long to see that intelligent face one more time. Mr. Jackson, thanks forever for sharing him with us. We do need another equine hero.

Cheri Amarna - Ashby, Mass.

Handle decline needs apt response

I was astonished, after reading that overall wagering on Thoroughbred horse racing in North America during 2007 was marginally down ("U.S. wagering drops again," Jan, 17), but that purses were up, to read the response of Alex Waldrop, CEO of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. Quoted in the Thoroughbred Times, Waldrop said the NTRA is "optimistic that increased purses will lead to increased handle."

Where does he draw such a ridiculous conclusion from, when even at racetracks such as Woodbine, where purses have more than doubled since slot machines were introduced just over 10 years ago, every aspect of the sport is in decline - foal crop, sales prices, new ownership, ontrack attendance, and, most seriously, local handle and media coverage? Indeed, during this past season, on only three occasions during a 160-day meet would the handle have sustained an average distribution of purses without revenue from slot machines.

In recent times in North America, top trainers (Todd Pletcher, Patrick Biancone, Steve Asmussen, and Scott Lake) spent varying spells suspended for cheating. Perhaps the most charismatic and popular rider (with fans) Patrick Valenzuela, has exited the game, a disillusioned and misunderstood man ("Valenzuela's license revoked," Dec. 30). The Breeders' Cup was a shambles at muddy Monmouth. Television ratings are at an all-time low. Differing artificial racetrack surfaces have proved to be ineffective, not "all-weather," not safer than old-style dirt. There is outright confusion for serious bettors, and not even the parimutuel wagering system seems to be beyond reproach. In short, horse racing is shot.

Yet the NTRA and Breeders' Cup, who between them are responsible for this malaise with their shortsighted strategies and naive promotions, would have you believe that everything is hunky-dory. If it weren't so sad it would be laughable. Any other business or sports franchise with such a miserable record would by now be either broke and out of business or at the bottom of its league, with no fans.

The sport of horse racing deserves better, and radical changes need to be made if it is going to survive. For example: increasing the Breeders' Cup purses and the event to two days is a complete waste of money, as anyone not directly involved couldn't care less. If this money, however, were put towards a $100 million national sweepstakes on the Kentucky Derby (purchasable as $1 tickets at lottery terminals throughout the United States) with proceeds going to the families of soldiers killed or injured in Iraq and Afghanistan, racing would create a few new fans. Then it would be a completely new ball game.

Robin Dawson - Toronto

New York situation a tragicomedy

I have followed with interest the ongoing story of New York's racing circus - oops, I mean circuit.

First the New York Racing Association's franchise was to expire on Dec. 31 of last year. Then it was extended to Jan. 23, and now even further ("Temporary NYRA deal extended to Feb 13," Jan. 23). How many more Band-Aids will be applied until a final resolution is in place? My kingdom for anyone at NYRA and/or the the state's legislative bodies with any common business sense.

Rick Higgins - Columbus, Ohio