03/13/2008 11:00PM

Letters to the Editor


Punishing riders without charges means justice denied

To the extent that Jay Hovdey's Feb. 23 column, "Sport can be a series of trials," suggested that owner Gary Tanaka's 33-month delay from indictment to trial is a travesty of justice, he may have overstated by a furlong.

Admittedly, 33 months is an awfully long time to be under indictment. Throughout this time, however, Mr. Tanaka has been fully aware of all charges, out on bail, and free to operate his racing empire. That's a whole lot more justice than many of the 10 jockeys rumored to have engaged in race-fixing at Great Lakes in 2006 have received to date.

As a result of an investigation conducted by the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau, several of those jockeys have been effectively barred from pursuing their livelihood.

As we approach the two-year anniversary of the alleged transgression, the protective bureau has yet to provide the jockeys with a single piece of paper detailing the decision to bar them. No writing formalizing the charges, no opportunity to defend themselves against this whispering campaign, and yet these men have been judged guilty and deprived of their livelihood.

I am not a proponent of race-fixing, nor am I even much of a proponent of jockeys. I am, however, a proponent of the fundamental concept of due process. A man is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and only after a finding of guilt shall a sentence be imposed. Relying only upon rumor and innuendo, the protective bureau has convicted these men without a charge or a trial, and imposed a sentence of economic deprivation.

I have no idea if these men fixed a race. I would really like to know if they did, because if so, they need to be charged and tried. If they did not, however, they need to be freed to pursue their improperly shortened careers. The time has come and gone for the protective bureau to show its cards. If there is a charge to be brought, then let's have it.

The racing industry needs to remember that in this country a man is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and that all men - jockeys included - have a right to know the charges against them and a right to defend themselves against those charges. Until that is done, the travesty of justice visited upon these jockeys dwarfs whatever injustice Mr. Tanaka has endured.

Robert F. Leibner - Washington, D.C.

Distance switch has one very puzzled

The shift of last Saturday's The Very One Handicap at Gulfstream Park, from 11 furlongs to nine furlongs, and the reported reason for the change, led to some serious head-scratching.

Heavy rain earlier in the day prompted Gulfstream to shorten The Very One for "the safety of both the horses and riders," said Bernie Hettel, Gulfstream's manager of racing operations ("Commentator crushes Richter Scale," March 10).

"We wanted to keep the race on the grass," Hettel told the Racing Form, and "prevent the race from starting on the backstretch and thus having the horses passing over the same spot on the yielding course twice during the running of the race."

Horses were entered for 11 furlongs, and the race was handicapped as such. At Gulfstream's whim, instead of the race being moved to the main track, it was shortened. The reason given made no sense. The horses were, at some point, going to pass over the same spot on the yielding course twice during the running of the race whether they started on the backstretch or the homestretch. If Gulfstream thought it unsafe to start on the backstretch, was it safe to run on the course at all?

Pat Cummings - Philadelphia

Horseplayer hit with midweek crisis

A week ago Wednesday I had to be home because of work being done on the house. Ideally, I could have bought the Racing Form at my local news store and played the races online at my favorite site, Youbet.com. My local news store, however, no longer carries the Form because it sold only one copy a day (to me), so I had to drive an extra 15 minutes to get one.

The Form had past performances for only four tracks because Laurel and Santa Anita have stopped racing Wednesdays, leaving a big void in the calendar. Then Beulah canceled because of weather, leaving only three tracks.

Gulfstream was not available on Youbet, so it was necessary to use two websites simultaneously. State law does not allow websites to show New York Racing Association races live to New York residents, and NYRA doesn't offer them on its own site, so no picture was available.

Aqueduct had three fields of five horses or fewer. Gulfstream offered an array of off-the-turf races and baffling maiden races. Turfway was better, but its higher takeout, particularly on some exotics and multi-race bets, meant that overlays were hard to find.

The net result was my handle was about 25 percent of normal, and a frustration level that was many times higher than necessary, even though I had a winning day.

This is what's wrong with racing.

Franklin Kennedy - Bronxville, N.Y.