02/12/2010 12:00AM

Letters to the Editor


Synthetic surfaces have the horses as their advocates

In regard to changing back to dirt racing surfaces in California, it should be noted that top-class horses ran 1,600 meters (a fraction under a mile) in 1:38.48 in the first important race to be run over the Tapeta track at the new Meydan racecourse in Dubai, reported in " 'Gloria' captures Challenge" (Jan. 30). Nobody complained, and I'm sure few punters cared.

So perhaps when North American racetrack operators debate the virtues of synthetic surfaces in the future, they will consider that horses are involved and they, unlike cars, don't appreciate running on rock-hard surfaces, no matter how excited speed gurus get about track records. With so many different surfaces now in operation, those records are becoming increasingly meaningless, anyway

It's just common sense: consideration of horses and proper track maintenance. Then we might see a few more 7-, 8- and 9-year olds still racing, as appears to be the norm in Europe and even Japan.

Robin Dawson - Toronto

Move by Stevens did right by horses

The decision by Gary Stevens to put his training career on hold while he increases his role as a television commentator ("Stevens to disband stable," Jan. 18) was the honorable thing to do.

As a lifelong horseman, it breaks my heart to see some people actually think there's any such thing as a "part-time" trainer. Anyone who doesn't know that training a horse to his full potential takes as many hours observing that horse as humanly possible is hardly a true horseman. There is absolutely no way one can work many hours a day elsewhere and still deliver the time his horses require to be at their best.

It is most amazing to me that some people who own these fragile animals think it's okay to hire a "part-time" trainer. Horses are like very young children in that they cannot talk, so the only way you can understand their needs is through observing them. It also enables early detection of injuries, many of which can be corrected through that early detection. When overlooked early on, small issues can become career-ending major injuries. It's time to do the honorable thing for these owners - and, more importantly, the wonderful horses who lay down their lives so we can all enjoy this wonderful sport of horse racing. They don't need just occasional care, they need a trainer willing to spend his time at the barn.

Once again, Gary Stevens showed why he has been such a success in the racing industry. He's a man of conscience and honesty. I hope his is not a lone effort to correct this injustice.

Bob Rose - Santa Barbara, Calif.

New York's racing needs bold move

How many hours have we spent as owners, trainers, members of track management, etc. discussing why New York racing is in decline and what can be done to resuscitate it? Various sources of pressure, particularly political, preclude some of the more progressive, radical notions from taking root. One we fantasize about is the sale of Aqueduct and Belmont and the use of some of the proceeds to construct a state-of-the-art facility friendly to horses, backstretch staff, and owners, to be located in a more rural setting, perhaps in Sullivan or Dutchess County.

Graced with ample turnout space, fresh air, modern barns, and proper housing for employees, the track would offer racing over three different surfaces: dirt, turf, and synthetic. Staged around the Saratoga season, the meets would be conducted from Labor Day through year's end, and March 15 until the exodus to Saratoga. It might take three to five years to plan and build and provide lots of employment.

I leave to others what is to be done with the acres that are Aqueduct and Belmont.

Jeffrey Tucker - New York City