04/24/2008 11:00PM

Letters to the Editor

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Signal-blocking seems to defy some basic logic

We account-wagering patrons are once again affected by horsemen who have seen fit to block the signals of their local racing products, a story detailed in "Lone Star signal curtailed," (April 13) and "Horsemen press for a bigger share," (April 20).

Considering the countless millions of dollars bet through account-wagering operations, I have a hard time understanding why horsemen would significantly hurt their own handle and at the same time cry out for a larger percentage of the takeout pie. I have a harder time understanding this additional greed during the economic times this country is experiencing.

In addition, I would like to know how and why horsemen obtained the right to tell tracks where (or where not) they can send their signal. Does this sound like a classic case of the inmates running the asylum?

Rick Higgins - Columbus, Ohio

Dead air no help to sport's growth

With the negotiations between horsemen and the joint Magna Entertainment-Churchill Downs venture, TrackNet, reaching a standstill over distribution of local simulcast signals, the result does significant damage to the racing fan along with the industry as a whole.

While it is imperative that the horsemen receive a fair share of Internet handle, I believe they are missing an opportunity to fix problems that hinder growth. Handle exclusivity should not be allowed at tracks that have agreements with Television Games Network/YouBet or HorseRacing TV/TrackNet. Both groups should have confidence in their products and customer bases to compete with each other.

The industry as a whole should lobby to have both racing networks on as many outlets as possible. Withholding exposure will only damage everyone. A product is forgotten very quickly when it is not available. My hope is that there are too many successful businesspeople on both sides to let this disagreement continue.

John Rinne - Ripon, Calif.

Unity needed to fight taxman

Steven Crist's April 13 column, "Bettors take beating from tax man," was spot-on. I did not realize until this year that my Social Security retirement benefits were taxed because I had some pick four signers that totaled $31,000 for the year. Of course, I play the races daily from home, and my yearly losses far exceeded my winnings.

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association's players' panel in 2003 made taxation one of its primary targets, but more needs to be done to right this injustice, as indicated by "NTRA goes political on web" (April 24).

Horseplayers need to wake up and unite for common goals that affect us all.

Richard Murray - North Hills, Calif.

Modern surfaces call for new thinking

Steven Crist's April 19 column, "Blue Grass an indicator of trouble," about the handle decline at Keeneland being attributable at least in part to the synthetic Polytrack surface, characterized the surface as "quirky."

As if dirt tracks are not "quirky." Dirt tracks can be, and are, different from day to day, depending on harrowing and watering.

Some horses just do better on synthetics than others, just as some do better on grass than on dirt. If there is criticism to be made about the Blue Grass Stakes, why not examine the decision of the owner and trainer of Pyro? Certainly, if they were going to run the horse on Polytrack they should have had some idea whether the horse would be able to handle the surface. (And perhaps they did. It would not be the first time in history that a horse threw in a clunker for no apparent reason.)

A related issue is that Thoroughbred breeders in the United States have concentrated on breeding speed without stamina for too long, a trend that could be reversed by widespread use of synthetic tracks. Surfaces such as Polytrack usually require more effort on the part of the horse (i.e. the tracks are slower). It used to be that the prime goal of breeding was to get a horse who could go the longest the fastest. Now, the goal seems to be get the 2-year-old who can run six furlongs the fastest. I do not want the sport to become just another Quarter Horse showplace.

Artifical surfaces are here to stay, and breeders, handicappers, and bettors alike should learn to live with them. In the long run it will pay off.

Thomas J. Traver - Richmond, Calif.