05/29/2008 11:00PM

Letters to the Editor


Trainer's boasts of a great one yet to be proved

The bombast of trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. is getting a little hard to take. Recently my local paper quoted him as saying about Big Brown, "If he wins his next race he'd be in the same breath as Secretariat or Affirmed, all those good ones."

There is not a single handicapper anywhere who would not agree that this year's crop of 3-year-olds is one of the weakest in recent memory. All of the prep races leading to the Kentucky Derby were won by different horses, with not one being able to dominate. No one was capable of challenging Big Brown at any point of the first two Triple Crown races. On the other hand, Secretariat as a 3-year-old defeated such outstanding runners as Sham, Cougar, and Riva Ridge. As a 2-year-old he beat the exceptional colt Stop the Music three times in a row. Affirmed had to deal with and defeat the gallant Alydar in all three Triple Crown races.

If Big Brown rings up a 2:24 in the Belmont, maybe we can talk.

Vincent Grabinsky - North Babylon, N.Y.

Big Brown's injury has a fan alarmed

I couldn't believe that the only apparent concern after Big Brown's quarter crack was discovered seemed to be how much time Big Brown might miss in training for the Belmont Stakes ("Big Brown's healing begins," May 28).

I have been a devoted racing fan since 1960 and have seen many extremely unfortunate events in this great sport. I have done my best to explain them to my uneducated-in-the-sport friends, but the possibility of Big Brown suffering a catastrophic injury in the Belmont would turn Thoroughbred racing into the North American version of bullfighting. The animal rights groups and public opinion would set the sport so low it might never recover.

It is time for Big Brown's connections to step up and withdraw him, give him plenty of time to recover, and point him to the Travers and Breeders' Cup Classic. It would not only be the best thing for the horse, but, much more importantly, it would show the world that it is the horse that matters the most and not the owners' greed. If he would win the Travers and BC Classic, his value would not be diminished one cent, and it could move the sport light years ahead in public sentiment.

Jack Plant - Las Vegas

Crown may weigh too heavily

Can anyone tell me why the weight that horses must carry in the three Triple Crown races is not lowered? Why are male horses still being asked to carry 126 pounds and fillies 121? If male horses all carry the same weight, what difference does it make if it's 121 instead of 126, other than to help them by lessening their burden?

Some might say don't mess with tradition. What tradition? In the inaugural Kentucky Derby in 1875, Aristides and 12 others carried 100 pounds apiece, while Ascension and Gold Mine shouldered 97 pounds each. Survivor carried 110 pounds when he won the first Preakness Stakes in 1873. Ruthless, a filly, won the inaugural Belmont Stakes under 107 pounds in 1867. She defeated three males, who carried 110 pounds each.

That means if the "tradition" established from the beginning of the three races had continued to today, male horses would carry 100 pounds in the Kentucky Derby, 110 in the Preakness, and 110 in the Belmont.

Of course, if we still had those weights, many, if not most, contemporary jockeys would be unable to ride because they would be too heavy. That's why I advocate lowering the weight to 121 and not any lower.

The Kentucky Derby was run 45 times before all male horses were asked to carry 126 pounds for the first time in 1920. The Preakness was held 49 times before 126 pounds became the standard for males in 1925. The Belmont was held 33 times before its male contestants were all asked to carry 126 pounds in 1900.

It is generally agreed that the Thoroughbreds of today are more fragile. Why not help the Triple Crown participants, beginning in 2009, by requiring them to carry less weight in all three races?

Jon White - Monrovia, Calif.

Time right to make legislative allies

The looming investigation by Congress into horse racing's drug and soundness problems ("Congress seeks racing information," May 29) offers our industry a unique opportunity to lobby for legislation that can solve our underlying problem: a declining market share of the gambling dollar.

Rising costs and static purses contribute to the abuse of drugs and animals. By aggressively describing to Congress our industry's inability to compete with Indian gaming - as well as riverboats and Las Vegas-type casinos - testifying horsemen could kick-start legislative support. Congressmen must be educated about horse racing's economic contributions, both direct and indirect, to the country.

A united horse industry has the ability to make allies within Congress.

Michael Power - Auburn, Calif.

Safer surfaces should be standard

With regard to Steven Crist's column of May 18, "Slower doesn't mean safer," I wondered about the statement that there is a "widespread belief that track operators routinely and deliberately make their dirt tracks dangerously fast on days of big events," but that, if that is indeed the case, "it is out of the belief that a tighter, quicker track is in fact safer."

My question then is, if the tighter, quicker tracks are safer, why don't they do it every day to protect all horses? Why only on big-event days? The goal should be to make the surface as safe as possible for all horses, whether $10,000 claimers or Grade 1 stars.

William Pezzula - Albany, N.Y.