06/26/2008 11:00PM

Letters to the Editor

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Lost in the Fog and his owner showed class acts

As I read "Lost in the Fog owner Harry Aleo dies" (June 25), I couldn't help thinking about the interesting contradiction and irony that both his life and ownership were vis a vis our sport.

I never met the man, but the famous run with Lost in the Fog put Aleo at the forefront of the sport for more than a year, long enough for turf writers to characterize him enough that I felt as though I had. "Old boot" and stubborn as he might have been, Harry Aleo also possessed the virtuous qualities Thoroughbred racing so dearly needs in these changing times: humility, loyalty, and passion.

Despite limited "success" for most of a 30-year career in the industry, he never left his trusted trainer, Greg Gilchrist. Lost in the Fog brought him to the pinnacle of the sport, yet Aleo never even thought about taking his chips off the table.

There has been so much written in recent weeks about potential champions, boastful trainers who admit to using performance-enhancing drugs, and owners who have questionable if not unsavory pasts, it is time to pay tribute to some real winners. Lost in the Fog was an incredible animal and Harry Aleo an equally incredible man. The current state of our game is not worthy of their greatness.

Anthony J. Perrotta Jr. - Red Bank, N.J.

Juvenile racing needs downshifting

In light of the recent Congressional hearings on the ills of racing ("Lines drawn over regulation," June 21), allow me to introduce a plan that would perhaps appease those opposed to 2-year-old racing, while possibly offering a way to keep our stars in training and active a little longer.

The first move would be to limit the purse money available on all juvenile races to, let's say, $200,000, thus negating the major monetary gains from pushing a horse too hard during his 2-year-old season.

Next, the Graded Stakes Committee could agree to remove Grade 1 status from all 2-year-old events, including the Breeders' Cup. Such a move would keep an undeserving horse from going to the breeding shed as a "Grade 1 winner," while helping to remove the breeding interests from juvenile racing.

Both these acts would also help the following season's Kentucky Derby by eliminating horses who amass graded earnings as 2-year-olds and are basically ensured a spot in the starting gate, no matter how unworthy they prove as 3-year-olds.

This two-pronged attack would move financial interests away from breeding and buying the fastest horse available, simply to make as much money as possible before the animal breaks down or is injured and retired. This would put emphasis on the 3-year-old racing season and beyond, when the larger purses are offered, and Grade 1 races are available to improve a potential stallion or broodmare's resume.

Michael Costello - Tucson, Ariz.

Equine soundness made hard to judge

In a statement issued to industry colleagues, Dr. Tom V. David, equine medical director of the Louisiana Racing Commission, said, "Changes in breeding and research on the optimum track surface will take years to accomplish the desired end result. Medication can be changed overnight. . . .

"Illegal drugs are not the problem, it's the so-called legal, therapeutic medications, that are overused and abused. Our allowable levels of therapeutic medications on race day make it extremely difficult to determine the health and soundness of the animal when a prerace exam is conducted. Inflamed joints, muscles, and mild lameness are masked by medication and therefore undetectable to the examining veterinarian. These problems may be minor until the horse leaves the starting gate but become major by the time they reach the turn for home and down the stretch, putting both horse and rider at risk."

Examining veterinarians have been entrusted with safeguarding the welfare of horses and the integrity of racing. Their mission is compromised by drugs and the pressure to fill too many races.

Racehorses are unique assets among all sports and gaming options. A slot machine cannot take your breath away in the way a magnificent and courageous horse can. A healthy society evolves by embracing higher values, including in the treatment of animals.

The public would love to like racing and bet on fair, quality competition. That same public wants to watch horses in awe, not in fear. Public outcry against horse racing could be avoided by the industry becoming compassionate and transparent. Prioritizing equine welfare before, during, and after racing careers could be the wisest of all its investments.

Christine Picavet - Alto, N.M.