08/08/2008 12:00AM

Letters to the Editor

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Big Brown victory hardly the mark of the best around

It certainly didn't take Richard Dutrow Jr. very long to resume his obnoxious ways, did it? Just a less-than-scintillating, gut-wrenching, all-out win in the Haskell by Big Brown over a field racing will little note nor long remember. Quick: Name the second and third finishers in the Haskell. See, told ya.

Dutrow's latest comment, "We're way better than Curlin," as quoted in the Aug. 6 article "Turf may be next for Big Brown," reached the same ridiculous height of hubris as the trainer's pronouncement that a victory by Big Brown in the Belmont Stakes was a "foregone conclusion."

Is he talking about the same Curlin who soundly defeated older horses in both the 2007 Breeders' Cup Classic and the 2008 Dubai World Cup? That Curlin?

Oh, I see. In Dutrow-speak, it's better to back a 3-year-old with a persistent foot problem, coming off one miserable performance followed by a struggling effort to prevail over a field of relative equine nobodies, than to back an older Grade 1 monster who is also reigning Horse of the Year. Sheesh, what logic.

As impressive as Big Brown's victories before the Haskell may have been, the horses he has beaten are members of, in my opinion, the worst and slowest crop of 3-year-olds in memory. Aside from Big Brown, there isn't one member of this year's 3-year-old class who is good enough to make last year's Street Sense or Hard Spun break a sweat, let alone Curlin.

If and when Big Brown and Curlin finally meet, I think it's clear where my money will be going.

Jay Richards - Las Vegas

Trash talk sullies fine colt's image

Only Big Brown can win a Grade 1 in 1:48.31, post a Beyer Speed Figure of 107, and still get thrashed. Any other horse in training today would have been praised for his perseverance and heart after rebounding from a last-place finish to run such a race.

The main reason why Big Brown is vilified became apparent shortly after the Haskell, when Richard Dutrow Jr. announced that Big Brown is "way better than Curlin," and based the brag on twisted logic. (Good logic should lead him to a showdown in the Woodward, but it will not come to be.) While Dutrow had been put on a short leash by IEAH Stables, they obviously forgot the tongue-tie.

The other reason why Big Brown has been vilified is not entirely clear.

While IEAH's front man, Michael Iavaraone, said all the right things, and even made all the right donations, there were times when it appeared certain media types were almost envious of Iavarone and his partner Richard Schiavo for aggressively promoting their business and making a great investment in this horse.

Articles with an incredulous tone and titles such as Andrew Beyer's May 16 column, "So who are these guys anyway?," appeared through the spring, and resumes were dissected and past indiscretions unearthed. Rarely are those same questions raised in regard to "old-money" types in this business - where and how their fortunes were made over the distant past - or even of a convicted felon who owned the last Triple Crown winner.

Back to the horse: While Big Brown is likely not better than Curlin, the numbers and performances do not lie. It remains that Big Brown won his maiden race in a way that I have never seen before or since Sept. 3, 2007, in a race over the grass. This is not the way turf races are won and will be accentuated in his breeding. His run through 2008 is well known - and he has lost one race - and yet will be forever mocked.

If Bill Mott were the trainer, this beautiful horse would be the darling of America.

Joseph Muzio - Levittown, N.Y.

Steroids needn't have sinister image

Racing, finally, has crossed its Rubicon. While other capitalistic enterprises have taken great steps to avoid political intervention, racing has breached the Congressional itinerary. A congressional subcommittee has questioned in writing a Kentucky Horse Racing Commission's suspension of trainer Rick Dutrow for a clenbuterol positive ("Kentucky official offers defense of ban," Aug. 3). Can a stewards' decision (or lack thereof) be next on a congressional docket?

The Thoroughbred industry has found its way into an abyss. One of its greatest challenges is the misconception of the use of steroids in our industry.

Because what you see at auction is what you should get, the current rules regarding the use of steroids in auctions are a positive - except buyers should not have to request tests.

The rules for therapeutic applications in racing certainly should differ than those of sales regulations, though.

Steroids in racing inventory - this is a business - are used to pick up the appetites of equine athletes and allow them to race at the top of their own levels of talent. And, yes, most horses will be able to compete more often, which is a positive for owners, trainers, field sizes, and bettors. Seemingly a win-win for all.

But there is more to this story. Male horses produce testosterone naturally, but many, for medical reasons (such as undescended testicles) or because they are unmanageable and a safety threat to handlers, are gelded. These animals no longer naturally produce the amount of testosterone needed to compete with full male horses. So a trainer may face this choice: Does he keep a mean-spirited, detrimental-to-the-staff male horse in the barn, or geld him and take the chance of ending up with a weak, inferior competitor?

Racing needs to wake up. Steroids in racing need not follow the dark, ugly path forged by human athletes. Allow the trainers use of these therapeutic applications if they choose.

Let the bettors get back to worrying about the late odds-drops and synthetic surfaces, and let the politicians get back to worrying about baseball and whose client list they might be on.

Thomas A. Noone - Redondo Beach, Calif.