04/19/2002 12:00AM

Letters to the Editor

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Let state share insurance risk in California

The April 14 letter to the editor "California can assist owners with comp costs" and Steven Crist's column that day, "Takeout idea can take a hike," prompted me to write about the issue of workers' compensation in California.

The issue is near and dear to me, not only because I have been a fan of Thoroughbred racing for more than 50 years, but because in the last 10 years of a 50-year career in insurance I worked for California's Department of Insurance in a regulatory capacity.

Our state legislators had better think long and hard about raising the takeout percentage in attempt to deal with the problem of workers' compensation costs. Why is it that the overwhelming evidence that a reduced takeout results in more wagering and hence more revenue to the state seems to be overlooked?

The answer to the problem is the creation of an assigned risk pool for worker's compensation.

I was a workers' compensation underwriter for many years when the rates were subject to the minimum-rate laws in California, and I gouged more than my share of employers because of that law. Later that law was repealed in the name of opening up competition among business insurers. In the beginning, when the insurers were unsure of how to price the insurance properly, it resulted in the failure of many of the weaker insurers in the system, and down they went like flies, leaving the California Insurance Guarantee Association facing a possible catastrophe. It has now come full circle, and the few remaining workers' compensation insurers are pricing the insurance on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.

You can't deregulate a business that provides insurance for a statutorily required coverage, such as workers' comp, without ultimately limiting or severely curtailing the ability of the consumer to pick and choose. When that happens, the state must step in and create a pool to cover the liability of employers. The assigned risk pool for automobile liability insurance (the only other statutorily required insurance) is a prime example. In an assigned risk pool, a servicing carrier is appointed, the rates are set at approximately a break-even level, and the insurers and the state bear the losses of the group.

The state legislators and those who run and govern the racing industry had better wake up and realize that the goose has only so many golden eggs, and that one hand washes the other, before it's too late.

Bob Salin - North Hollywood, Calif.

Johannesburg's airfare is money down the drain

After watching Johannesburg's slim defeat in the Gladness several times, here's my take...

If Rebelline hadn't been caught in all kinds of traffic, this would have been a humiliating defeat. Rebelline would have taken the Gladness by at least five lengths if she hadn't had to bob and weave through the stretch, having to move over two or three paths trying to split horses before getting clear. And when she finally got clear, she absolutely exploded and gobbled up some serious ground in a very short time. It was very impressive, to say the least. I don't know much about this filly, but we may see her at Arlington Park later this year.

As good as Johannesburg may or may not be, and no matter what his trainer is saying at any given moment ("The Irish are coming," April 19), I doubt he'll be going to the Derby, and even if he does he'll be about as effective as Express Tour was last year: not at all.

I've never thought of this horse as a Kentucky Derby threat and I never will, and yes, even if he won the thing, I wouldn't view him as a legitimate candidate.

Maybe this all stems from him crushing my hopes and dreams when it looked like Repent was going to score the huge upset in last year's Breeders Cup Juvenile. . . . I don't know, but I don't even think Johannesburg has much of a chance getting on a plane to get to the Derby let alone win the Derby.

If the Gladness result doesn't put some perspective into some people's minds, I feel sorry for them.Eric Isaacson - Indianapolis, Ind.

TVG laughs in face of serious bettor

What some people, including management at Television Games Network, fail to realize is that horse racing is not entertainment. This a very serious sport where there are many dollars wagered every day. Simulcast viewers do not want to hear clueless comments, or watch tape delays of races. Serious horseplayers also don't want to hear how you can order you Laffit Pincay Jr. bobblehead doll.

These people should realize that they are offensive to the many serious horse players who wager large sums of money every day.

And the March 24 letter "If quality will out, TVG gets last laugh," couldn't have been more wrong in its comment that The Racing Network failed because viewers were "too cheap" to pay $25 per month. The reason it failed was because it didn't have sponsors like TVG does, and thanks for that, because I'm really getting tired of watching five minutes of commercials trying to sell me a knife set while the race I wagered on is being run.

If I want entertainment, I can switch back to my normal cable and watch any sitcom I choose. But then again, isn't TVG a sitcom?.

Anthony Dilaurent - Ocean City, N.J.

Magna empire's growth must be stopped

We were all warned by California owner Ed Friendly about Frank Stronach early in Stronach's ownership of Santa Anita. We should have listened harder.

The list of Magna's offenses is long: from the building of an architectural eyesore, ruining the front entrance, to the high cost of admission and food, to parking prices that rise yearly, to costing Southern California patrons a chance to see the Breeders' Cup in person at the Oak Tree meet under the guise of "track construction." The attitude at Santa Anita is horsemen and patrons be damned.

Please, track owners everywhere, don't sell this megalomaniac any more racetracks at any price.

G.R. Wyatt - Topaz, Calif.

Filly late getting started, but look for big finish

It's springtime, and that means its time for the 3-year-old colts to take center stage. But this year's 3-year-olds are not stepping up to the plate and certainly not hitting any home runs as of yet. The run for the roses is right around the corner, and it's still very much up for grabs.

But there's a 4-year-old filly I've been watching since her eye-catching maiden victory at Santa Anita in November. Her name is Azeri. Remember that name. She's a late-developing filly trained by the relatively unheralded Laura de Seroux, a disciple of the late Charlie Whittingham.

Azeri is impressing more and more with every start. Most recently she scored in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn. The five-horse field was small but full of quality, with the likes of Spain, Fleet Renee, and Affluent. Every filly and mare in the race had a victory in a Grade 1 or 2 race on her resume.

Azeri has now won five of six lifetime starts. In her only loss, in the Grade 2 La Canada at Santa Anita, she was three wide down the backstretch and four wide into the stretch, yet was beaten only a length by Summer Colony. Azeri has won two Grade 1 races in only six starts. That's very impressive considering she started racing only six months ago.

Azeri is for real. It's early, but if all goes well filly should wind up in the winner's circle of the 2002 Breeders' Cup Distaff.

Salvatore James Coriale - Saratoga Springs, N.Y.