05/03/2002 12:00AM

Letters to the editor



This year's Cup makes patrons poor relations

Re: "No general admission at '02 Cup" (April 18):

Officials from Breeders' Cup Ltd. and Arlington Park, which will host the Breeders' Cup for the first time on Oct. 26, have instituted the kind of insensitive measures for the 19th Breeders' Cup Thoroughbred World Championships that indicate why Thoroughbred racing insults so many of its most devoted but not necessarily well-heeled fans, fails to attract new enthusiasts, and, as a result, continues to be treated by the ratings-hungry television networks, except for a few select days in the spring and fall, like a foster child that no one really wants.

For example, walk-in admissions will not be allowed for the event unless ticket sales from now to mid-summer are not brisk enough to keep out individuals who might be giddy enough to want to attend the races on the spur of the moment or who might have the good sense to refuse to pay the outlandish ticket prices, often for seats of negligible value.

According to Arlington Park's ticket information and order brochure, individuals who pay $100, $140, or $285 per seat for reasonable views of the races and various perks will have free access to the main building and paddock area. Everyone else is subject to the kind of strict, color-coded crowd control measures that only a Tom Ridge or John Ashcroft could possibly love. Individuals seated in the blue-marked homestretch reserved section (at $60 per seat), green-designated clubhouse turn reserved stadium area ($55 per seat), and yellow-coded quarter pole section ($45 a head) - all sections drearily distant from the finish line -- will not be permitted access to the main building or paddock area.

The who opt for the dark-blue-coded Trackside offtrack betting facility, somewhere out on the backstretch hinterlands at $25 per seat, will be banned from the main building and paddock area and can be cheerily assured, according to the brochure, of having "no track view."

The truly disenfranchised group, the stout untouchables who inhabit the blue-and-white striped tents on the cusp of the far turn at a cost of $20 per bridge chair, will find themselves prohibited from entering the Trackside building, the main building, or the paddock area. Clearly, this isolated contingent will have little maneuverability on Oct. 26.

A fetching little note on the order form consoles those hordes locked out of the principal buildings and destined to shudder in their open-air, makeshift stadium seats that they will have entry to "covered, heated areas with mutuel windows." More important, perhaps, they will be offered access to "restroom facilities," a privilege that suggests the organizers of the 19th Breeders' Cup World Championships have not completely lost the common touch.

Sam Ludu

Baldwin, N.Y.

Prominent veterinarian casts shadow of doubt

In the April 28 article on Dr. Alex Harthill, "Call him Doctor Derby", the veterinarian is quoted in the last sentence, "... it's not fair to ask the public to bet on a sore horse." I was wondering if Dr. Harthill thought it was fair for the public to place wagers on the horses who ran against the ones to whom he admittedly administered illegal medications?

Harthill has unwittingly made the most persuasive argument for more stringent medication rules and the dissemination of such information in the state of Kentucky and the rest of the country. National Thoroughbred Racing Association, please don't give up the fight!

Val Batolli

Los Angeles

This doctor should be out

Will somebody please tell me why Alex Harthill isn't banned from every racetrack in America?

Bob Breth

Laurel, Md.

There's no forgetting the Phipps presence

The passing of Ogden Phipps last week will leave a void in New York racing that will be impossible to fill. A giant of a man, both in stature as well as reputation, he had a presence at Belmont, Saratoga or Aqueduct that was something to behold.

Often sitting alone in his owner's box at the track, he would raise his binoculars when the horses got to the gate. His facial expression would never change during the running of the race. At the conclusion of the race he would put the binoculars down, and more times than not, get up from his box to stride down to the winner's circle.

I would often see him, into his 80's, alone in his box at Belmont, rooting for the likes of Easy Goer or Personal Ensign. Why he was alone, I do not know. Perhaps his presence was such to intimidate people outside of his immediate family.

In the more than 45 years that I have been going to the track in New York, he was the only person whom I felt uncomfortable addressing by his first name. The racetrack is an informal place. Even as a younger man, Woody was "Woody," Dinny is "Dinny." Jack Dreyfus was "Jack," not "Mr. Dreyfus." But Mr. Phipps was Mr. Phipps. To address him by any other name did not seem appropriate.

I will miss not seeing him at the racetrack. As I miss seeing the names Vanderbilt, Greentree, and Rokeby, I will miss seeing the name Ogden Phipps. He was truly a giant among giants. The Man in Black is gone, but his spirit lives on.

Fred Hart

Jericho, N.Y.

Juggle Cup schedule to give New York its due

While in one respect it's good that the Breeders' Cup will be at Santa Anita for the first time since 1993 ("Breeders' Cup '03 to Oak Tree," April 21) and in the Los Angeles area since 1997, Breeders' Cup Ltd. blew an opportunity to give the New York area a chance at hosting a Breeders' Cup under normal conditions.

Belmont Park played host to the 2001 Breeders' Cup, but the events of Sept. 11 left a very somber note on that Cup, held just six weeks after the attacks. With many people fearful of flying, coupled with an anthrax scare at the time, a large number of people who planned to be at Belmont canceled their plans.

Breeders' Cup Ltd. should reconsider giving Santa Anita the 2003 Cup and instead award it to Belmont Park so that people who planned to be there last year, but did not out of fear, get a fair chance at seeing a Breeders ' Cup card in person.

If this is not possible, Belmont should get the 2004 Cup, with Churchill Downs (the preferred site for 2004) pushed back to 2005 or 2006 (with Lone Star getting the other one of the two years).

On another front, this year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile races are being lengthened this year to 1 1/8 miles. This is long overdue, and while it is supposed to only be for this year, I hope Cup officials make this change permanent. The extra sixteenth should prove to be a telltale sign of whether the horses who participate in the Juvenile will be able to get 1 1/4 miles on the following first Saturday in May. It would be very important for the sport to have the Juvenile winner also win the Derby, and the extra sixteenth could prove extremely important in that regard.

Speaking of distances, the Breeders' Cup Distaff should be returned to its original distance of 1 1/4 miles, while the Filly and Mare Turf should be contested at the same 1 1/2 miles the boys go.

Distance racing is becoming a lost art in America, and lengthening these races would be a seemingly small but yet important step in reversing that trend.

Walter Parker