05/30/2002 11:00PM

Letters to the Editor

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Frequent flyers need first-class cup treatment

When Arlington Park was named the site of the 2002 Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships, I was immediately excited at the prospect of visiting Chicago for the first time this fall. It also reminded me, however, of an ongoing problem with the event.

Ever since my hometown of Birmingham, Ala., opened a racetrack in 1987 when I was 14, I've been hooked on the sport (sadly, they run only greyhounds there now).

For the last six years, I have been living in Los Angeles and have enjoyed racing on the Southern California circuit tremendously.

In that time, I have also traveled across the country (and even the globe) to see great races firsthand. I make a decent living, but it's not without considerable expense that I have attended two Kentucky Derbies, the last five Belmont Stakes, last November's running of the Japan Cup in Tokyo, and, most significantly, the last five editions of the Breeders' Cup.

Each year, depending on the size and situation of each host site, many choice Breeders' Cup tickets are withheld for horsemen, industry types, etc. The remainder of seats designated for fans are distributed in a lottery system, often with wildly varied results.

My first year was reasonably successful, as our box seats at Hollywood Park in 1997 were acceptable. In 1999 at Gulfstream, however, the draw left us in the very last row up the track. We couldn't see anything. The two recent installments at Churchill Downs were not much better, and this past year at Belmont Park put us at the highest, coldest spot on site.

For someone who overnights his application at the earliest possible date and is willing to pay for the best seats available, this luck of the draw has become terribly frustrating over the years.

A dedicated fan should be rewarded by the Breeders' Cup for consistency (and willingness to spend a great deal of money). But each year when I have contacted the host site and Breeders' Cup office about this problem, they both pass the buck and refer me to the other.

Allocation of tickets should incorporate a point system that allows repeat attendees to gain better access to seats than first-timers. Other sporting events like The Masters have priority lists and waiting lists for recurring fans. Why can't the Breeders' Cup? I'd much rather depend on luck at the betting windows than at the seating draw.

Michael O'Rorke - Los Angeles

Betting market needs comparison shopping

I compliment the Racing Form and especially Steven Crist for being watchdogs on the matter of parimutuel takeout ("An appalling idea on every level," Jan. 20, "Takeout idea can take a hike," April 21).

Simulcast customers should make informed decisions on where to wager. If more of them did, tracks like those in like Arizona, with a 20 percent win-place-show takeout, would lose business to New York, with a 14-17 percent rate. Pennsylvania, with a 26-30 percent takeout on pick threes and pick sixes would lose business to Kentucky's 19 percent.

This would be the free market system working at its best.

Bob Walters - New York City