06/13/2002 11:00PM

Letters to the editor



Belmont winner hardly did it by the numbers

Sarava's record Belmont mutuel ought to indicate the subtle but basic flaw to any method of handicapping involving the application of numerical ratings: Simply put, numbers can lie.

War Emblem, on a different day, with a bit less mileage on his gearbox, might have been the fresh breeze of perfection the significant plurality of bettors desired. Sarava gave no credible indication from his past performance lines that he was ready to win this type of race, against runners of substantial proven ability.

Well, guess what?

What Sarava did have going for him was staying power, probably as a result of his early upbringing. Training methods in England frequently involve more than the usual amount of long, slow, distance workouts. They've got that "carefully built foundation" thing happening. Sometimes it pays off when a horse is asked to cover more ground.

Credit also, goes to a trainer like Ken McPeek, who's not afraid to go after a big prize.

I wish to propose a toast to anyone who picked Sarava, regardless of the method. Also, to anyone who had the foresight to wheel Medaglia d'Oro front and back in the exacta. Could you spare five bucks on the basis of the last two times I told you he'd be there?

Rob Smoke

Boulder, Colo.

Rap on Sarava connections not so snappy now

Is anybody going to call Mike Watchmaker on his pre-race comments about Sarava before the Belmont Stakes? Watchmaker wrote, "Hope this hard-tryer doesn't become sour by being terribly overmatched here." I've waited for word from Watchmaker or somebody else in Daily Racing Form, but I haven't seen a thing.

From on high in the ivory tower of the press box came this scribe's condescending remarks that cast doubt on the horsemanship and integrity of the owner and trainer of this year's winner of the third leg of the Triple Crown.

This is the same fellow who seems to have anointed himself with the mantle chief bottle-washer when it comes to who should and who should not run in classic races. He has constantly taken it upon himself to make fun of owners for running horses where they do not belong.

Perhaps, with the triumph of Sarava's owners, Mr. Watchmaker will lighten up on those owners whose dreams he so callously makes fun of.

Barry Irwin, Team Valor

Versailles, Ky.

Post-bell odds-dropping needs immediate solution

Thank you, Steven Crist. Finally, someone well known and influential in the racing industry has come forth and actually suggested implementing the obvious solution to the "late odds-drop" problem, instead of offering alibis and excuses for it ("Late odds drops a real problem," June 9).

Let's hope all the various racing circuits will finally wake up and heed your wise advice, instead of hoping the problem will go away by itself, because it won't.

I would also like to offer an additional reason why these "late" bets seem to come in disproportionately on the winning horse. Obviously, a lot of these bets do come from just a few sharp bettors. And "sharp" is the key word here. They patiently observe their horses' ontrack appearance for signs of washiness, etc., right until the horse goes into the gate, and then bet accordingly. Thus, a sharp-looking second or third choice's odds can suddenly drop beneath that of a so-so - or worse - looking horse who had been the public's choice only seconds before.

It's not anyone's idea of fun collecting $6.20 on their "3-1" shot, and its definitely time to address this growing problem.

Fred Zachowski

Campbell, Calif.

One-minute shutdown a happy medium

Steven Crist's column on late odds-drops was right on the money. Seeing the odds change during the running of a race makes me feel like someone is playing games, no matter how logically it's explained.

Offtrack bettors would adjust to one-minute-to-post pool closings, and those players who want to bet at the very last second can go to the track. A win-win situation.

Eileen Watson

Hallandale Beach, Fla.

It's not fair to shut out simulcast customers

I never hear anyone complain when odds on a horse go up during a race, only about horses whose prices go down during a race. Horse racing is a game defined by parimutuel wagering. If someone bets a whole lot of money on one horse, then the price on the others will go up. Sometimes a bettor will have the late money work against him, and sometimes for him.

The notion of cutting off wagering with a minute to post is shortsighted. Let's say a horse is scratched at the gate, as Peeping Tom was on Belmont Day. How could his backers have wagered on an alternative? I'm sure Belmont Park wouldn't have been too keen on losing out on hundreds of thousands of dollars in order to appease those conspiracy theorists who complain when their horse goes from 3-1 to 2-1.

Sure, everyone would just about know their win odds at the start of a race, but that is a steep price for racetracks to pay. The amount of money bet in the last minute is enormous.

From a simulcast location, I should have the same opportunity to bet with less than a minute to go as bettors at the live track. If I'm playing four tracks, I might not see the horses in the post parade, and the only chance I might have to see a horse washing out badly is with less than a minute to post. Why should I not have the opportunity to avoid that horse?

And at some tracks "one minute to post" really means one minute, while at others, it may mean three minutes or more (people who play Fair Grounds know that very well).

Is tote system flawless? Heck, no. But neither is the one-minute-to-post shutdown.

Bill Downes

Columbus, Ohio

Signal control amendment a misguided effort

I don't often concur with Stan Bergstein's opinions, but his June 6 column, "N.J. horsemen can't control incoming simos," was right on target.

The June 9 letter to the Racing Form, "New Jersey law should balance revenue split," by one of the lawyers who represent the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, which takes issue with Bergstein's article and defends Rep. Frank Pallone's amendment to the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978, misses the forest for the trees.

While the intent of this legislation may be admirable - to control the disproportionate flow of Thoroughbred simulcasting revenues to Standardbreds in New Jersey - it is completely flawed where it removes sole control of the simulcasting signal from the sending horsemen's group and gives it to the receiving horsemen's group.

I would think the New Jersey horsemen and horsemen across the country would have been better served by first having this proposed amendment to a federal law signed off on, or possibly redrafted, by the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, Thoroughbred Horsemen's Associations, and Thoroughbred Owners of California, before going it alone from a completely parochial (and, as it turns out, a flawed) perspective.

Kent Stirling, Executive Director

Florida Horsemen's Benevolent

and Protective Association