07/05/2002 12:00AM

Letters to the Editor

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McCarron's gift extends past his career

It's very difficult to say goodbye to Chris McCarron after all the years of pleasure and thrills he has given the racing public. I have long admired him - not only as a gifted athlete, but as a terrific human being.

Since most of the articles written about him have been about his talent on the racetrack, I'd like to share a story about his offtrack persona.

Many summers ago, my husband and I took our young grandson (who was about 7 or 8 at the time) for a vacation at Del Mar. Even then the boy was a huge fan of horse racing, and McCarron was a particular favorite of his.

One morning while my husband and grandson were shopping in what was then the Big Bear market located near the track, they ran into Chris. He was so friendly and nice, he even took our very excited grandson on a tour of the market - just the two of them. As icing on the cake, Chris promised the boy a pair of his racing goggles during the afternoon program.

Needless to say, the 2 p.m. post time couldn't come quickly enough for our grandson. He glued himself to the rail for the afternoon. True to his word, Chris went over to him between races and presented a pair of his goggles to his adoring young fan.

Many years have passed since that remarkable day - Chris's beautiful red hair has turned to gray, we've all accumulated a few more wrinkles, and that wide-eyed youngster is now a 20-year-old six-footer - but the memory of the kindness shown to our grandson is as fresh as if it had happened yesterday. (Oh, he still has the goggles, too.)

All of us will truly miss Chris. Whatever he decides to do when he is no longer on the back of a horse, I know he will do it with as much dedication, enthusiasm, and professionalism as he has shown on and off the racetrack during his long career. We wish him and his family a happy and bright future.

Marilyn Sturges - Carson City, Nev.

Extra days belong at start of Del Mar meet

One of Jay Hovdey's suggestions in his June 30 column, "Fairplex just part of larger issue," is in the right arena, but misses the mark.

Hovdey wrote, "Race five days per week at Del Mar instead of the traditional six. . . . Extend the meet two weeks further into September and do not worry about the feared 'post-Labor Day' slump. Simulcast business will more than make up for any decline in attendance."

I agree that Del Mar should be given more days, and I can see reducing the number of races on weekdays, as some other venues have done. Del Mar is the best deal going for California racing. It's the most profitable venue for the residents and taxpayers. Del Mar's season as a resort destination begins in June and runs through Labor Day. Hence, Del Mar's meet should be extended so that it could start earlier, more in concert with the resort season, and end accordingly.

A significant tradition at Del Mar is the large ontrack attendance. Well, here's an opportunity to enhance that attribute by giving Del Mar more days so the meet can start sooner, not end later.

To accommodate this, a shift in the racing-dates calendar would need to occur. And the leadership for the rearrangement needs to come from the California Horse Racing Board. They are the rightful custodians of racing dates in the state.

The dates do not belong to Magna Entertainment, Churchill Downs, or any other entity. It's time for the CHRB to become more proactive in the planning and direction for racing's future in the state. The tradition of being a rubber stamp for the racing associations needs to end. Racing in California needs to be managed for what it is: An important resource for all of the people of California.

Richard Bauer - Irvine, Calif.

Future of Jersey racing lies in casino link

I read with interest Matt Hegarty's outstanding article in the June 16 Daily Racing Form, "Betting a billion," detailing Frank Stronach's billion-dollar foray into the racing industry. As a longtime season boxholder at Monmouth Park, I have heard rumors of Stronach's impending deal to purchase that track circulating through the clubhouse and grandstand ever since he visited the track and met with officials some time ago. I have one suggestion to Mr. Stronach as he contemplates the purchase: Keep your money in your pocket.

I have watched in sorrow the death of Thoroughbred racing in New Jersey. While New York, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania have had telephone wagering for years, we in New Jersey are still waiting, even though the voting public approved of it two years ago. Delaware Park added slot machines, boosted their purses, and stole the best owners, trainers, and jockeys away from us. While all of these venues are carding 10- and 12-horse races, we are forced to sit through tedious cards filled with bottom-of-the barrel claimers, frequently with five or six participants per race.

Once upon a time Monmouth's grandstand was packed with crowds eager to watch and wager on quality Thoroughbred racing. Now only empty seats and vacant parking lots stand as a cruel reminder of the state of the industry. The slow erosion of racing's "fan base" is well-documented and greatly bemoaned, but while other states have formulated innovative plans to attract new fans to the game, New Jersey has done everything in its power to choke the life from the industry by providing a poor-quality product at a high price to a disinterested public.

Stronach faces another insurmountable problem in New Jersey - the entrenched and powerful casino lobby. No amount of Mr. Stronach's money will buy him the political leverage necessary to breathe new life into the Thoroughbred racing industry. As I see it, there is only one viable solution for this desperate situation: Have one of the Atlantic City casino giants buy Monmouth Park, install slot machines (which the state would never allow Stronach to do), boost purses, attract quality racing stock, and promote racing the way they promote their gaming business, by cultivating and pampering their clientele.

Though hope springs eternal, I'm not holding my breath.

David L. Zager - Somerville, N.J.

Magna's free spending seems bound to backfire

The June 16 article "Betting a billion," about Magna Entertainment's rush to buy racing properties gave me an appreciation of just how vain and single-minded Magna's chairman, Frank Stronach, really is.

His long-standing feud with the so-called racing bluebloods will ultimately break the bank or banks that lend him money. Everyone needs a sound business plan to make a go of it in any enterprise. It appears Stronach's quick and hastily drawn plan is to have the largest amount of racetrack expenses in the history of horse racing.

My, how vanity gets in the way of common sense.

Mike Stith - Louisville, Ky.

While you're at it, give the clerk the change

The writer of the June 30 letter "As long as you're cashing, quit your whining" had it all wrong.

First of all, the name of the game to the astute bettor is determining value and spotting overlays by watching the odds. If these late odds-droppings persist, those evaluations can't be made properly. In addition, the integrity of the game will be questioned for a long time.

If that letter-writer doesn't care about how much he collects on a winning wager, I suggest he bet at New York City OTB's. Their 6 percent surcharge will serve his way of thinking nicely.

Marvin Berkowitz - Brooklyn, N.Y.