07/12/2002 12:00AM

Letters to the Editor


Tip of the cap goes to Ted

As betting man Ted Williams was a horseplayer.

For one afternoon.

Corpus Christi, Texas. Flight training. Naval Air Corp. Gambling was no worse than second as a recreational pursuit by service personnel.

The naval cadets flocked to a nearby farm where weekly horse races were run. Match races down a lane. The best horses in the county. Ridden by farm boys. Light and hungry kids. Hand-to-hand bets of significance were wagered.

A Navy Chief was handling his group's action. He was winning every bet.

Williams sized it up, then said to his group,"That Chief talks to one of the boys before each race. There's a money exchange. That boy finished second. And the Chief wins."

For the next race, Ted took the other boy aside. There was a money exchange. The Chief's group bet heavily. Ted's guys came unbuckled. Covered all bets, then doubled them.

What transpired was the slowest race ever run in those parts. Both riders determined to lose. The Chief's boy had a stranglehold on his mount. But Ted's boy could hold an elephant from a bale of hay.

They came to the finish together. The Chief's gang thought they had second clinched. But they were first by a nose. And all their money was on the other horse.

Outfoxed by Ted Williams.

I always hoped that none of those young men became jockeys. All you could say was that they rode to orders.

As for Ted Williams, he'd beat you at any game with any name. Including horse racing on a lovely Sunday afternoon.

Pete Pedersen, Steward - California Horse Racing Board

Point Given looks better as his peers race on

After Point Given's unfortunate, early retirement after his Travers victory, many so-called experts questioned whether he deserved to be considered among the great 3-year-olds of all-time.

It wasn't enough for racing's intelligentsia that Point Given was one of only five horses since 1900 to win the Preakness, Belmont and Travers (Keeping company with Man o' War, Whirlaway, Native Dancer, and Damascus) or the first horse to win four consecutive million-dollar races. The racing establishment questioned the class of 3-year-olds that he had competed against and the fact that he never raced against older horses.

Well, his 3-year-old class keeps looking better and better. Even if we dismiss the past triumphs of Monarchos and A.P. Valentine, we now have signs that E Dubai, Mr. John, and Macho Uno are serious handicap horses. And Dollar Bill doesn't seem to be going in reverse.

For me, with each passing day it becomes clearer that Point Given was the best 3-year-old colt to run in North America since Spectacular Bid. Perhaps the racing intelligentsia will revisit their early dismissal of Point Given's greatness?

Mark S. Miller - Revere, Mass.

Home viewer sadly changing channel

When the Hollywood Park and Santa Anita live shows on Fox Sports West 2 were replaced by Television Games Network, I was open-minded, thinking TVG may be just as good or better than the previous coverage. But I quickly found that there is no comparison. TVG is horrible. The people are nowhere near as knowledgeable as those on the Fox Sports shows. They are frequently still talking after the horses have broken from the gate. There are ugly graphics taking up a large part of the screen.

But primarily I am disappointed in the race coverage itself. I realize this has to do with who owns what, but it is a terrible situation for racing fans who follow horses, not tracks. I would much rather have seen the Grade 2 Molly Pitcher, featuring Spain, racing's all-time leading money-winning female, than a Lone Star Park claimer. I cannot stand to watch hours of mindless banter and races full of horses I never heard of just to catch one or two races I am interested in.

Oh well, I can just catch the races live on the Internet, right? Not anymore. Not without opening a betting account, anyway. I realize that I am not the most prized racing fan, since I do not bet but just enjoy watching the horses run and following their racing and breeding careers.

I live far from any track or OTB, so television and the Internet are the only ways I can see the races. I have effectively been prevented from enjoying what used to be my favorite hobby. The ESPN and network coverage is not enough to keep up.

If I, someone who has been described as "obsessed" with horse racing, have given up on trying to follow the sport, what about the all-important betting customers? Won't they just find something else to gamble on? I do not see how this situation is at all good for a sport supposedly desperately seeking new fans.

For the first time since I got my first computer seven years ago, my home page is not related to racing. My weekends no longer revolve around programming my VCR to record racing shows. I intend to cancel my DirecTV service, since I got it only for the races.

I have more free time and money to pursue other interests, but I still miss racing. If the sport's rulers ever decide to make it available to the general public, please let me know.

Lisa Wallace - Stillwater, Okla.

Last-minute anthem: I love a parade

When a horse you have bet on opens a two-length lead on the turn and the odds somehow go down at that moment, it feels like a ripoff. But I'll still take it over not being able to place a wager in the final minute before a race goes off. The best horseplayers closely scrutinize physical appearance in a post parade. Why should they be forced to give up that advantage?

Not only do I think all players should continue to be allowed to place bets right up until the gate opens, but it's time every track in the country pay more attention to the dismal coverage of horses in the post parade. Far too often, a simulcast goes to a blank screen, with a track insignia and odds instead of shots of live horses. Even worse, they go to a commercial during the post parade. A lot of bettors don't want to bet when they can't get a long look at the horses. These players need better treatment.

John Scheinman - Washington, D.C.

The mighty Slew deserves a belated Gold Cup

Why is there no major race named after Seattle Slew? Surely the greatest racehorse/ sire of the modern era deserves a Grade 1 race at a major track named after him. There are many lesser horses who have one: King's Bishop, Cigar, Go for Wand. The other three postwar Triple Crown winners - Citation, Secretariat, Affirmed have graded races named after them. And none of them had the influence on the breed that Seattle Slew Slew did. There can be no excuse now that Slew is dead.

My suggestion is changing the Jockey Club Gold Cup to the Seattle Slew Gold Cup. It was the scene of his greatest race, where he broke through the gates before the start, set the fastest fractions ever in a 1 1/2-mile race, went wide on the turn when the jock lost his irons, got passed by Exceller, and came back to be in front a jump past the wire. It certainly ranks among the greatest performances in the history of Thoroughbred racing.

The Seattle Slew Gold Cup - sure has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?

John Q. Smithers - Weston, Fla