07/18/2002 11:00PM

Letters to the Editor

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Consolidation the best bet for Maryland

Now that Magna Entertainment controls Maryland's racetracks ("Magna gets piece of Crown," July 17), I urge them to consider the following in order to have a chance for success:

Please, shut down Pimlico, sell the property, and concentrate on rebuilding Laurel Park.

Why? Laurel's location is geographically more desirable for drawing fans from both the Washington, D.C., and Baltimore suburbs.

The main track is nine furlongs with two chutes, and the turf course is a mile long, whereas Pimlico is just an mile oval with a seven-furlong turf course. Translation: better racing potential at Laurel.

There is enough vacant property at Laurel to build the additional stall space needed to make up for the loss of Pimlico.

Laurel's facility can be saved and made into the type of plant needed to survive in today's environment. Pimlico would require the wrecking ball as step number one in an upgrade plan. It makes more fiscal sense to rebuild one dump properly, as opposed to putting a band-aid on two. That approach has already been tried by Mr. De Francis, and look what it produced.

Nobody will lose any sleep over the Preakness being run at Laurel, or if racing is conducted at only one track in the state. We have been waiting for that one quality racetrack in Maryland for more than 30 years.

Finally, to the horsemen stabled permanently at Pimlico who would attempt to block such a move: You're probably going to have to move anyway. Because if things don't change soon in Maryland, there will be no more racing.

Chuck Seeger

Alexandria, Va.

One investor prefers the short-term

There are many different gambles in life that are made with cold calculation and work. There are others that we just guess and hope that it works out for the best.

I know that it looks appetizing to get 25-1 on Congaree to win the Breeders' Cup Classic ("A weekend with plenty of action," July 10), but many things can and will happen between July and November that could make that $20-$100 wager go up in smoke. How would you like to bet $100 to win on Congaree in the Classic only to find that Bob Baffert ends up putting him in the Sprint. That makes your $100 ticket wallpaper.

The only horse I would consider is Officer in the Sprint. I'm no veterinarian, but it seems there have been two serious gaps in the training of this horse. When he runs around one turn he is brilliant, but he has spent a lot of time on the sidelines, and the 10-1 price he went off in Pool 1 doesn't seem worth it to me. For a horse who may or may not make the dance I would want 20-1 at this point.

My point is value. What value are you willing to accept 3 1/2 months out from the Breeders' Cup at Arlington, a facility most horses won't have ever run a race at before that day?

Forget the turf events. There are too many unknown European runners who we have no way of knowing whether they are being pointed to these races or not. I didn't even know the name Banks Hill until two weeks before the Filly and Mare Turf race, yet I picked her and she won.

It is a lot of fun to talk about the Breeders' Cup right now and watch these stakes races throughout the summer with a little extra interest and possible financial incentive. But actually to put money down on horses who could be injured in a matter of seconds during a training run? Not for me.

I'd rather sink that money into a play right now and try to take care of my immediate horse racing needs.

Marc Platt

Los Angeles

Hal's Hope won the heart of south Florida

It's infrequent that a horse with only good ability can capture the hearts of racegoers. Hal's Hope, an appropriately named homebred from the barn of 91-year-old Hal Rose, came out of obscurity two winters ago at Gulfstream. His career came to an abrupt end when he lost his final battle to intestinal disease this week.

Hal's Hope's front-running style, combined with his grit and determination, made him a crowd favorite in Florida. His victory in the 2000 Florida Derby, when he held off blueblood High Yield in a stirring stretch duel, highlighted his career and earned him the respect afforded to heroes.

Hal's Hope was never able to compete in the classics, but each time he ran in a south Florida stakes event he was the sentimental favorite and generated applause usually reserved for racing's elite. He was a part of the Rose family and will hold a special place in our hearts as south Florida's horse.

Larry Rudolph

Miami

Let's not get carried away about Point Given

This is in response to the July 14 letter "Point Given looks better as his peers race on," with a fan's assertion of how great a horse Point Given will be judged when history looks back at his career.

The writer argued that the 2001 class of 3-year-olds is turning up better as each week passes, citing Macho Uno, E Dubai, Mr. John, and Dollar Bill in particular. He forgot, however, to mention that Point Given did not race against E Dubai, Macho Uno, or Street Cry. And mentioning Dollar Bill is a desperate stretch. What has he won in 2002? An allowance race?

Who knows how Point Given might have fared in the Preakness, Belmont, Travers, or Haskell had he had the challenge of running against Street Cry or Macho Uno. My guess is that he certainly would not have won all four races.

Street Cry's historical impact will probably far surpass Point Given's season of beating up on mediocre 3-year-old-olds, especially if Street Cry goes on to win the Breeders' Cup Classic and returns for a 5-year-old campaign. Let's not forget that Street Cry embarrassed two horses - Congaree and Dollar Bill - in the Stephen Foster a few weeks ago that Point Given beat routinely last year.

If Point Given were ever destined to be remembered as great - mentioned in the same breath as Cigar or Seattle Slew - he never had a chance to display it because of his premature retirement. The competition he faced to that point was mediocre.

And, let's remember, Point Given did not win the greatest prize for a 3-year-old, one that might have stamped him as great: the Kentucky Derby.

Had Point Given taken on Tiznow in the Breeders' Cup and gone on to campaign this year against Street Cry or Macho Uno, he may have proven his fans correct, that he was indeed destined to be great. But for now, if we are to be unbiased in our analysis of Point Given, he cannot and shall not ever be considered great.

Barry Mark

Toronto, Ontario

Delaware Handicap merits a higher grade

I'm a keen racing fan who has been going to Delaware Park for over 40 years. It burns me up when I see races at other racetracks that have been accorded Grade 1 and 2 status, yet have less than half the purse value and have way less history than the Delaware Handicap. It is a disgrace to have this famous race rate only a Grade 3 event!

Victor Gelsi

Vineland, N.J.