08/09/2002 12:00AM

Letters to the Editor


Haskell fee typifies state's business sense

I once again have been completely amazed by the management at the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, the operators of Monmouth Park. This time they gave Bob Baffert an appearance fee of $50,000 to bring War Emblem to Monmouth Park for the Haskell.

One would think that the trainer of the heavy favorite would have no problem showing up for free and spending a nice afternoon running against five overmatched horses and taking home $600,000. But the authority felt it was necessary to give $50,000 to Bob Baffert (whom I like and think is a good spokesman for the sport) to spend a day at beautiful Monmouth Park.

This is the same management that is allowing New Jersey racing to die a slow, painful death, the same group that has bungled (or sabotaged) the implementation of phone wagering and offtrack betting in the state when the citizens voted its approved almost three years ago.

I have not missed a Haskell since 1984, but I would like to let Monmouth management know that I am thinking of skipping the 2003 Haskell. For an appearance fee of $50,000, however, I will make sure to be there.

Joseph DeRogatis

Whitehouse Station, N.J.

Jersey racing honchos throw money into the wind

Can things get any worse in New Jersey? Monmouth Park offers a $1 million Haskell purse and the racing establishment scoffs. So Monmouth offers Bob Baffert $50,000 to accept the winner's share. How pathetic.

The way this Jersey resident sees it, the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority suffers from the same malady that affects the Rutgers University football program. It wants to compete in Division I but proves year after year that it cannot. In fact, Monmouth is no longer horse racing's second banana in the Northeast behind the New York Racing Association - Delaware Park has taken over that position.

If the people in charge of the state's racing had a clue, the authority and the New Jersey Racing Commission would start spending money implementing programs that actually have a chance of improving Thoroughbred racing in New Jersey. Namely, phone betting and offtrack betting parlors.

The increased handle made possible by phone betting and OTB's could be enjoyed by all year-round. In contrast, begging people from out of state to come in and take $1,050,000 (local horses do not hit the board in the Haskell) yields nothing but 45,000 turnstile-spinning "fans" out for free baseball caps, the vast majority of whom will not set foot in a New Jersey racetrack until the next Haskell.

New York, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and California (to name a few states) realized a long time ago that live attendance cannot support an attractive purse structure. There are too many options out there to expect people to drive a distance to a racetrack in 2002. Unfortunately, this simple fact is lost on the political appointees in charge of racing in New Jersey.Gregg Gray

Willingboro, N.J.M