09/19/2002 11:00PM

Letters to the Editor


Weight scale should reflect modern reality

I am saddened to hear of the many physical problems ex-jockey Randy Romero is experiencing, when, in fact, it seems most of his health problems could have been avoided.

In this age of sports, athletes are bigger, faster, and stronger than ever. This is largely because of advanced training techniques that are directly linked to much-improved nutritional understanding of how to fuel the body more effectively and efficiently, with professional nutritionists a must. Heck, even our equine stars are physically stronger and faster than their predecessors because of nutritional and training advancements.

My question is, why - with all our advancements in the health field, and our knowledge of the advantages of proper nutrition and diet - do we allow our Thoroughbred jockeys to deny their bodies proper nutrition, and, for lack of a better term, starve themselves?

Romero is not the first jock, and certainly will not be the last, to suffer from eating disorders as a result of trying to make weight and be able to secure mounts for a livelihood. Why not change the conditions of all Thoroughbred races so our jocks do not have to starve themselves, basically, to make weight, and suffer countless problems down the road linked to improper nutrition?

Surely another five to 10 pounds on a 1,200-pound animal will not be too much of a burden to these finely bred animals. So maybe times of races will be a bit slower, but, if it would make these greatly underappreciated athletes live a longer, healthier, and more enjoyable life, I think everyone would benefit.

This wonderful game is ruled by the small-time jocks, not the Baileys, Stevenses, and Days who make the headlines weekly. The 25 or so jocks in the jockey room at Emerald Downs, Woodbine, or Pimlico on a daily basis need to be taken care of, and letting them take care of their bodies in a healthier manner is, in my opinion, the least we can do.

Tom Fleming

Hicksville, N.Y.

Owners owe trainers respect, not just day rates

The article announcing Chuck Simon's split with owner Ken Ramsey (Sept. 13) provided further evidence that owners need to get a clue and start respecting trainers for their dedication, hard work, and success.

Since Chuck Simon became his primary trainer, Ken Ramsey has accomplished his egotistical goal of being "leading owner" several times.

It is important to note that he was able to accomplish this without the help of fancy yearling and 2-year-old prospects, but with broken-down claimers and second-rate allowance horses.

Simon did a masterful job getting less-than-perfect horses to perform at their peak in such major venues as Kentucky and Saratoga. Yet for all his success, Mr. Ramsey never allowed Chuck the luxury of training his expensive purchases. Those horses ended up with a bevy of other trainers who may be more popular in the press but are far less effective on the racetrack.

Many of these prospects are now retired because of injury, or have yet to make an impact in the win column. Mr. Ramsey claims his latest decision to move a first-out Saratoga winner to D. Wayne Lukas was "a business decision," but fails to see the significance in the message that he sends to his trainer and to other owners.

Similarly, Jack Wolf sent the same negative message to Ken McPeek when he moved Harlan's Holiday to the barn of Todd Pletcher. Are these owners frustrated by the rarity of success that the Thoroughbred business inherently brings? I am certain Chuck is grateful for the opportunity Mr. Ramsey gave him, but frustrated by the fact that his success was rewarded with betrayal.

Anthony J. Perrotta, Jr.

Cornerstone Stable

Bait-and-switch bettors should be cut off

I have seen a rising trend developing at some of the smaller tracks around the country, and I hope something will be done about it, because it is a problem. I have seen many horses open up at 1-5 with $1,000-2,000 or so bet on them, only to see that money later canceled out and people left chasing the ghost of what they perceived to be "smart early money."

I can't count the number of times I've seen a horse open up with more money to win on it than it has when the pools close. People can cancel up to a $1,500 ticket where I play with no questions, and a good customer can cancel whatever he wants, so it's easy to get 1,500 false dollars bet on a horse.

The tracks really need to crack down on habitual cancelers. I mean, everyone makes a mistake now and then, but not two or three a day. Not being one to follow the crowd, I haven't been affected, but I'm sure it has unknowingly affected a lot of people. It's kind of like the old scam people used to run at small harness tracks, where they would bet $1,200 to win on a horse, keep the $200 bet and cancel the $1,000 as the horses were going behind the gate. People laid off the 1-5 shot, seeking value, and often bet more than they normally would because of the inflated value on the other horses. Then when the gates opened, the horse in question went from 1-5 to 5-2, and the scammers got $7 on a horse who, had he been 5-2, would have been an overlay and bet down.

Tracks really need to curb this activity. The great game of racing doesn't need any more suspicions cast its way.

Robert Clayton

Elkton, Md.

Steroid use unlikely to disappear

Regarding the Aug. 18 article, "Steroids: Common but controversial." Steroids are just like any other drug: Once the genie is out of the bottle it cannot be put back in. As for regulation, who is going to fund it? As for the testing, what would it prove? Unscrupulous trainers and veterinarians would only switch to something that cannot yet be detected.

Face it, steroids are here to stay. The industry has created a Frankenstein in the name of greed. That drug use so permeates racing and breeding is the result of a win-at-any-price mentality.

Racing is long past being a sport for kings and is now a laboratory for greed and its associates

Eugene Kocsis

Ocala, Fla.

A part of racing's magic gone from Monmouth

Magical things can happen at a racetrack: a great stretch drive, a winning trifecta ticket. The track can be a great place to meet people and, even more, a great place to work with people who become very dear friends.

I am writing in memory of someone I was lucky enough to work with at beautiful Monmouth Park. His name was Bert Sichel, and I had the pleasure of his company for a little over three years at the Finish Line Welcome Center. I am very part-time, and Bert was my boss. He did not like to be called that; we were there to have fun, and we did. In between, we helped patrons with betting questions, raised money for the Don MacBeth Fund, and just made sure everyone at the races found what they were looking for.

Monmouth Park lost a great friend and so did I on Aug. 31. He lasted until the end of the meet, almost watching over us without being there. He will always be watching in spirit. God bless you, Bert. You will never be forgotten.

Lisa Kryston

Tinton Falls, N.J.