09/26/2002 11:00PM

Letters to the editor



Racing can gain by following NCAA example

As a jockey who has had to watch my weight for almost 30 years, and as the current secretary of The Jockeys' Guild, I had both concern and a chuckle when I read the Sept. 22 article "Rethinking the scale of weights."

The concern stemmed from personally experiencing and witnessing the daily battle most jockeys have with their weight. The chuckle came from the cyclic argument of raising the scale of weights. This argument has been going on as long as jockeys have stepped on weight scales. It will continue to go on whether the scale of weights is raised or not.

The problem is that this industry as a whole has never admitted to, and, therefore has never taken a serious approach to solving a deadly practice. When weight reducing is occasionally publicly exposed, there has been too much focus on the actual weights and no real attempts in developing a solution. Fortunately for the racing industry, another sport where the athletes have also abused their bodies to compete at specific weights has admitted to and remedied this very same problem: amateur wrestling. In 1997, three collegiate wrestlers died from weight reducing. The National Collegiate Athletic Association immediately raised the weights by seven pounds and commissioned a study. The NCAA did an outstanding job in developing and implementing a solution to this grave problem. They first developed a common goal, the NCAA Weight Management Resolution:

"As leaders in wrestling, we are dedicated to maximizing the safety of athletes who participate in the sport. Traditionally, this sport has depended upon weight to assure competitive fairness. We resolve to consider both weight and other alternative measures to maintain competitive equity in the sport. In order for this to be achieved in a fair, responsible and practical way, we resolve to:

* Promote safe and responsible weight control practices to avoid risking the health of the participants.

* Constantly monitor and evaluate rules and procedures to make sure they effectively achieve these goals;

* Educate coaches, athletes, parents, and fans about proper weight management strategies;

* Stress technique, strength, fitness, skill, experience and strategy as the most effective methods to achieve success in wrestling."

This resolution and the ensuing Weight Management Program developed by the NCAA would work perfectly for horse racing. Without going into the details of the program, it involves a minimum percentage of body fat and weight certification. The NCAA rules can be read online at: www.ncaa.org/library/rules.html#wrestling.

This has been a model program and is being adopted by international wrestling associations, and more importantly, state high school wrestling associations.

Without trying to prolong the old argument, I would like to make a quick comment. The tracks are in command of the weights and encourage jockeys to make weight by providing saunas, steam rooms, whirlpools, and heaving stalls. Commissions regulate the weights by means of fines and/or removal from mounts. Horse owners employ jockeys many times by requiring a jockey reduce to a specific weight. All three profit directly when jockeys ride.

Who, then, is liable if a severely dehydrated jockey injures him or her self, or another jockey? Substitute alcohol for dehydration and go ask any bar owner the same question. I would hope that the tracks, horse owners, and the commissions would see the obvious answer to the question and run to the Guild to help resolve this deadly problem.

Robert Colton

Secretary, The Jockeys' Guild, Inc.

Tip the scale in majority's favor

Having owned, bred, and raced horses over the past 15 years, and having worked in the racing industry for the past 20, I would like to comment on the weight controversy.

God bless Pat Day, and all the jocks who can make the weight, but he and the other few are in the minority. There are more jocks who can't make the weight then those who can. D. Wayne Lukas is living in a dream world. A couple of extra pounds will not harm a horse. Bad trainers harm horses, not two or three pounds. How many exercise riders weigh in at 110? Not many, I say.

How many older horses does Mr. Lukas have in training, still able to run? Not many, I venture to guess. Mr. Lukas is considered a great trainer by many; he wins a lot of races and money. But when it comes to the horses he runs that don't win, is it really because of the weight they carry, or could it be possible they are sore to begin with?

Weight is a never-ending problem. I think it's past time to recognize that, and to adjust the scale accordingly.

Elaine M. Willis

Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

Horses won't suffer from new standards

As a racing fan for 35 years and as an owner, I totally support raising the weight scale for jockeys. For D. Wayne Lukas to say that he can't support it because of the horses is unbelievable.

A majority of exercise riders on any backstretch are 130 pounds or more. The horses have more miles with the heavier riders by far than the 10 to 12 races they run in a year.

It's time to support the jockeys.

Michael R. Vaillancourt

Fredericksburg, Va.

Riders should recognize when enough's enough

Jockeys are tremendous athletes and heroes just to get on top of these high-strung animals. But how dare a jockey get on a horse if he may not give his best performance because he may be weak from weight reduction? If a rider cannot perform to the best of his abilities, he must find another career, and the trainers need to find another jockey.

Riders should reflect upon their achievements and remember when they carried an apprentice allowance to an advantage. No career is permanent. Jobs are hard to find, let alone keep. People make sacrifices every day.

I say boo to those who support the weight increase. If it is your time to leave the sport, do so gracefully.

Bob Roland

Allentown, Pa.

Breeders' Cup has to do future wager homework

The manner in which the Breeders' Cup future bet has been conceived and handled illustrates the difference between those who operate betting in England versus the United States.

In England, bookies must know their horses and their connections. Nothing is left to chance.

In America, apparently everything is based on guesswork. See, for instance, "Miss Houdini out before bet" in the Sept. 27 Racing Form.

Those responsible for selecting which horses will comprise the list of bettable entrants should make every effort not only to learn which horses plan to run, but also how they are doing.

It should not rely on a conscientious trainer like Elliott Walden to phone Arlington Park to alert officials that his filly Awesome Humor is out of the Breeders' Cup.

Nor should it be up to an owner like myself to alert Arlington officials that Team Valor has no intention of running Added Edge in the Breeders' Cup.

If somebody plans to accept bets on a sporting event, they owe it to the betting public to give them some kind of chance to make a buck.

Barry Irwin, Team Valor

Versailles, Ky.