10/17/2002 11:00PM

Letters to the Editor


Zero tolerance for medication doesn't add up

Stan Bergstein's Oct. 10 column, "New drug rules not nearly enough," on Kentucky medication rules, indicated, as usual, that his glass on this subject is half-empty, that is if there's anything in it at all. Kentucky, which has just cut the number of raceday medications permitted from not the 16 that Bergstein cites but well over that number to just five, deserves at least a little credit for coming more in line with other states, a number of which currently permit between two and four raceday medications.

Bergstein, as usual, is looking for all the "rocket fuel" that his friends on the backside of harness tracks tell him is out there, as he admitted at an Association of Racing Commissioners International convention earlier this year. If he could just identify what these "rocket fuels" actually are, it would be much easier to develop tests for their detection. Bergstein feels all our research efforts should be geared "to discover rocket fuel now being used in horses," and not in establishing thresholds on medications. Evidently this means that he feels meaningless trace-level detection of therapeutic medications at nanogram and sometimes picogram levels should continue as regulators fine and suspend trainers and needlessly take purses from owners, because a detection at any level is a positive in most states.

It is interesting to note that the "respected non-Kentuckian" who advised the Kentucky Racing Commission in this limitation on raceday medications has 31 such thresholds in place in his home state of Ohio. Stan doesn't believe in thresholds on contaminates either, presumably supporting states like Florida that call detection of cocaine and morphine at five parts per billion or less. By the way, among Ohio's 31 thresholds are decision levels for the environmental contaminates cocaine, morphine, and caffeine of 150 nanograms per milliliter, 50 ng/ml, and 100 ng/ml, respectively.

If Bergstein were the czar of racing with his stance of absolutely no raceday medication and no thresholds on therapeutic medications - even ones that can be detected for months in a horse's urine, we could look forward to numerous "positives" every race day, thus driving owners out of the business while horses are "drawn" and deprived of food and water for a day or two before they run to curtail episodes of exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhaging (bleeding). Bergstein's paranoia about "rocket fuel" would finally cease, because there would be no racing.

Kent H. Stirling

Chairman, Medication Committee,

National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association

Pleasantly Perfect ruling an abuse of states' rights

So . . . Pleasantly Perfect will not be allowed to run in the Breeders' Cup because he bled through the nose at Santa Anita when he won the Goodwood ("'Perfect' out of Classic," Oct. 16), and the rules in Illinois forbid him to compete for 30 days. In California, however, where the incident occurred, Pleasantly Perfect would be on the veterinarian's list for only 14 days.

Pleasantly Perfect raced in California, though, and therefore he should not be subject to Illinois rules. Rules should be applied only in the state of the race or infraction. If a jockey gets suspended in New York for a riding infraction, should Illinois stewards be able to increase the number of days the rider gets?

This is just another glaring incident in racing that continues to bring to the forefront the need for continuity in rules, policies, and medication in all jurisdictions. In the short run, the Illinois Racing Board has committed an injustice, not only to all race fans and gamblers, but to the connections of Pleasantly Perfect, now done for the year.

Thomas A. Noone

Redondo Beach, Calif.

Nine-year-old deserves chance for ride into sunset

I am 26 years old and have been attending Maryland racing my entire life. Recently I have watched from the stands in disgust, as I am forced to watch the daily mistreatment of an animal within the Maryland horse community.

I write in hopes that someone in the racing community can help put an end to current plight of Alongcametheprince, a 9-year-old gelding. On a regular basis "the Prince" is humiliated, entered routinely in Maryland only to be beaten soundly by superior competition.

Most of the time the horse is running in spots (such as on Sept. 6, a maiden special weight on the turf ) where he has no chance of winning and is lucky if he beats a single horse. He has amassed a record to date of 50 starts, no wins, one second, and three thirds. He has earnings of $16,170 in a career that is now in its seventh year. In the past year he has recorded losses of the following margins: 21 lengths, 8, 37 1/4, 21 1/4, 16 1/2, 17 1/4, 32, 5 1/2, distanced, and 36 1/2 lengths.

On occasion, Alongcametheprince has been entered versus winners, and what is more disgusting is that the Maryland Jockey Club allowed this to occur. On June 16 he ran at Pimlico in a $25,000 claiming event for nonwinners-of-three lifetime. Let's get real. How does Maryland racing allow this? To no one's surprise, he lost by more than 21 lengths.

Another entry of Alongcametheprince was halted at the gate, on Aug. 17, as he was a veterinarian's scratch at the gate because he was unfit to run.

More recently, on Sept. 19, Alongcametheprince ran the race of his career, finishing second in a maiden $8,000 claimer at 18-1. Some may have been encouraged by his performance, but I believe it could hurt him in the long run. His owner/trainer may have been led to believe that "the Prince" is an improved runner, as he ran him in him against $12,500 maiden competition at Delaware on Oct. 9, where he was fourth, 13 1/4 lengths behind the winner.

Alongcametheprince obviously does not belong on the racetrack and does not deserve to be humiliated. He deserves to be put on a farm to enjoy the remainder of his life, not be embarrassed weekly. It is very obvious he was not created to be a racehorse, as he is rarely competitive, and at age 9 he is not going to get any faster.

Please, someone step up and save this animal.

Mark DeFabio

Bel Air, Md.

Fourstardave: One for the ages

To my friend Fourstardave:

When I was younger, in high school and later in college, I thought that you would last forever. In 1994, as I sat on a bale of straw in front of your stall, I was faced with the reality that perhaps you really were mortal. You were the embodiment of courage and intelligence in a sport that demands nothing less from all of its participants.

In an era where sentimentality and nostalgia have become more of a bane than a blessing, I cannot help think of you and remember the good old days. There were many memorable races and they are all vividly implanted in my mind. I know that you are in horse heaven, possibly speaking with Seattle Slew and regaling each other with your tales of bravery. You gave us your trust, your heart, and finally your soul. I will forever cherish your memory.

Rest in peace, my friend.

Keith Leo O'Brien

Garden City, N.Y.

Earnings count only at cashier's window

There has been too much emphasis put by the stat-keepers of Thoroughbred racing on jockey earnings. It doesn't lure fans.

The darlings of $1 and $2 bettors are the jockeys who win races. Fans don't give a darn about money won.

Lou DeFichy

Seaford, N.Y.