04/04/2010 11:00PM

Letters to the Editor

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Florida Derby shift a losing move for fans and track

Does Magna Entertainment Corp. have any idea of the disappointment and hardship it created for some of racing's most ardent and invested fans when it changed the date of the Florida Derby from March 27 to March 20?

Florida Derby Day had an announced date of March 27 since last August, plenty of time for out-of-town fans to make travel arrangements. But in mid-November, just a few weeks before the meet, the date of the race was changed, leaving it six weeks before the Kentucky Derby, abandoning the five-week interval that produced produced Barbaro and Big Brown, winners of both races.

The date change surely contributed to the top three finishers from the Fountain of Youth skipping Gulfstream's marquee race, crippling the quality of the Florida Derby - a major lure for Northerners to visit Gulfstream - and making a once-great race a Grade 2 at best.

Closer to home, those who don't breathe a billionaire's air, and who can't stick all-expense-paid trips to shareholders, were forced either to cancel or reschedule flights, at significant expense.

The clear winner in Magna's decision was obviously Churchill Downs Inc., which once again picked Magna's pocket: Churchill-owned Fair Grounds challenged the March 27 date with its Louisiana Derby, and ultimately won the battle of wills in quick order, taking over the five-week spot before the Kentucky Derby.

Another Churchill/Fair Grounds victory: Positioning the Louisiana Derby on the initial program of NBC's series of national telecasts of Kentucky Derby prep races. And kicking the Florida Derby out of that spot.

Hoodwinked again.

Bob Smollen - Aventura, Fla.

Foley was among racing's solid souls

My condolences, sympathy, and prayers go out to all the survivors of Dravo Foley ("Former trainer Dravo Foley dies," April 1).

In my eyes, Dravo was a true horseman, one who forgot more than some of the trainers today will ever know. I will never forget watching Jeanie's Fancy win at Ellis Park while I was standing on the backside by the rail. She energized the Ellis Park crowd big-time.

I felt like Dravo was a major ambassador for the racing in Kentucky. He, along with the late veterinarian Alex Harthill, racing secretary Jerry Botts, chart-caller Cliff Guilliams, and trainers John Churchman and James Keefer, just to name a few, were some of the best people I ever met in my life. It was an honor to be a part of racing with him.

Patrick A. Johnson - Kentwood, Mich.

Cup should stop pressing juveniles

The time has come to eliminate the two-day Breeders' Cup format that has diluted what was once a special day into a largely inconsequential mediocrity.

Bear in mind that the so-called sport of kings in North America is supposed to be cleaning up its act and changing the quick-fix, speed-loving commercial aspect of its bloodstock industry that has tarnished the reputation of the American-bred Thoroughbred. That being the case, perhaps this marquee day, the brainchild of the late John Gaines, should revert to just that, and the 2-year-old races should be eliminated.

This would ensure high-quality championship races with proven competitors, and no longer would so many promising young horses be forced into action too soon by purses that, in retrospect, many do not deserve.

Just a notion, but when one observes 7- and 8-year-olds from South America, with splendid old-fashioned staying pedigrees (many from the breeding heritage of the great Marcel Boussac and Aga Khan), traveling overseas to win the world's best races, it's time to do some soul-searching.

Evan James - Toronto