12/06/2002 1:00AM

Letters to the editor



Fans seduced and abandoned by Rockingham

I am writing in disgust over Rockingham Park's decision to switch to harness racing ("In '03, Rockingham to be harness-only," Dec. 4). Rockingham already slapped fans in the face with the announcement that racing would end after 2004, and now this. They can't even let Thoroughbreds run for the time remaining. I wish they would just shut it down, take the profits and get out of town.

Better, though, would be for a company like like Magna Entertainment or Churchill Downs to buy the track and show the current management that racing can succeed here. But the Rockingham management is too stubborn to sell to someone in the industry that actually might know what they're doing.

It will be a sad day for me: no more Rocking-

ham Park to enjoy my summers at. All we have left is Suffolk Downs, where the management is great but the building and atmosphere around the place are depressing. I guess it's time to give up, like most all race fans have, and look for other entertainment.

Shawn Dyer

Nashua N.H.

Weld portrait just began to tell story of greatness

Jay Hovdey's Dec. 4 column, "Matriarch another thrill for Weld," was not only on the mark but a long time coming.

Particularly considering that Dermot Weld has no huge owner like Coolmore, what he has accomplished in his career, and this year in particular, is remarkable. In the last 90 days he has won Grade and Group 1's on more continents than many top trainers win on their own continent in their lifetime. He has beaten $6 million yearlings in 2-year-old Group 1's, he has captured an Australian prize that no one else from the Northern Hemisphere ever has (and done it twice), and he has beaten Golden Apples, our best, with a 3-year-old. Jazz Beat was beaten a nose in the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes, or this would be even more unbelievable.

The greatest trainer of our generation and clearly the best international trainer of all time, Weld was known in America only for training Go and Go, winner of the 1990 Belmont Stakes - until Hovdey's column. Still, more detail is needed to make this remarkable talent fully known to the American public.

Brian Russell

Jeffersonville, Ind.

Wild ride brings out the best of New York

New York is famous for a lot of things: some good, some not so good. But one thing I know, as living proof, is that our outriders at Belmont are the best in the universe.

Only an exercise rider can truly understand the danger and risk that go with galloping racehorses. We see it and feel it every day. I would just like the racing world to know how grateful I am of the work all the outriders do at the track. They are our saving graces.

The other day, a very tough filly I gallop was just three strides into her trip when I felt something snap. The snaffle part of the ring bit broke. It was attached to a set of draw reins. I found myself grabbing for more rein and ended up with the whole darn bridle in my hands. So off we went, two-minute-licking the right way heading towards the outside fence.

I assure you, it was the most exciting two minutes of my life, and I did a lot of thinking the first part of it! Not only was my outrider a hero, but every rider on that track at that moment was terrific. They worked together to get off the rail and out of the way. Even enemies become friends if for just a moment. No one wants anyone to get hurt out there.

And for you old-timers who don't believe in nose bands (me included) it may save your riders' and horses' life one day. It was the one and only piece of equipment my outrider had to catch us.

The more I think about what could have happened, the more I appreciate the fact that I was sitting in the saddle this morning.

Maria Mann

Elmont, N.Y.

Churchill closing policy sets up a clear choice

The decision by Churchill Downs management to close their betting windows with zero minutes to post was a terrible one.

First off, many serious bettors, including myself, like to make their bets when the horses are entering or nearing the starting gate. This way we can see how the horses are acting and if they become washed out or erratic just before or while loading. This is particularly important in races for 2-year-olds.

The stated idea is that with this new rule, odds will not change after a race has begun. Wouldn't the majority of players prefer to be able to make a bet rather than worry if the odds change after the race starts? Sure, a horse who is supposed to be a favorite in a race will have his odds change, but when a horse is 4-1 with a minute to go and pays $15 after the race you don't hear anyone complain.

This is like a casino closing bets at a roulette table two minutes before they spin the ball.

It is also disgraceful that a patron cannot cancel or change their bets after zero minutes to post. Why should the bettors, the bread and butter of this game, be punished unfairly like this? You can't blame people for turning to slots or other forms of gambling when people like Churchill management treats their players this way.

I applaud Magna Entertainment for not changing and allowing bettors to bet until the starting gate opens. So now we have a major choice - to bet tracks owned by Magna or other tracks who respect their patrons or the circus that Churchill currently is.

Ron Haymes

Welland, Ontario

Management too often has had head in sand

I have read a lot about the pick six scam, which quickly turned into the pick four scam, and then the uncashed ticket scam. Now the latest is potential ticket-canceling after the horses have left the gate ("NYRA closes another potential loophole in tote security," Nov. 27).

The obvious fact being ignored is that management in the racing industry just wasn't running its business properly. The Nov. 3 letter "Classic upset opened case" thanking Volponi for exposing the scammers was just another example of not getting the picture. When an industry depends on a 40-1 shot to expose problems in its business, that indicates that management is just too lazy or disconnected to protect its future.

How many times have you walked through the grandstand where the fans were cursing at the screen because the odds on the leading three horses were falling like rocks as the race turned for home? I'm sure that when track officials were snug in their boxes they didn't think much about it. And when they went to their private windows to make their last-minute bets, I'm sure they

didn't really care that the gate had opened but the ticket seller was still deciding what tickets to keep.

The people of America are sick of the scams being exposed. The only thing that can make it worse is if management continues to permit a scam after it has been exposed and ignores the problem.

Mike Wolfington

Dillon, Mont.

Thanks to Stronach,top blood will stay home

Say what you want about Frank Stronach and his business deals, but one thing this guy knows is how to breed runners. Touch Gold and Awesome Again are off to super starts at stud ("First crop looking a little awesome," Nov. 21).

Stronach could have sold out to the Japanese, but he didn't, so we will get to see these two sire runners for years to come.

Steve DeMichele

Utica, N.Y.