08/28/2008 11:00PM

Letters to the Editor


American stables need more incentive for European trips

Alan Shuback's Aug. 24 column, "Atlantic crossing needn't be one-way path" raised some good points as to why Americans don't ship to Europe for their races, but left out two key reasons.

First, there is a plethora of Grade 1 races in the States versus easier competition. This is doubly true for females, who can make a lucrative career running against their own sex in the United States but would face the prospect of competing against males overseas. There is no incentive to ship to Europe when you can rack up Grade 1's at home with much greater ease, not to mention smaller fields.

Even more crucial, however, is the fact that many American breeders simply shrug their shoulders at a horse who has won a race of prestige on the turf. For example, Powerscourt, a well-bred and highly accomplished turf horse both in the United States and overseas, stands for $7,500, less than many pure sprinters, if for no other reason than that his offspring will go for less at auction than those of a sprinter/miler on dirt.

While the rise of synthetic tracks - and with them the need for horses with turf breeding - may change this, until we see better stud fees and auction prices for accomplished turf horses, there is just no sensible reason outside of "being a good sport" to send a horse to Europe.

Angelo Grasso - Chappaqua, N.Y.

Travers causes case of Mambo mania

In the days after last Saturday's Travers Stakes at Saratoga, my heart kept pumping very, very rapidly, and I kept looking over my shoulder to see if Mambo in Seattle were coming.

Wow. If that wasn't the best 3-year-old race of the year, then I must be from Pluto.

Curlin, Big Brown, Zenyatta, Colonel John - and anyone from the rest of the world coming over - best be prepared, because Mambo in Seattle is still a work in progress.. When he figures it all out, everyone else will be running for second from here on.

Wow. Thanks go out to the connections of Mambo in Seattle. It was a tough beat. To jockey Robby Albarado goes a reminder that they're not all Curlin - confidence is understood, but no premature celebration, please.

Thanks to Saratoga as well. When I saw a $105,000 trifecta earlier on the card, I should have known something special was coming.

Mambo in Seattle's next sure is something to look forward to.

Charles L. Conti - Boulder City, Nev.

Rail a fine transport to a beach party

Bing Crosby and friends got it right when they picked Del Mar for summer racing. Within a year of the 1937 opening, Crosby had arranged to bring trainloads of Los Angeles race fans directly to the track. The rails are still there.

Despite the Depression, train-traveling fans made Del Mar's races a financial success. The train to the track ended in the mid-1960s as new freeways and cheap gas made car commuting easier.

Everything has changed now. The economy is still not in Depression status, yet attendance on all but a few days has been significantly down. And those few days profile the track's new marketing idea - sell the place, not the race.

A microbrew festival and concerts by Gnarls Barkley and Ziggy Marley brought in crowds, but per-capita betting on the races dropped sharply. Why? Perhaps, as reported in the "Big crowd, big appetite" item in DRF's Aug. 13 Del Mar Notes, "The unmistakable aroma wafting through the air left them high on more than just life."

Legislation recently passed the California legislature that could add 14 days of racing to Del Mar, and the state benefits from double-digit millions of dollars yearly from takeout, breakage, and unclaimed tickets on Del Mar races.

The idea of reestablishing a train stop at Del Mar is not new. What is new is an attempt an attempt to tie a potential extra 14 days of racing to the financing of a train stop's estimated cost. Fourteen added days could mean millions more for the state just from betting. Concession revenue is on top of that.

Amtrak can bring Los Angeles and Orange County fans directly to the races, as trains do elsewhere in the country. This could be key once Hollywood Park closes in December 2009.

The construction of a train stop before the 2010 meet should be a priority, not just because it will bring fans, cut traffic, and decrease pollution. It should be done so celebrants responding to the track's marketing invite to come join the parties can have a safe ride home.

There are many places in Southern California where all ages can party, but there is only one Del Mar for horse racing.

Helen and Richard Nielsen-Eckfield - Carlsbad, Calif.

Del Mar puts on quite a show

Del Mar's simulcast signal stands alone and should be made standard in this era where the majority of players rely on video feeds. The production team uses its personnel to maximum advantage, and views from the paddock, parade, warm-ups, and heading to post are given in orderly fashion.

Bettors benefit, because, as essential as Daily Racing Form is for past performance, a good look at a field on race day is indicative of current health and happiness. Even owners who can't be at the track must appreciate a few looks at their runner, and fans who just enjoy the beauty of the breed are satisfied.

Kudos to a management that understands the focus is the horses and a crew that excels in showing them.

Tim O'Hagan Arcadia, Calif.

Classic exotic on anticlimactic side

What is up at Del Mar? It is a beautiful place to watch horse racing, but if the track has any aspirations to host a future Breeders' Cup, I would say "nay."

I can envision it now: a pick six starting with five graded races with the best horses on the planet, and after the Classic we would all sit on pins and needles in anticipation of the last leg, a seven-furlong contest, a first-level allowance with a $40,000 claiming option.

That is exactly what the nation was treated to last Sunday on Del Mar's biggest afternoon. If ever there were a natural pick four, it was staring everyone right in the face. Four graded races - one Grade 3, two Grade 2's, then the biggest race of the summer, the Grade 1 Pacific Classic. Del Mar, though, is racing with blinkers on. after a thrilling Classic, thanks to the powers that be, the final leg of the pick six and pick four somehow felt like a maiden-claiming event.

Rob Austin - Elizabeth, Colo.