09/05/2008 12:00AM

Letters to the Editor


The man's no villain, but hold off on canonization

Regarding Andrew Beyer's Aug. 29 column on Jess Jackson, "Miscast as racing's villain," here is a slightly different take on this great sportsman.

Jackson might have loved to retire Curlin after his Breeders' Cup Classic victory, but Curlin did not establish his greatness until the fall. Indeed, after the Haskell, many doubted him.

Meanwhile, Darley had jumped the gun by announcing that Street Sense, Hard Spun, and Any Given Saturday would all be retiring after their 3-year-old years to stand at Darley's Kentucky stud farm. Curlin would then be the last kid on the block to retire, could not command nearly as high a starting stud fee in the crowded market, and had already lost an opportunity at many good mares already ticketed for the other three.

Moreover, with that trio and Lawyer Ron gone for 2008, Jackson knew Curlin would have no opposition for most of the year. Then he could be retired at a huge fee, since he was portrayed as horse of the planet. Still, Jackson couldn't resist the money and sent him to Dubai. His claim that he was keeping Curlin in training for the racing fans of America seems pretty shallow, since the Dubai trip and a proposed one to the Japan Cup Dirt would deprive them of a chance to see Curlin in more than 40 percent of his starts this year.

Rather than hear the talk about a try at the Arc as another daring gesture, I think it was a smoke screen about his absolute fear of running Curlin on a synthetic surface in the Breeders' Cup and risking his stud value.

I may be a cynic, but after following this sport for 40 years, can one be anything but?

Jerry Klein - Albany, Calif.

Calendar change could aid youths

I have an idea that I think could only help reduce Thoroughbred injuries. I hope someone considers it worthwhile.

Presently, every Thoroughbred's birthday is considered as Jan. 1 of the year they were born. Mares are locked in stalls under lights to fake them into fertile cycles early in the year so that foals are born earlier than they naturally would, so that their actual birth date is closer to Jan. 1

I propose to change the arbitrary birthday of Thoroughbreds to a date closer to what their natural birth date (without man's intervention) would be, such as July 4.

Early breeding could be discouraged by saying that foals born before April 1 of the year are 1 year old on July 4 of that year. Foals born on or after April 1 of the year are 0 years old on July 4th of that year.

As a result, Thoroughbreds will have more time to mature before the Kentucky Derby. There would likely be, therefore, fewer injuries.

Presently, breeders don't want to chance having a foal born before Jan. 1, so they target seven to nine weeks after that, or about March 1. So at the Kentucky Derby, the horse is typically about 3 years, 2 months old (or 3 years, 4 months old maximum).

With my proposal, breeders won't want to chance having a foal born before April 1, so they would target seven to nine weeks after April 1, or about June 1. So Kentucky Derby runners would be typically about 3 years, 11 months old (or 4 years, 1 month old maximum).

Officially, Thoroughbreds will still be 3-year-olds for the Triple Crown races (whereas races after July 4 that are presently for 3-year-olds would have to change to being for 4-year-olds). Adding six months to a Thoroughbred's arbitrary birthday would add about nine months to his maturity before a Triple Crown attempt. I don't think nine extra months of maturity will decrease the difficulty of the Triple Crown, but only decrease the probability of injury.

Edward C. Sharp - Wilmore, Ky.

Triple Crown needs modern thinking

In the best interest of the betting public, owners, trainers, horses, and all who are involved in racing, I submit a much-needed revision of the Triple Crown, which could cut down on a huge amount of injuries and establish a future for many Thoroughbreds, hopefully making star-quality runners at ages 3, 4, and 5.

My Triple Crown format would be as follows: The Kentucky Derby at 1 1/4 miles, with runners carrying 120 pounds, the Preakness would follow three weeks later at 1 3/16 miles with runners carrying 120 pounds. The Belmont Stakes would be three weeks after that, at its traditional 1 1/2 miles, but with runners carrying 118 pounds rather than the 126 that is standard in Triple Crown races at the moment.

Over the years, the rigors of the Triple Crown have taken a toll on the participants, limiting their careers. For example, between the dual Kentucky Derby-Travers victories of Thunder Gulch in 1995 and Street Sense last year, no Kentucky Derby winner even started in the Travers.

Baseball adopted interleague play, bringing an idea rooted in 1903 into the 21st century, with great success. Racing, too must, change. Perhaps the Triple Crown deaths of Barbaro and Eight Belles could have been avoided. A good effort would both appease animal rights groups and help the racing industry, benefiting the horses in the process.

The time has come.

Gus Fornato - Manchester, N.J.