10/09/2008 11:00PM

Letters to the editor


Owners do much to find homes for retired racers

I would like to add a thought or two to Steven Crist's Oct. 5 column, "If dog racing is voted out, horses could be next."

In addition to the "few angelic organizations" that look out for the welfare of Thoroughbreds, I think it's appropriate to mention that the vast majority of owners recognize the legitimate responsibility that we have as stewards of these animals. We try our best to see that our horses are not only well cared for during their racing careers but are either pensioned off or given new homes with people who love them after their careers are over.

I can speak personally about this, being an owner myself, as I have never sold a horse to be slaughtered and have taken pains and expense to place my horses as previously mentioned.

However, Mr. Crist's column notwithstanding, I have found the racing media very reluctant to expose the abusers that do exist. As a columnist myself, I have written stories about abused horses and have named names, only to have those stories rejected outright or edited to the extent that the names of the trainers and owners were not used, which of course defeats the purpose. While I realize the legal hornet's nest that may be stirred up by these stories, the fact remains that if we are not going to rid ourselves of the people who see horses only as units of investment and consider themselves to be livestock brokers, the danger of losing our sport because of lawsuits that are brought by well funded, radical animal-rights activists is every bit as real as Mr. Crist suggests.

The existence of the charitable foundations whose purpose is to facilitate the placement of retired racers may not be as effective as the industrywide programs we need, but they still leave no excuse for owners and trainers who claim to love the horses in their charge to do right by them. Hopefully, the conversation started by the antislaughter movement and continued in Daily Racing Form by Mr. Crist will allow us to keep moving in the right direction.

Timothy Vana

Des Plaines, Ill.

Patterson a symbol of sport's good side

I had the privilege to spend time with Dennis Patterson, the focus of Jay Hovdey's Oct. 3 column, "Piece of history about to crumble," during the final year of racing at Bay Meadows. Dennis and his sons define the term "horsemen." In this era where handle is declining, the sport's stars are rushed to the breeding shed, and breakdowns mar the game's image, the Patterson family symbolizes all that's right with horse racing.

Like many horsemen throughout the country, Patterson doesn't seek fame or Eclipse Awards. He's just happy to have the opportunity to make a living training Thoroughbred horses.

Bay Meadows became like a second family to me, especially after I got to know people like the Pattersons. Our home may have been taken away, but the sense of community is still there in Northern California, partially due to the presence of the Pattersons.

Jon Forbes

Little Silver, N.J.

Earnings record lacks meaning

One of the most ridiculous comparisons used to compare racehorses of different eras is the "money earned" statistic. Much fanfare has been made of the fact that Curlin has just set the money-earned record for North American Thoroughbreds, as if that distinction has any meaning. It may, in relation to horses that have run in the past two or three years, but it has nothing to do with the ability of racehorses of past eras.

For instance, Secretariat won the Triple Crown decisively in 1973, when the total purse of the Kentucky Derby was $198,800. Curlin finished eight lengths behind Street Sense in 2007 and earned $200,000, while Secretariat earned only $150,050 for winning the race in a dominating fashion. The same can be said of the 1973 Preakness, when the total purse was $150,000-added and the 2007 Preakness offered a purse of $1,000,000. Curlin finished second to a filly in his attempt to win the Belmont Stakes and earned much more than Secretariat did when he made his magnificent run in 1973.

Total earnings tell us nothing about a horse's ability, unless compared only against the horses they are competing against.

Vincent Grabinsky

Babylon, N.Y.