04/22/2010 11:00PM

Letters to the Editor

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Santa Anita chief coped with crises and made fan's day

The meeting at Santa Anita just ended with some ups and downs ("Santa Anita attendance, handle fall," April 21), with the weather and the economy being the culprit when it came to the low points. Starting with a wet winter, Santa Anita lost a number of racing days, but even though there were a lot of rainy days, the track's president, Ron Charles, and his maintenance crew did a fantastic job of having the racing surface in very good shape under adverse conditions. The job they did resulted in a minimum number of days lost, and the betting public was treated to a fair track. Kudos to all involved.

Also, Charles is a great asset to the horse racing industry. He is not just a CEO, he is someone who is very, very committed to bring horse racing back to where it belongs.

I had the pleasure of meeting Charles in person and spending some time with him. I am just one of the little guys who have been racing fans for many years, yet Charles made time for me to discuss my ideas, complaints, and suggestions. How many CEOs would make time in their very busy schedules to listen to the little guy? Ron Charles did.

Racing needs more CEOs like Ron Charles so that racing can bring back the fans and once again be in the winner's circle.

Johnny Palmisano - Daly City, Calif.

Track emblematic of sport's downfall

Now that the 2009-2010 Santa Anita racing season is over, the California establishment must face stark reality.

It could be said that Santa Anita's steady decline has negatively impacted California racing more than any other factor. For too many years Santa Anita has done nothing to offset the resurgence seen by so many other racing jurisdictions. What we now watch at Santa Anita is the equivalent of someone going recklessly through a wealth of inheritance. Santa Anita should be ashamed of the daily programs it now puts forth. At least that is what the general public apparently thinks.

Currently Santa Anita has no distinction and merely blends into the landscape of too many racing centers. How sad. In years past Santa Anita set the table for the entire season of racing in California. Now it fails miserably. The Great Race Place must regain the distinction that once made it stand alone.

It is my contention that even if the programs of Hawthorne, Philadelphia Park, Mountaineer Park, or Turf Paradise were run at Santa Anita, the ontrack mutuel handle would have been greatly increased from what we seen this season Why? Because the betting public wants full fields of competitive racing of any quality, not the four-, five-, and six-horse fields Santa Anita regularly showcased.

Harry Hacek - Hollywood, Calif.

Offtrack surcharge an outmoded tax

I was surprised a few years ago when, staying near Saratoga, I watched a Capital District OTB channel on cable television and saw that their parimutuel prices reflected a 6-percent additional takeout. I had thought that this extra levy on the bettors was restricted to the New York City Off-Track Betting operation.

In New York City, any savvy bettor will pay the $5 admission to the fancier OTBs where that 6-percent surcharge doesn't exist, or open a phone account. After all, the first $95 in winnings at the regular windows would have been $100 in a nicer atmosphere, where decent food and drink - and better treatment from mutuel tellers - are available.

This ridiculous 6 percent surcharge only drives away bettors (and virtually eliminates any place or show betting, where the extra take has a monstrously negative impact) and hastens the depletion of the funds of the remaining bettors.

Therefore, any legislation accompanying any change in the structure of New York State's offtrack betting should immediately eliminate the 6-percent surcharge.

Richard Helfman - New York City