05/28/2010 12:00AM

Letters to the Editor


California needs to accommodate smaller interests

The chickens are finally coming home to roost. Both Golden Gate and Hollywood Park are having trouble filling race cards. It is not because the sport's most prominent owners don't have horses to run. Racing organizations and committees have been dominated by big-time owners and trainers to the point where the little guy has no representation. The average owner can't stay in the business because of increasing expenses in the era of decreasing purses. Unfortunately, no one represents the one- or two-horse stable. Who can afford to race bottom-level claimers on any circuit and keep their heads above water? Nobody.

People in the positions of power in racing better plan for the little guy to be able to sustain his stable, or the cancellation of midweek racing programs will be a weekly occurrence. As a lifetime player, owner, and breeder, I am very worried.

Frank Lewkowitz - Paradise Valley, Ariz.

Jersey experiment no sure thing

The Monmouth meet has opened with great fanfare, and its architects for this "boutique" meet have been labeled visionaries. As a fan I wish for success, but my concerns and lack of enthusiasm stem from the fact that this meet does not address New Jersey racing's long-term problems.

Small fields with poor-quality horses are the menu of the day. It is painful to see May weekend cards at Belmont with small fields of statebred maiden claimers. Monmouth will have a better product - with the price being the further deterioration of racing at Philadelphia, Delaware, Maryland, and even Saratoga. Without cooperation among the tracks, horsemen, and state governments cutting back on the number of days and number of races, the downhill spiral will continue. All racing fans need to read Alan Shuback's May 23 column, "U.S. struggles without TV presence." Its premise was simple and on the money: Central authority is needed. Overseas racing is successful because of central authority. The National Thoroughbred Racing Association was a bust, but that does not take away from the obvious need for a commissioner with power - look at the success of the National Football League and Major League Baseball.

Monmouth's promise to give out an average of $1 million a day in purses is eye-catching, but where does the money come from? This year and likely only this year it comes from a New Jersey state guarantee. Most of that money is coming from a subsidy from the New Jersey casinos. The casinos themselves have a serious problem with excess capacity and a deterioration of product, and I would be surprised under the present economic environment that it will continue. Ultimately, as with all tracks that do not have alternative funding capabilities such as slots, handle, and handle alone, will drive purses.

Let us look at the best boutique meet there is, Saratoga. Daily all-source handle averaged more than $14 million last year. More than 20 percent of that was bet ontrack, vs. 10 percent at most tracks. It gets significantly more than most other tracks for its signal. And Saratoga gave out $750,000-plus per day last year. Monmouth would need a daily handle of $20-25 million to pay its million a day in the future. That is just not likely. Taken to its logical conclusion, purses will inevitably drop, and the Monmouth product once again declines.

I would love to be proven wrong. I just do not see it.

Fredrick M. Weinberg - Princeton, N.J.

Del Mar rail has mass appeal

The estimated 25,000 of you who will be taking the train from Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan to this year's Belmont Stakes, here is something to think about. We took that ride to last year's "battle of the birds." It cost only $11 round-trip and we loved it. For the past four years we, and a group of progressive racing fans, have been attempting to implement in essence the same thing at Del Mar -- where both our local commuter train, the Coaster, and Amtrak pass right behind the stretch run turn of the track. A train stop at that spot has been in the plans for 25 years, with no action.

Now there is an open competition seeking a race operator for the races at Del Mar for as long as the next 20 years. Many of you perhaps did not know that. Buried in the request for proposals is a provision requiring the successful bidder to "participate" in the building of that train stop.

As you ride the rails to the Belmont Stakes, look around and see if there is anyone near you who wants to come run the races out here - and help us build that attendance-boosting stop. Come help us build Del Mar into a world-class racing facility like Longchamp outside Paris, Happy Valley outside Hong Kong, Arlington Park, Monmouth, and all the others that have direct train service. . . . plus we have the ocean view and the gentle breezes. It is a great place to ride, and a breeze to manage. Come on out.

Helen and Richard Nielsen-Eckfield - Carlsbad, Calif.

Crown jewels need spacing

How many trainers of all the eligible Kentucky Derby horses would agree to move the Preakness to the first Saturday in June, and the Belmont the first Saturday in July, allowing ample time for these young horses to rest before their next race.

The first Saturday in July will always be around the Fourth of July weekend, and that may bring out more bettors that have showed up in the past few years.

Ron Carmichael - Lexington, Ky.