06/10/2010 11:00PM

Letters to the editor


McLaughlin showed a rare quality in modern times

Over the years we have all heard some eccentric and humorous comments by jockeys and trainers. I could not help writing, however, concerning the incident with Uptowncharlybrown, whereby his lead pad fell out from under the saddle during the Belmont Stakes, resulting in his disqualification.

Kiaran McLaughlin, the colt's trainer, took full responsibility, as related in the Racing Form's online item "Trainer takes blame for Uptowncharlybrown DQ," and proceeded to say, "I've never been so glad to not win a Grade 1 race." If that's not a classic, I don't know what is.

It certainly is nice to see accountability on his part considering today's world, where everything is someone else's fault. I find myself an instant Kiaran McLaughlin fan.

Rick Higgins - Columbus, Ohio

Three-year-olds need bigger stage

The 2010 Triple Crown has come and gone. Todd Pletcher, Bob Baffert, and Bill Mott were the big-name winning trainers, with Nick Zito filling out the exacta slot two out of three times. From a marketing point of view, these are the biggest names of our sport, and they are delivering. We should be cashing in. There should be commercials all over the place with rivalries building between these names that will grab the new fans attention. Too bad that is not the case.

Now there is essentially two months until the spotlight returns to the 3-year-old colts. It will be nearly back-to-school season before the Jim Dandy and Haskell are run. When the Travers comes and goes, the common fan will place Thoroughbred racing on the back burner until 2011.

In prior decades, the sport failed to distribute itself to a larger audience when television was introduced. The reason: fear. Fear of losing its audience. The audience left anyway. Now television is begging us to think twice and reshape how we run and market the Triple Crown and the sport itself.

We need to overcome fear and market the sport better. Have 3-year-old Grade 1 races on the first Saturday of the month from March until the Breeders' Cup. Have a point system so the names will become familiar to the fans and a natural progression toward the championship will occur.

The Haskell is too long to wait. Build a championship schedule, market it, create name recognition, and they will come.

Timothy J. Mazanec - Boston

Belmont coverage far from classic

As a regular horseplayer, I was not happy with the ESPN/ABC coverage of Belmont Stakes Day, for a few reasons.

I have an online wagering account, and was playing the Belmont races from home on Saturday, June 5. Like all other individuals who played the races from home, I was unable to see Belmont's 10th race, the Grade 1 Manhattan, live because ABC was too busy talking about the field for the Belmont Stakes and various human-interest stories. (I understand these stories are important and worth telling, but they should not interfere with a live race, especially when after the Manhattan, there was an hour before the Belmont Stakes.) While they were doing this, you could hear the roar of the crowd and the announcer Tom Durkin's voice calling the race.

In addition, because of contractual restrictions, numerous other live track feeds available in-home or via online accounts could not show the race live. Unless you were at Belmont Park or at a simulcast facility, you could not view the race live, which was hugely unfair, because anyone who bet this race should have been able to see it.

Second, the camera angles that ESPN and ABC used during the races at Belmont were so confusing that I as a regular horseplayer had trouble following my horses during the running of the races. Most likely the novice or casual horseplayer dealt with the same issue. A track simulcast feed is so much easier for the regular and novice alike to follow. Mainstream television (ABC, NBC, ESPN) often ruins the coverage of big days -- Kentucky Derby and Preakness included -- with 25 different camera angles during the running of a race when 90 percent of the viewers want the panoramic view.

My advice for mainstream television coverage on big racing days is to keep it simple! Please show the races live without interruption, and provide us with a camera view that allows the novice horseplayer the ability to follow the horses as easily and simply as possible.

Matthew Chmura - Norridge, Ill.

Mullins remarks back to haunt him

As a longtime horse racing enthusiast, I am not indifferent to the state of play with regard to Jeff Mullins's suspension, recently touched on in the June 4 article "Mullins has ban hearing postponed." I am responding to the anonymous plea on his behalf published as a paid advertisement in the June 5 Racing Form, with the heading "The facts about the California Horse Racing Board's recent suspension of Jeff Mullins" and offer the following.

Jeff Mullins was quoted more than five years ago as saying that a person who would bet on a horse race was "an addict or an idiot." I remember processing and mulling the implications. Several interpretations are possible:

1. In racing, luck is so dominant that outcomes are impossible to predict. Chaos and entropy rule, and random outcomes are the norm. Trainers can play the percentages and still come out ahead, but the betting public are just lambs to the slaughter.

2. Racing is fixed. Boat races are the norm, and the poor suckers in the stands are just willing sheep being waiting to be shorn.

3. Drug use is so prevalent that bettors trying to make sense of any race are on a fool's errand. Those on the backside can stay one jump ahead of the chemist, but the rubes aren't in on the game.

I'm sure Mullins has had many occasions to regret that indiscreet remark, but as far as I'm aware he has never retracted that statement or made crystal-clear what he meant by it. The hypocrisy implicit in making a good living off the unsuspecting is manifest. If Mullins is looking for sympathy from fans, I'm afraid he has a long wait.

While I think the California Horse Racing Board under Richard Shapiro made some pretty stupid decisions (I point to the synthetic-track fiasco), nevertheless, it did strengthen drug-testing protocols. I, as a fan, like the idea that a state veterinarian can mandate ad hoc tests out of the blue, and I can understand why that regimen can rattle trainers. Tough.

The whole business boils down to this: Permissive medication is a Pandora's box, and those who open it cannot foretell what may jump out. Get rid of the drugs (as in Europe) and you get rid of the problems. And maybe, just maybe, increase the handle.

Kenneth M. Steele - Bensalem, Pa.