01/03/2003 1:00AM

Letters to the Editor

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Loss in BC Mile knocks 'Rock' out of top spot

Andrew Beyer's column of Dec. 29 ("Hardly the stuff of champions") finished off the board on so many levels. First, Beyer cavalierly stated that neither Tiznow nor Point Given were "superstars." Second, he argues that Rock of Gibraltar should be Horse of the Year.

Tiznow won back-to-back Breeders' Cup Classics - the second victory was perhaps one of the most heroic victories in the history of flat racing in North America. At a time when America needed a hero, Tiznow, injured, battered, and all but discarded by those "in the know," held off Europe's best in Sakhee, and then inspired the New England Patriots to win the Super Bowl. Point Given drew record crowds at the Haskell and Travers, and a record crowd at the Belmont when the Triple Crown was not on the line. He became the first and still only horse in history to win four million-dollar races in succession, and he becomes only the fifth horse since 1900 to win the Preakness, Belmont, and Travers (joining, I dare say, superstars Man o' War, Whirlaway, Native Dancer, and Damascus).

I agree with Beyer that Rock of Gibraltar was probably the best horse to run in the Breeders' Cup Mile, but he lost. He didn't lose to Secretariat, Affirmed, John Henry, or even non-superstars Tiznow or Point Given. He lost to the immortal Domedriver.

Horse of the Year? I don't think so.

Mark S. Miller
Revere, Mass.

This year's stars were hardly lackluster

I disagree with Andrew Beyer's Dec. 29 column, expressing his opinion on the lack of talent on the racetrack in 2002, choosing Azeri as evidence.

Mr. Beyer should attempt breeding a filly the caliber of Azeri. Many have spent a lifetime trying - smart people too, with near limitless resources, expert knowledge, and the finest horsemen and bloodstock at their disposal.

Try breeding one like Vindication, who could wind up Seattle Slew's finest son. We cannot be certain yet, of course, but he is more like his sire than anything that I have seen. Toccet was as tough and genuine a 2-year-old colt as you will find in any crop, and many breeders would be happy to have just one like him in their lifetimes - most never do.

Perhaps Beyer might try breeding one like Street Cry, according to Timeform the best horse in the world last year; when he was sound he was brilliant, absolutely top-class. Storm Flag Flying - is she not champion-caliber? Try breeding one like her; Ogden Phipps spent a lifetime doing just that. Left Bank was certainly a champion: The nine-furlong Whitney distance has been run by countless champions at Saratoga for many years, yet none faster than he.

Finally we come to Azeri. Beyer was not one of those who backed her in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, and he still does not have a clue how good she is: She won her maiden race in her first career start in 1:08 and change, and her only loss came in her first graded stakes (before winning five Grade 1 races) when she broke poorly and never recovered. Apart from that lone race, she completely dominated her opposition, including Spain and Affluent. It was, however, in the manner that she competed during the races - and then galloping out after each race and putting another 10 lengths between herself and the field - that was so impressive. My own opinion is that she is one of the greatest racemares of modern times, and I hope that she has the opportunity to prove it.

In a perfect world, all journalists would be required to breed, race, or own Thoroughbreds - that might remove the skepticism that pervades the thought of many in their craft.

Tom Clark
Lexington, Ky.

Would-be channel-surfer feels beached

Why can't racetracks get it together and make it easy to see races!

I have always liked to tape the Southern California races daily, and it used to be possible to get them nightly on Fox Sports. Hollywood Park stopped that and Santa Anita is doing it on Saturdays only. Hollywood Park did not have its own video available online for its recent meet either.

I cannot get Television Games Network in my neighborhood, so that is out. Besides, I hear too many complaints about TVG. If I am at home to watch on the computer, I can get on Youbet and watch live - but the picture is small and not very good.

Now, they are going to charge a monthly fee unless you bet $350 a month with them. I guess the other betting services also have video online, but how many of these services does one want to join?

If the tracks want more fans, we need more horse racing on home video screens, accessible to more people. New fans who watch on TV will be more apt to go to the track or find a betting service. Regular fans, like me, will go to the track as often as possible. Access to televised races will not keep people at home - it will add to the fan base.

Horse racing keeps shooting itself in the foot. I had hoped the Autotote system would be fixed by now, but we have gotten nothing but a few bandages. So I don't expect much to happen on viewing races.

Penny Butler
La Jolla, Calif.

Early betting cutoff: Not with my money

After giving myself a brief freshening for the holidays I'm ready for a new season. With Santa Anita and now Gulfstream underway, I'm pumped. I am, however, adopting a new handicapping rule - Churchill Downs take note.

My money will not go to any racetrack that cuts off wagering before the starting bell. Call me crazy, but I like to watch the horses load. In fact, their gate behavior can affect my wagering decision. It is the responsibility of the racetracks to ensure fair play in wagering, and punishing eager, supportive customers is not the answer.

I couldn't survive in this game betting favorites, hence an odds drop on a legit heavy favorite at post time doesn't trouble me. I would suggest this to those delicate flowers who are upset at an even-money favorite dropping to 3-5: Study a handicapping text and move on.

All I know for sure is this game can't survive by making it harder to make an honest wager.

Paul McManus
Toronto, Ontario

Moschera retirement a sign of declining times

On New Year's Day, I went to the races, having made a few resolutions as to what I was going to try to accomplish, racing-wise, in 2003. I left the track and purchased Daily Racing Form for Jan. 2. There was an article there that has affected me about as much as the pick six on Breeders' Cup Day.

The article said that longtime New York trainer Gasper Moschera is quitting after 25 years. He stated that it used to be that when he claimed 10 horses, he would get one or two that were sore. Now, he said, "out of 50 horses, 45 were no good. They wouldn't train, they wouldn't run, and they kept deteriorating."

Moschera also stated that there are a lot of trainers winning now who never used to win before, possibly because Lasix may mask illegal medication.

I hope that everyone had a chance to read the article. The reason that it may have had such a great effect on me is that 2003 will be my 30th year of playing the horses. I have spent a lot of time and money on a hobby that I really enjoy and take very seriously. These latest revelations have had a profound impact on me. I must accept the fact that racing is so flawed, it will never be the way it was.

John Collins
Lawndale, Calif.