02/06/2009 12:00AM

Letters to the Editor


Column gave voice to common concern often left unspoken

I have seldom agreed with Andrew Beyer's handicapping prowess or opinions, but have been forced over time to respect his courage, as evidenced in his Jan. 28 column, "Latest supertrainer feat raises suspicion."

Horse racing in the United States needs an infusion of honesty - no drugs, period. If the horse needs medication for illness, then take him out of action until he is well. Let's put a permanent ban on drug users, not suspensions of three weeks or three months or three years. We shouldn't have different tracks allowing different types and different amounts. Let's put integrity back into the sport. Racing should ban all drugs, as the Olympics do.

Beyer's Jan. 28 column, focused on trainer Rick Dutrow Jr., put in writing what 95 percent of the other trainers must be thinking. They're just saying it in private or maintaining silence. If only they could join Beyer, we could clean up the sport for good.

My hat's off to Andrew Beyer for that column. He has written it like it is, and I salute him for it.

James A. Russell - Browns Summit, N.C.

Many explanations for form reversals

A column such as Andrew Beyer's of Jan. 28, calling out horsemen with intimations of drug use, does a disservice to the game of racing. Someone reading that column may be left with the impression that it wen beyond personal opinion into personal vendetta.

Look at the history of racing: You will find that there is more money pouring into the breeding, owning, and racing of the game. New technology has enhanced the way breeding is handled, creating a higher number of good, physically capable horses. Along with science helping breeding, it has also helped to redefine the nature of training methods and techniques.

Also, Beyer seemed not to take into consideration the possibility of a horse who breaks out in what is often called "freaking." It is seen quite often when a horse goes to the turf for the first time, or is gelded.

Finally, trainers will have their ups and downs. Horsemen who were on top of the world are now working their way back. Consider D. Wayne Lukas, Bob Baffert, Jack Van Berg. There's no knock against these guys, they just haven't had the quality horses they once had.

Branden Eubanks - Bella Vista, Ark.

Training disparity seems puzzling

There were some pretty interesting comments in the Racing Form in recent days regarding This Ones for Phil, winner of this year's Sunshine Millions Dash.

The horse's former trainer, Kathleen O'Connell, wrote in a Feb. 1 letter to the editor that it "is a shame that the focus seems to be on Dutrow and not on a nice up-and-coming horse." In the Jan. 31 article "Dutrow expresses ire over column," trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. was quoted as saying that when This Ones for Phil came to his barn the horse "was wiped out in behind . . . and that was messing his heels up. So I changed shoes . . ." In other corrective measures, said Dutrow, "We also wormed him, did his teeth, and put about 50 pounds on him. I also backed off on his training between works."

Furthermore, said Dutrow, "For the race, we teamed him up with one of the best jockeys in the game and got a perfect trip over a track he obviously loves." Plus, the topper: "We got lucky."

Mr. Dutrow appears to get lucky a lot, to the tune of a 24 percent winning percentage last year. Also, Ms. O'Connell has also been around this game a long time. I know that if I were lucky enough to own or train a nice stakes-winning 2-year-old like This Ones for Phil, I am sure the least I would do for the horse is worm him, fix his teeth, and not overtrain him. Perhaps she could have gotten the horse to move up 10 to 15 lengths if she followed this simple regimen and ran him at Gulfstream with one of the best jockeys in the game.

I guess now we will never know.

Mike Infurna - New York City

Some drug use just bad medicine

Kudos to Andrew Beyer for his Jan. 28 "supertrainer" column and having the courage to bring to light a subject all experienced handicappers frequently discuss.

I have been a diligent Thoroughbred handicapper for more than 35 years, and I have owned and raced horses. I am also a practicing physician.

Most sophisticated handicappers these days agree that a key to success is knowing who is giving performance-enhancing drugs to their horses and who is not. I found the responses to Beyer found in the Jan. 31 "Dutrow expresses ire . . ." article to be emblematic of the No. 1 problem in the industry - horsemen's indifference to inappropriate, if not illegal, drug use, as well as a lack of respect for the intelligence and contribution of the horseplayer.

I found it ironic that Rick Dutrow Jr. was "insulted" by Beyer's perceived implication that Dutrow was "juicing" his horse. Has he not been fined and suspended multiple times in the past for medication infractions? Has he not admitted giving his horses, including Big Brown, anabolic steroids on a regular basis? One such steroid, sold as Winstrol, is a medication indicated for the treatment of a sick horse. When you are giving it on a regular basis to healthy horses in training, you are certainly "juicing" those athletes, whether it be legal or illegal. Case in point: Anybody hit 70 home runs in Major League Baseball last year? How about 60? How about 50?

I have seen plenty of veterinary bills detailing regular use of Winstrol; another steroid, boldenone; the blood-enhancing Epogen; as well as testosterone (in fillies, no less) - not as medication for an illness, but rather as performance-enhancing drugs. Anybody who thinks these drugs do not enhance performance is kidding himself.

Clearly Mr. Beyer raised legitimate questions. There are "supertrainers," and it is hard to swallow that they are all using better shoes and dentists. I say: Clean up your sport, indignant trainers. Ban all drugs - if the horse is sick or hurt, he shouldn't be running.

James E. Vanek, MD - West Palm Beach, Fla.