09/07/2001 12:00AM

Letters to the Editor

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Mixed reviews on retirement of Point Given

Surely I can't be the only racing fan who thinks the decision to retire Point Given was premature (Sept. 2).

Veterinarian Dr. Vince Baker said it might take the colt up to four months to recuperate from the strained tendon in his left foreleg. With time and patience, Point Given might be brought back to a point where he could run in a select number of major races in the late summer and fall, ideally culminating in the Breeders' Cup Classic, a schedule that would both be sensible and would allow this dual classic winner to confirm his status as a truly great horse, able to vanquish the best both America and Europe have to offer.

Before Point Given's injury, Prince Ahmed Salman had intended to run him as a 4-year-old, a sign of the owner's gameness and an implicit acknowledgement that money for breeding rights is not the be-all and end-all of the sport. It's still possible for the Thoroughbred Corporation to follow through on that original plan.

Sam Ludu - Baldwin, N.Y.

Credentials surpasslatest Hall member's

I take exception to Steven Crist's Sept. 2 column, in which he makes the argument that Point Given doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame ("To lure crowds, try 50-cent bets"). It makes me wonder if Crist felt this way recently when Holy Bull was inducted to the Hall of Fame.

After Holy Bull's Kentucky Derby loss, his connections kept him away from the final two legs of the Triple Crown and then feasted on less-than-stellar competition in the summer and fall. Holy Bull's chance at redemption would have been a victory in the Breeders' Cup Classic, but once again he was rested, until the spring.

Give Point Given's people credit in that the didn't hide from anybody during the Triple Crown campaign. It would have been understandable to pull Point Given from the Triple Crown after the Derby loss, but not only did the colt achieve two classic wins in the Preakness and Belmont, he followed up with two cross-country trips and victories in the Haskell and Travers.

I'm not arguing that Point Given should be in the Hall of Fame. I only wish to point out that Point Given's final resume is ultimately much more impressive than Holy Bull's.

Paul Casolo - Frederick, Md.

In this game, money changes everything

Please spare us the crocodile tears about Point Given's injury and retirement. He is yet another 3-year-old who is being retired to the stud farm.

The only new twist in the story is that Point Given is being retired before he gets faces the prospect of being beaten in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Should that defeat have been allowed to happen (and it could have, because he would probably have to keep up with a pace of at least 1:10 and still win, which he can't do) then his stud fee would drop by at least 50 percent.

Allan Harris - Shreveport, La.

Fifty-cent minimum a two-bit idea

I take strong issue with Steven Crist's Sept. 2 contention that 50-cent bets might be good for the sport in terms of bringing back customers and increasing handle.

What's special about the 50-cent level? If you believe that dropping the minimum to 50 cents will help, wouldn't dropping the minimum to, say, a penny, help even more? I think not.

To me, the allure of racing over other sports betting is that I can possibly win a large amount of money with a minimal outlay, rather than merely cashing a ticket. As Crist noted, if the minimum wager is dropped, many more people will be "spreading," wheeling, and checking the "all" box. This will effectively kill all large payoffs just as small fields kill large exotics payoffs - that is, by having all the combinations covered more frequently, even the outlandish ones.

At the risk of being branded an elitist, I think we need to raise the minimum wager for all bets to, say, $3. Hasn't the $2 wager been around for a while, and hasn't inflation eroded the value of that bet? How many $2 tables can you find on the Strip in Las Vegas these days?

Santa Anita tried for a while to hang onto its $5 exacta before it had to succumb, but I believe they were right. The formula is simple: Drastically cut the cost of going to the track with free admission and by giving away the food and drinks at cost, but raise the minimum wager and cut racing dates (for larger fields) so the average fan has a chance to hit a large payoff once in a while.

M. R. Polscheit - San Gabriel, Calif.

State handout to tracks a step in wrong direction

The recent public forum conducted by the Kentucky State Racing Commission ("Churchill out for state funding," Sept 1) left many questions unanswered, such as why a company such as Churchill Downs Inc., which is making money, paying dividends, and buying racetracks around the country, needs assistance.

Churchill blamed the casinos for their problems in handle, but the purses were raised twice at Ellis Park, where the local casino has been there longer than the one near Louisville.

Churchill and Turfway said a shortage of claiming horses was caused by Mountaineer Park and other tracks with slot machine money offering larger purses to claiming horses. Turfway needs help addressing this issue, but Churchill can simply add more money to the claiming races and cut slightly on the money going to stakes and allowance races.

Also, how can we justify making capital improvements for any racetrack until we make capital improvements in the lives of the people who work on the backside? They need adequate health care, decent housing, and some sort of pension plan first.

Purses should be raised before money is given to the tracks. This will benefit racetracks, since most tracks claim that larger purses create larger fields and therefore bigger handle.

The future of racing lies offtrack, not on, and if we are going to survive and prosper we need to bring our product to the people. This is something we can do that the casinos can't. We already bring our races into their homes with TVG. We now need to make it easier for racing fans to wager by making wagering as easy as getting a lottery ticket. We need to realize the days of getting the fans to the racetrack - except for special places like Keeneland and Saratoga or special days like the Triple Crown or for special horses like Cigar or Point Given- are, sadly, over.

Walter Bindner - Goshen, Ky.

A second Crown could create new royalty

The traditional three races of Thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown will undoubtedly never be surpassed for drama and popularity. To add even more excitement to the sport, however, a new Triple Crown should be invented: the Belmont, Whitney, and Travers.

What would be unique about this feat, is that a 3-year-old would have to defeat older horses in the Whitney - not an easy task. There have been more than 25 horses to capture the Belmont/ Travers double; including Point Given this year, but only one horse ever to do all three in the same year - the late, great Easy Goer.

The Whitney's $750,000 purse should be increased to $1,000,000 to match those of the Belmont and Travers. The Whitney is already one of the more intriguing handicap races in North America. Making it part of a new Triple Crown would add juice to a sport in need of another Easy Goer, and generate wider interest throughout the year.

Kenneth Moultry - Pomona, Calif.