05/28/2009 11:00PM

Letters to the Editor


Arlington injury shows the urgency for jockey security

The splendor of a magnificent Saturday of Thoroughbred racing, characterized by many cards with quality lineups, was quickly compromised when Rene Douglas's mount in the Arlington Matron fell awkwardly to the turf after clipping the heels of another horse ("Douglas paralyzed after spill," May 27).

Clipping the heels of a lane-changing horse is one of the dangers of race-riding where the rider is totally at risk. Not only is there no time to respond, there is no time for him to cushion the fall.

It is another reminder that all of us who enjoy the excitement of horse racing need to do more in this area. Every time riders get a leg up they become vulnerable to the same fate that confronts Rene Douglas - one of racing's best - today. There is the combined specter of mounting medical bills, concern over family financial security, and the necessary courage to accept the fact that life and lifestyle are forever changed. What is being done is simply not enough.

Our riders (and their families) deserve a better fate. We all need to contribute whatever it takes to provide these athletes with the security they need . . . and deserve.

Bill Shuman - Pembroke Pines, Fla.

Penalty in incident compounds the pain

Once again, our hearts are in pain as we witness a family member become seriously injured, a story told in "Douglas paralyzed after spill."

I do not use the word "family" loosely. If you are reading this, you are part of the racing family. It does not matter if the injured is equine or human. The hurt cuts deep and does not lessen easily.

But emotions are running extremely high. We instinctively turn to anger and blame. We cannot, however, let that passion cloud our perception.

Jockey Jamie Theriot has been suspended for 30 days by the Illinois Racing Commission as punishment for the his role in the injuries to Douglas.

We should not compound a tragedy with a travesty of justice. I have seen thousands of races in my life. Jockeys steer a thousand-plus pounds of majestic horse at high speed. Split-second decisions come many times during one race. Theriot made one split-second decision at the exact time Douglas did the same.

I implore those who have not seen the race to watch the replay. Those with experience and knowledge will instantly see that Theriot's mistake was extremely slight, as both he and Douglas were trying to navigate through the same spot. I do not dispute that Theriot made a mistake. But there was absolutely no willful disregard to safety. I have seen hundreds of these instances when a jockey made a far worse error in judgement. Usually, these actions result in three- to five-day suspensions.

We can all agree that safety must be the main focus and have the utmost attention in every aspect of horse racing. But this punishment seems given in haste, in a rush of emotion. It may have been given because of the tragic nature of the injuries sustained by a courageous athlete, but no attempt should be made to heal that injury by inflicting extra, unjust pain on another.

I don't know Jamie Theriot, but I feel like I do. He must be in pain. So when I'm praying for Douglas to be fully healed, I'll be praying for Theriot, because he's a member of our family, too.

J.D. Sweeney - San Diego

Rachel's bloodlines tell quite a story

Rachel Alexandra's five-generation pedigree that the Racing Form printed with the May 24 article "Rachel - the one and only," is what I would suggest as a building block to teach breeding, racing, and the histories of the horses and the personalities responsible for those horses. I might suggest going back even an additional generation or two.

Researching such a family could get new fans interested, while, at the same time, educate racing's existing fans.

This interest can develop into a passion - something the "sheets" or an "all button" can never accomplish.

This particular pedigree of this particularly outstanding filly is among the most interesting of the thousands that I have seen.

Patrick Gorgan - Las Vegas

NYRA show loses a huge attribute

I was saddened to learn, in the May 10 Belmont Notes, of the departure of Jan Rushton from the New York Racing Association family, to return home to South Carolina to address a medical situation in her family.

One could always rely on Rushton's expert appraisal of horses in the paddock, regardless of the weather. She would advise us on who looked good, and especially who did not - i.e., acting up, sweating, etc., and she was always spot-on. She also did her pedigree homework, with which she excelled in discussing horses trying a new surface or distance for the first time.

Rushton was a tremendous asset to NYRA, a true professional as well as a class act. She will be sorely missed by her many friends, and our prayers are with her and her family.

Anthony Faraci - Brooklyn, N.Y.