06/05/2009 12:00AM

Letters to the Editor


New England figure guided a flock of racing devotees

It is with sadness that New England racing bids good-bye to Jim Bishop, who was admired and beloved by everyone on the racetrack. Over the decades, "Bish" touched all of our lives in a positive manner. Bish, who was only 56, was laid to rest last week, and the press box will never be the same.

I first met Bish in 1987 when, as a Boston Herald sportswriter, I was sent to Suffolk Downs to write feature stories, even though at the time I knew virtually nothing about racing.

With his inimitable style, kindness, and trademark wit, Bish taught me more than he could ever realize, and he helped to instill in me a love for Thoroughbred racing and an appreciation of all of the characters who make ours the greatest game.

In his 30-plus years in racing, Bish worked his way up from the spit box to the press box, and everything he did, whether it was calling charts at Rockingham Park or handicapping and writing the comments at Suffolk Downs, he did extremely well. Moreover, he was always a true gentleman and a loyal friend.

We are all fortunate to have known him and are better for it.

Lynne Snierson - Director of Communications and Marketing, Rockingham Park, Salem, N.H.

Even the very best may not be perfect

Jess Jackson did horse racing a great service when he ran Curlin as a 4-year old, and he deserves full credit for that. His repeated insistence, however, that a synthetic surface, or "plastic," as Mr. Jackson calls it, was responsible for Curlin's defeat in the Breeders' Cup Classic has really gotten tiresome. There is zero basis for such a claim.

Curlin ran exactly the same race in the Classic as he did in the Woodward and Jockey Club Gold Cup, moving to the lead at the head of the stretch and then hanging. Against the likes of Past the Point and Wanderin Boy in New York, Curlin was able to hang on and win. Against the world-class field that showed up at Santa Anita, there was no way that such an effort would be good enough. The synthetic surface had nothing to do with it.

As for Jackson's star filly, Rachel Alexandra, though her win in the Preakness was entertaining, there is this to consider: Very few who watched the race would argue that Rachel Alexandra would have finished better than third if she had been carrying the same 126 pounds that the colts did. Just a thought, but if the point of running a filly against the boys is to find out if she is better than they are, wouldn't it make much more sense for the competition to take place at level weights?

Gus Sanchez - San Diego

Breeding needs old-time values

I greatly appreciated Alan Shuback's May 31 column, "Best in breed shows in Dynaformer," and I have a theory about why Dynaformer does so well.

He is a complete outcross to the saturated bloodlines of most mares - i.e., Northern Dancer and Mr. Prospector. Surely that has much to do with it.

In regard to trainer Wayne Lukas, his occasional suggestions of shortening the Belmont Stakes remind me of the quick-buck theories of Wall Street: Breed fast, precocious horses in order to turn a quick profit and then off to stud. That mentality has weakened the breed much like the fast-profit approaches introduced by all those financial engineers - and we all know that house of cards eventually collapsed.

In the long run, horses with strength, stamina, and minimal inbreeding will ultimately be what saves the breed.

David Ramirez - Fontana, Calif.

Penn incident spurs renewed insecurity

Like many bettors, I'm tired of the odds changing well into the running of races and the inability of tote companies to correct the situation. As recent incidents have shown that past-posting may well have occurred (as in the May 23 DRF item "Penn National refunds $150,000"), they lead to perceptions that it happens all the time because of the inordinate amount of time it takes to process the offtrack bets after the gates open.

The security and transparency of betting pools is paramount to the integrity of the gambling aspect of this game. Steven Crist alluded to this in the "Get those windows closed" item in his column of May 24 suggesting that all pools close as the first horse enters the gate.

Because past-posting does not appear to be an ontrack problem, an alternative is that simulcast pools, which represent an overwhelming amount compared with ontrack money, be shut as the first horse is ready to load. Ontrack wagers, a much smaller amount and cycled in quickly after the start, would remain open until the horses are off and running. Anyone who thinks there is an advantage to betting at the last second can find a way to get down at the track - management would be accommodating.

Tracks, coordinating with the tote companies and the starter, should be able to have all wagers showing on the tote board consistently in the short amount of time it takes for the ontrack money to cycle in. These pool totals could be displayed on designated monitors with the off time and final totalization time, enabling the transparency that is currently lacking. The goal would be a final accounting no more than 15 seconds after the gates open.

Until the current flawed system is addressed and integrity restored, many players will severely limit wagers. Track operators will go with the status quo, as they are also invested in simulcast sites, but actually they are keeping overall handle down when bettors don't have faith in their pools.

Tim O'Hagan - Arcadia, Calif.