07/19/2001 11:00PM

Letters to the Editor (7/21)


'World' view shows Yankee incongruity

Hats off to the Yanks! Undoubtedly you have surpassed us Brits now in terms of arrogance and egocentrism.

How can you have a World Thoroughbred Championship ("New name for Breeders' Cup," June 28) in a series of races that have historically been 95 percent filled with horses from your own country? Or is the Breeders' Cup going to soon announce its intention to catch up with Dubai in terms of purses, hospitality, and promotion to foreign entrants (such as paying transportation expenses)?

In that case, let's go all the way. How about: The Super Real Universe Breeders' Cup Championship Final Series? Heck, your ridiculously extended season already makes the Breeders' Cup a case of "Survivor" anyway.

Oh well, what else could you expect when you breed the most arrogant to the most arrogant and hope for ... the Board of Directors of the Breeders' Cup and National Thoroughbred Racing Association.

Charles Simmons

York, England

Hollywood stewards applauded for decision

After reading the July 8 letters criticizing the Hollywood Park stewards' decision to take down Chris McCarron and Futural from first to third after the running of the Hollywood Gold Cup, I wonder if I was watching a different race.

To me, it was obvious McCarron was trying to cut off Skimming and simply miscalculated, interfering seriously with Skimming and forcing him into Captain Steve. Skimming's rider, Garrett Gomez, was totally correct in saying he was broadsided. It was a serious incident and one or more horses could have gone down.

I have the greatest respect for McCarron as a rider and as an ambassador of racing, but this time he was clearly at fault.

And for once, the Hollywood stewards, who have taken much heat recently, had the courage to make the right decision. We should applaud them for that. And who can say what Skimming would have done if he hadn't been forced to alter course so drastically. It is pure speculation to say he was finished at that point in the race.

Gary Wold

Albuquerque, N.M.

Delaware turf policy shows gap in logic

The logic that Delaware Park uses in running its races continues to amaze me.

Two Sundays ago, the meet's most prestigious grass race for older horses at the meet was on the card: the $150,000 Caesar Rodney Handicap, a Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championship series event with a field of nine. The race had drawn interest from Southern California and Florida, as trainers Bobby Frankel and Marty Wolfson had shipped runners in for the race. Surprisingly, the race was taken off the turf well before scheduled post time of 4:09 p.m.

According to local sources, it only sprinkled rain between 6:45 and 7:45 a.m., and it never rained after 7:45. The total rain registered at New Castle County Airport - less than a seven-mile drive from Delaware Park - was between .02 and .07 of an inch. Further, there was no rain on the Friday or Saturday before the race. The main track was fast and the turf was firm. Yet somehow, the race was removed from the turf to the main track early Sunday morning.

Some owners had spent thousands of dollars to run in this particular turf race, incurring sizeable travel expenses, only to see the race taken off the turf some eight hours before post time.

I have watched thousands of races, and I have never seen a stakes race taken off the turf so quickly with so little rain involved.

If a track is unable to handle racing on the turf, perhaps it should refrain from carding it. Maybe Delaware Park should stick to slots, where there is really no need to have sound decision-making - just security and someone who can count.

Richard O'Brien

Fredricksburg, Va.

UN weights found lacking for a Grade 1 event

It strikes me as absurd that a race like the July 1 United Nations Handicap, wherein the top weight assignment was 117 pounds, can maintain its designation as a Grade 1 race.

If 3-year-olds must carry 126 pounds through the rigors of the Triple Crown, then the integrity of the sport demands that graded races, especially handicaps, maintain a high weight standard to guarantee the caliber of the race. Allowing for age and gender differentials, 126 pounds for Grade 1 races, 123 for Grade 2's, and 121 for Grade 3's seems like a reasonable standard to me. Any race that doesn't have at least one entrant who carries the minimum would be subject to automatic downgrade, or at least review, as is the case now of graded races washed off the turf.

Mary Carter

Jersey City, N.J.

Arbitrary burdens should be lifted

Steven Crist hit the nail right on the head in his July 8 column, "The trouble with handicaps." Let's do away with the handicaps and weight the horses the same way that we do it in other stakes.

My belief is contrary to that of the July 15 letter writer from Louisville ("Handicap fault lies in practice, not theory") who responded by saying that "the already minuscule fields" would be reduced to walkovers. I would like to point out that the highly respected racing secretary Howard Battle eliminated handicaps from his stakes program at Keeneland years ago. There have been no walkovers, and the best horses in the country perform in Lexington every spring and fall.

The excuses to skip a major stakes because of a huge weight assignment are eliminated. The owners and trainers may point and train their horse for a stake knowing what weight they will carry. The racing office may use its time to secure more stake nominations and produce quality programs for the fans. Hours spent laboring over weight assignments are gone. It is a win-win situation for everyone. Bravo, Mr. Crist.

James Lages

Tinton Falls, N.J.

Changes threaten to pollute Spa

At last, the Saratoga meet is finally upon us. I can now take a much-needed hiatus from year-round simulcasting, low-caliber horse racing, and many other negatives of the sport.

After all, what other racecourse offers the tradition and atmosphere that Saratoga does? Where else can a racing patron actually enjoy himself in between races? Or rub elbows with world-famous jockeys and trainers as they walk through the crowd?

Recently, however, my taste buds have been soured by some changes made for the upcoming meet. First I read in the July 8 Racing Form "Fewer steeplechase races at Saratoga." The New York Racing Association cut back by 25 percent, from 12 to nine, the number of jump races at this year's meet. Lower handle on opening steeplechase races than on opening flat races was cited. That's an unfair comparison, as the steeplechase races were run on Wednesday and Thursday, and the opening flat race on a Friday, a day when many racetrackers get paid and make the sojourn upstate.

Then I read that NYRA had decided to add full-card simulcasting during live Saratoga racing. So now while you're enjoying your fresh popcorn during a peaceful lull in the action, you may hear an ill-timed roar as action-starved fans cheer home a low-level claimer from who knows where.

Are tradition and atmosphere beginning to be pushed to the side in favor of the almighty dollar?

Kevin Cox

Oceanside, N.Y.