06/19/2009 12:00AM

Letters to the Editor


Whole industry must share responsibility for retirement fund

I am so thankful for Jay Hovdey's June 12 column, "Endgame often depends on luck," telling the tale of how Storm Legacy was able to arrive back at Marylou Whitney's farm, where he started his life, seemingly against long odds. The story brought up many issues that confront the Thoroughbred racing business when it comes to what we do after a horse's career is over. It seems the industry has largely drawn the conclusion that auctioning these athletes off for slaughter is not an appropriate means of doing so, though certainly it is the option that requires the least thought or compassion.

I think the biggest issue isn't what we do with these horses when their careers are over, but rather how we pay for their aftercare. I think the solution is for everyone along the way to accept responsibility for not only the current care of the horse, but also to contribute to its retirement as well - think of it as an equine 401(k).

This process should start with the breeders who bring the horses into the world, continue to the auction houses that sell them for racing purposes, and then onto the owners who have them throughout their career. It doesn't make any sense to look just at the individual who has them at the end of their careers and place all the responsibility on him because he was the owner when the music stopped playing.

We have extraordinarily bright, committed people who dedicate their lives to the cause of Thoroughbred retirement and understand it the best. Unfortunately, they are too often looked upon as a nuisance, when they actually are the people who can best help the industry with the solution to the problem. I suggest that all interested parties have a summit to discuss this issue. That would include breeders, auction houses, owners and trainers, and racetracks throughout the country. And rather than do it at Saratoga, I think it should be held at a place like Penn National or Finger Lakes or Suffolk Downs, as these are the places where most retirees are coming from. But what we can no longer do is pretend it is these tracks' problem and theirs alone, it is an industry-wide problem that requires an industry-wide solution.

Finally, we should all be grateful for the action of Pete and Donna Tardy, as related by Hovdey. They had an easy route out, yet they chose the more difficult one. We're lucky to have people like them involved in our sport.

Sam Elliott - Salem, Mass.

Racing's jewels don't need resetting

Steven Crist's June 14 column, "Resist temptation to tinker with Triple Crown," was right in its stance that racing should not mess with something that is not broken.

I have been a sports fan for more than 40 years and a hard-core horse racing fanatic for 10. The Triple Crown has captured me ever since Big Red took it in 1973. It is one of the most thrilling events in all of sports.

Lately, we have had horses who have been stretching their speed to win the first two legs, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, and not bred to get the last, the Belmont Stakes.

I think Silver Charm would have won it if he would have seen that other horse coming. There is no way he would have lost. Our best recent chance was when Afleet Alex missed the Derby win. I think it was because, having come out of the Rebel Stakes with a lung infection, he was weakened by his subsequent Arkansas Derby victory, just enough to make him run out of gas near the Churchill Downs finish line.

Anyway, there will be another athlete good enough to do it - don't take away a good thing

Mark Mitchell - Lomita, Calif.

Crown offers special thrills

I agree wholeheartedly with Steven Crist's June 14 comment, "The Triple Crown is the one thing in racing that ain't broke. Let's stop trying to fix it."

When Mine That Bird moved to the lead on the far turn in the Belmont Stakes, racing fans at Horsemen's Park in Omaha, my home track, squealed in delight. Few races all year draw such unabashed emotion from racing fans. And he hadn't even won the Preakness. If Mine That Bird had been going for the Triple Crown, that excitement would have been tenfold.

On the typical weekday at the track, with few exceptions, you could shoot a cannonball through the stands and not hit anybody. The Triple Crown has captured the public's imagination, just the way it is. That's a good thing.

Stewart Winograd - Omaha, Neb.