07/09/2009 11:00PM

Letters to the Editor


Breeders' Cup chief seeks to clear air about Challenge

I want to clear up any misconceptions that might have arisen as a result of Steven Crist's column of July 5, "Win and You're In program needs fixing," on the relationship between Breeders' Cup Ltd. and the New York Racing Association, specifically with regard to the Breeders' Cup Challenge series. NYRA is an important and valued partner of the Breeders' Cup, and New York is an important market for our Championships and for horse racing in general.

As one example, the Breeders' Cup stakes program allocation for NYRA purses totals 200 percent more than the next-highest funding for a track or racing association. We look forward to working with NYRA as both a Challenge partner and, depending on our ongoing discussions and the direction of the Breeders' Cup board, a future host site for the Breeders' Cup World Championships.

On the issue of NYRA and other partners, contrary to what was implied in Mr. Crist's column of July 5, the Breeders' Cup does not have the ability to require any track to host a Breeders' Cup Challenge race. That decision lies with each individual host track. We can only request that a track participate in the program with specific races. Thankfully, most tracks - in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia - welcome the opportunity to partner with us.

In the case of NYRA, our initial request for the 2009 Challenge series was for 12 races from Saratoga and Belmont, including a national television window on ESPN for the Jockey Club Gold Cup - and the Jockey Club Gold Cup request was clearly communicated to Mr. Crist in advance of the publication of his July 5 column.

Following extensive discussions, NYRA determined it would allow eight races, seven from Belmont Park and, most recently and not listed in the initial Challenge schedule, the Whitney Handicap from Saratoga. While disappointed that we couldn't do more, we completely respect NYRA's decision and hope to have additional races included in the future.

For anyone to infer that the Breeders' Cup intentionally snubbed NYRA or sought not to include NYRA's top late summer and fall races in the 2009 Challenge schedule is simply incorrect.

The Breeders' Cup Challenge is a relatively new program. As such, we are always looking at ways to improve it, and we welcome constructive, fair feedback. Overall, we are encouraged by the growth of the Challenge and our recent expansion to include major international races and believe strongly that the growth of the Challenge bodes well for the future.

Greg Avioli - CEO, Breeders' Cup

Spa the perfect spot for meeting of female stars

Here's one race fan's challenge to the connections of Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta: Someone please throw down the gauntlet, a challenge going back to the days of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.

I can make a suggestion as to the date and place: Aug. 8, at Saratoga Race Course, in the cherished Whitney Handicap. Both parties would have six weeks to recover from their last race and prepare for battle. The three prior female Whitney winners - Gallorette, Lady's Secret and Personal Ensign - are enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Twelve 3-year olds have won in the Whitney's 81 runnings.

Some of the greatest horses in American racing history have won the Whitney. The race also saw one of the most dramatic upsets in racing history when the legendary Secretariat finished second to Onion.

It would be a fitting showcase.

Eric Weinsheink - Beverly Hills, Calif.

Ducking the big day not the stuff of champions

Contrary to the sentiments conveyed in two July 5 letters to the Racing Form, owner Jess Jackson's first problem is the same as any other bad handicapper's: When his horse loses, he blames the track. Curlin's loss in last year's Breeders' Cup Classic was not about the synthetic surface - Curlin lost in the Classic for the same reason that Mine That Bird lost in this year's Belmont Stakes - a premature (overconfident?) move by a jockey unfamiliar with the nuances of a particular track. Once he accepts this, Jackson must accept that there is no good excuse for not running Rachel Alexandra in the Breeders' Cup this year

Dodging a championship race because it is on a synthetic surface is less reasonable than dodging one to avoid slop at Monmouth Park, or heavy turf at Woodbine, or even a dangerously hard/sealed fast track elsewhere. If that's where the championships are to be run, and you want to be a champion, then you show up and you earn it.

Most importantly, it is time racing put its foot down on the issue of championships. If you intentionally duck the Breeders' Cup championships with a healthy horse, then your horse does not get to be crowned champion based on a year's body of work any more than any other sport would crown a champion who ducked its finals, seeking instead to be judged on their early-season exploits.

Who could take seriously a team sport that would award a championship trophy for having the most (or even the most impressive) regular-season wins? Championships must be decided whenever possible by head-to-head competition, or else they lose their legitimacy. And if there's anything of which racing cannot stand to have less, it's perceived legitimacy.

Yes, horse racing is different, and crowning champions cannot be quite as simple as in other sports. But end-of-the-year championships are good for racing, and we should be doing everything possible to make them work, instead of undermining them whenever it suits someone's personal interests.

Rick Goldfarb - Sherman Oaks, Calif.