08/14/2009 12:00AM

Letters to the Editor

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Del Mar rail stop would be stimulus for track business

According to the media guide published this year by the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, the 2007 the Del Mar meet attracted a total handle of $601.3 million, $104.8 million of which was bet ontrack. The following year's handle was $559.3 million, of which $93.2 million, some $11.6 million less, was ontrack. In all prior years since 2003 the annual ontrack betting had hovered between $102 million and 108 million. Why was there a drop of far more than $10 million from the previous year?

The attractive venue, with its concerts and potential to meet and greet interesting persons, was just as cool and exciting as ever. The alcohol was just as abundant. Could it have been the combination of high gas prices and those endless traffic jams that kept people away (attendance dropped to its lowest since 2003) and the handle down?

Construction of a train stop to serve Del Mar directly - in planning here since 1985 - is long overdue. And if they build it, the fans would come, where now they don't.

With Hollywood Park ready to close - and Del Mar poised to pick up at least two of Hollywood's racing weeks - Los Angeles and Orange County fans would flock to Del Mar carefree and car-free by train, particularly if they could easily walk from the train stop into the grandstand.

Now the regional council of governments has approved constructing the stop at the fairgrounds and the equally needed new trestle over the adjacent San Dieguito River with federal stimulus funding, if they can get it.

Sacramento must now forward that recommendation to Washington D.C. before Oct. 2 - where it will compete for a national $8 billion pot of stimulus dollars for high speed/intercity rail projects.

Every race fan in the country should urge that the Del Mar train stop be funded.

Helen and Richard Nielsen-Eckfield - Carlsbad, Calif.

Remington faces golden opportunity

The opportunity is prime for Remington Park to become the focal point of the world of horse racing. With the start of the fall meet soon upon us, the timing is perfect for a dream race of Rachel Alexandra versus Zenyatta. The opportunity is too great for Remington not to get cracking on making this matchup a reality.

For starters, Remington's location makes this a no-brainer. Each camp would have to travel, taking away any home-field advantage.

The conditions of the race should be of an invitational nature, requesting the presence of Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, and up to 10 others. Set the purse at $1 million if they both show up, $250,000 if only one shows. Equal weights should be carried by all runners (say 120 to 122 pounds). Each starter should be paid a minimum of $10,000, so even trainers who don't think they can win will at least think about the challenge of taking on the best.

How does Remington pay for this? Remington's slot-machine revenue is an obvious source, and the handle on a race of this magnitude, along with a stakes-caliber program, would go a long way to covering the purse.

Remington would reap boundless publicity from an event such as this, which could carry over into increased handle in the future.

The timing of a late-September race would allows Rachel Alexandra a four-week window after the Travers, if she goes there, while allowing Zenyatta to get a race in four to five weeks before the Breeders' Cup.

The possibility of Horse of the Year honors being on the line is another inviting aspect of this matchup. ESPN just might show up with a camera and show an extra race or two.

It is time for someone to start thinking outside the box and put horse racing back in the mainstream.

Rob Tuel - Omaha, Neb.

Emerald presented top-grade contest

I wanted to thank the folks at Emerald Downs for the Ultimate Qualifying Tournament they just had in conjunction with the Daily Racing Form/National Thoroughbred Racing Association National Handicapping Championship.

The employees did a great job in making sure things went smoothly. Everybody from the waitstaff to administration bent over backwards to make this tourney a success. I have been to a lot of tournaments, and this one is still my favorite. Emerald Downs should be proud of their staff.

The National Handicapping Championship is a great format for horseplayers, and I can't get enough of the tourneys - they all have something for all kinds of handicappers - but for me, I can't wait till next year and the last week in July. See you at Emerald Downs.

Gene Davenport - Galt. Calif.