08/28/2009 12:00AM

Letters to the Editor

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Saratoga dismisses jump-race tradition to second tier

According to a New York Racing Association marketing brochure, "Saratoga Race Course is so steeped in history and tradition that by simply walking through the gates visitors step back to yesteryear . . . ." Part of that history and tradition is steeplechase racing, but Saratoga has been slowly abandoning its dedication to that sport.

The desertion began with a decrease in the number of jump races from two or more per week to just one. But the attitude that jump races are second-class events goes beyond the number of races.

For one thing, NYRA's moving them to the first race of the day was a cop-out. Sound horse-betting involves being better than average at spotting angles that offer value and then exploiting them. The handicapping principles that apply to flat turf racing - class, trip, conditioning, and trainer intent - apply to jump races. So what if fences and distance add uncertainty. There is no less uncertainty in a maiden special weight race for 2-year-olds with a full field of first-time starters. But that doesn't relegate every 2-year-old race to the first spot on the program, for fear of scaring away pick four and pick six bettors.

NYRA should have continued to schedule the jump races as they had and told the complainers to do their homework, take a shot, and hope for the best.

Despite caving to late-day, multi-race bettors (NYRA could run an ostrich race in the middle of the sequence and not one of them could resist a two-day carryover), NYRA's redemption was that it always ran the Grade 1 New York Turf Writers Cup Steeplechase as the eighth race. I always considered it a sacrilege to run the A.P. Smithwick Memorial Steeplechase as the first race on the program, but at least the Turf Writers Cup was still treated with the respect a race of its stature deserved. Pick six players could deal with it for one day a year.

Not any more. NYRA scheduled the 68th running of this fixture as the third race on this past Thursday's program - one race before the pick six began.

A graded stakes race belongs in the slot reserved for the feature race of the day, even more so for a race "so steeped in tradition."

Scheduling the New York Turf Writers Cup Steeplechase as if it were a race nobody cares about was an insult to all owners, trainers, jockeys, and fans of jump-race horses.

David J. Oppedisano - Latham, N.Y.

A drug clampdown needs real teeth

In the Aug. 16 Racing Form, a full-page advertisement appeared bearing the headline "California takes its drug testing seriously" Paid for by a group called the California Marketing Committee, the ad extolled the virtues of the state's anti-drug program and the leadership California has shown in determining drug related offenses. In essence, it was a "trust-me" advertisement that made one wonder what its reason for being was. Similar ads are seen every day written by Wall Street types and bankers, and we all know how much they are trusted.

The problem with racing - one that differs from other sports - is the lack of enforcement of the drug policies. This, of course, was not addressed in the advertisement. Trainers get small fines or are allowed to determine when a suspension will take place so they can take a week's vacation in Hawaii.

Most racing fans know of the Breeders' Cup policy - instituted last year in regard to anabolic steroids and expanded this year to drugs categorized as Class 1 or Class 2 infractions - of zero tolerance when it comes to drug use ("Cup to ban drug violators one year," Aug. 12). Even with such toughened standards, enforcement is the issue. A noted trainer, Todd Pletcher, had a Breeders' Cup starter test positive for a Class 3 anesthetic, but 10 months later no penalty has yet been issued.

Rules mean nothing as the industry cowers in dealing with trainers and the mockery they make of the court system while delaying for years implementation of any meaningful penalties.

Racing needs strict enforcement and meaningful penalties like other major sports. Until this happens, our sport probably is as close to professional wrestling as you can get.

Sandy Weinstock - Sherman Oaks, Calif.

Zenyatta's owners deserve better

Jerry and Ann Moss have been incredibly gracious owners with their entire horse racing stable. First with Giacomo and now with the great racemare Zenyatta. They have also allowed TVG great access to their time and horses. Ask Ken Rudulph about his love for Team Moss.

How do the Mosses feel about the cheap PR stunt that TVG/Betfair is shilling with its attempted "neutral court" Rachel Alexandra/ Zenyatta matchup ("TVG in deal to hike Beldame," Aug. 23)?

Zenyatta would have to ship, and Zenyatta would have to go to a track that Rachel Alexandra has already won on. But Zenyatta has won on the dirt, and Rachel Alexandra won't ship to California to run in the Breeder's Cup.

Why don't we contact Jerry Moss and find out how he likes the treatment that TVG is giving him at this time.

Jim Barrick - Ventura, Calif.

Fair purses should share the wealth

I cannot tell you how pleased I was to see what the small stables were running for opening day at Sacramento's State Fair. Maiden $8,000 claimers ran for an $8,500 purse. Bottom-level $3,200 claimers ran for a $9,500 pot.

Bravo!

This is the very thing I campaigned for 35 years ago as turf editor of the Pasadena Star News. I felt the Los Angeles County Fair should place emphasis on the lower-bracket equines of all breeds. Instead they made Fairplex Park a mere extension of the major circuit. It was wrong.

Wouldn't it be great for the trainers of bullring lore to have had a shot to run for pots like Cal Expo is offering?

I'll forever remember Wallace Conley, Frank Colcord, Ken Bowyer, Doug Oliver, Junior Nicholson, Jerry Dutton, and so many others whose training skills have contributed to the sport. I continue to hold the belief the fair meet in Pomona, Calif., should be for the small outfits. Unfortunately, the best pots are put up for big dogs.

Horseplayers look forward to a change of pace after Del Mar. Instead we are force fed more of the same that was down at the seashore.

Warren Eves - Las VegasSaratoga dismisses jump-race tradition to second tier

According to a New York Racing Association marketing brochure, "Saratoga Race Course is so steeped in history and tradition that by simply walking through the gates visitors step back to yesteryear . . . ." Part of that history and tradition is steeplechase racing, but Saratoga has been slowly abandoning its dedication to that sport.

The desertion began with a decrease in the number of jump races from two or more per week to just one. But the attitude that jump races are second-class events goes beyond the number of races.

For one thing, NYRA's moving them to the first race of the day was a cop-out. Sound horse-betting involves being better than average at spotting angles that offer value and then exploiting them. The handicapping principles that apply to flat turf racing - class, trip, conditioning, and trainer intent - apply to jump races. So what if fences and distance add uncertainty. There is no less uncertainty in a maiden special weight race for 2-year-olds with a full field of first-time starters. But that doesn't relegate every 2-year-old race to the first spot on the program, for fear of scaring away pick four and pick six bettors.

NYRA should have continued to schedule the jump races as they had and told the complainers to do their homework, take a shot, and hope for the best.

Despite caving to late-day, multi-race bettors (NYRA could run an ostrich race in the middle of the sequence and not one of them could resist a two-day carryover), NYRA's redemption was that it always ran the Grade 1 New York Turf Writers Cup Steeplechase as the eighth race. I always considered it a sacrilege to run the A.P. Smithwick Memorial Steeplechase as the first race on the program, but at least the Turf Writers Cup was still treated with the respect a race of its stature deserved. Pick six players could deal with it for one day a year.

Not any more. NYRA scheduled the 68th running of this fixture as the third race on this past Thursday's program - one race before the pick six began.

A graded stakes race belongs in the slot reserved for the feature race of the day, even more so for a race "so steeped in tradition."

Scheduling the New York Turf Writers Cup Steeplechase as if it were a race nobody cares about was an insult to all owners, trainers, jockeys, and fans of jump-race horses.

David J. Oppedisano - Latham, N.Y.

A drug clampdown needs real teeth

In the Aug. 16 Racing Form, a full-page advertisement appeared bearing the headline "California takes its drug testing seriously" Paid for by a group called the California Marketing Committee, the ad extolled the virtues of the state's anti-drug program and the leadership California has shown in determining drug related offenses. In essence, it was a "trust-me" advertisement that made one wonder what its reason for being was. Similar ads are seen every day written by Wall Street types and bankers, and we all know how much they are trusted.

The problem with racing - one that differs from other sports - is the lack of enforcement of the drug policies. This, of course, was not addressed in the advertisement. Trainers get small fines or are allowed to determine when a suspension will take place so they can take a week's vacation in Hawaii.

Most racing fans know of the Breeders' Cup policy - instituted last year in regard to anabolic steroids and expanded this year to drugs categorized as Class 1 or Class 2 infractions - of zero tolerance when it comes to drug use ("Cup to ban drug violators one year," Aug. 12). Even with such toughened standards, enforcement is the issue. A noted trainer, Todd Pletcher, had a Breeders' Cup starter test positive for a Class 3 anesthetic, but 10 months later no penalty has yet been issued.

Rules mean nothing as the industry cowers in dealing with trainers and the mockery they make of the court system while delaying for years implementation of any meaningful penalties.

Racing needs strict enforcement and meaningful penalties like other major sports. Until this happens, our sport probably is as close to professional wrestling as you can get.

Sandy Weinstock - Sherman Oaks, Calif.

Zenyatta's owners deserve better

Jerry and Ann Moss have been incredibly gracious owners with their entire horse racing stable. First with Giacomo and now with the great racemare Zenyatta. They have also allowed TVG great access to their time and horses. Ask Ken Rudulph about his love for Team Moss.

How do the Mosses feel about the cheap PR stunt that TVG/Betfair is shilling with its attempted "neutral court" Rachel Alexandra/ Zenyatta matchup ("TVG in deal to hike Beldame," Aug. 23)?

Zenyatta would have to ship, and Zenyatta would have to go to a track that Rachel Alexandra has already won on. But Zenyatta has won on the dirt, and Rachel Alexandra won't ship to California to run in the Breeder's Cup.

Why don't we contact Jerry Moss and find out how he likes the treatment that TVG is giving him at this time.

Jim Barrick - Ventura, Calif.

Fair purses should share the wealth

I cannot tell you how pleased I was to see what the small stables were running for opening day at Sacramento's State Fair. Maiden $8,000 claimers ran for an $8,500 purse. Bottom-level $3,200 claimers ran for a $9,500 pot.

Bravo!

This is the very thing I campaigned for 35 years ago as turf editor of the Pasadena Star News. I felt the Los Angeles County Fair should place emphasis on the lower-bracket equines of all breeds. Instead they made Fairplex Park a mere extension of the major circuit. It was wrong.

Wouldn't it be great for the trainers of bullring lore to have had a shot to run for pots like Cal Expo is offering?

I'll forever remember Wallace Conley, Frank Colcord, Ken Bowyer, Doug Oliver, Junior Nicholson, Jerry Dutton, and so many others whose training skills have contributed to the sport. I continue to hold the belief the fair meet in Pomona, Calif., should be for the small outfits. Unfortunately, the best pots are put up for big dogs.

Horseplayers look forward to a change of pace after Del Mar. Instead we are force fed more of the same that was down at the seashore.

Warren Eves - Las Vegas