09/24/2009 11:00PM

Letters to the Editor

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Comeback after seven-year layoff defies belief, logic

On Sunday, Sept. 20, scanning the Racing Form, I came across a horse entered in the fifth race at Louisiana Downs. What drew my attention to this particular horse? Well, primarily it was the fact that she was returning after a seven-year layoff.

I couldn't believe my eyes, and hoped against all hope that common sense would prevail and that the mare would be scratched. No such luck. Later that night, while looking at the DRF charts online, my worst fears came to fruition: "Fui . . . eased stretch, vanned off."

What were they thinking? This wasn't the action of one individual. This was the cumulative fault of the owner, trainer, state veterinarian, racing secretary, and even jockey. Who is policing those who are deemed responsible for the welfare of our most precious commodity?

I don't know what became of Fui, as the state vet has not returned my call, but I'm not sure I really want to know. It never should have gotten that far, and hopefully it will never happen again.

Kevin Cox - Oceanside, N.Y.

Medication limits too restrictive

I am responding to the Sept. 6 letter to the editor "Full disclosure a crucial facet of a better game," which perpetuates the biggest joke I have ever heard. All this does is make the public believe people are drugging horses and making them win.

No drug makes a horse win - period. Drugs let horses race so they have a chance to win - period. For example, if I had a drug that made horses win, I would get 10 horses and put them in 10 different owners' names. Then I would bet all I could and be rich, and the only thing that could happen to me is I would be suspended. It is that simple. The only problem is that it does not work that way.

Racing jurisdictions are testing horses in nanograms now - 1,000 times smaller than a milligram. This test picks up a flake of anything you could give a horse, an amount that would not have any effect on a horse's performance. I take 81 milligrams of aspirin, 75 milligrams of Plavix, and 20 milligrams of Lipitor. If I took a nanogram of these, it would be useless.

All owners, trainers, and racetracks should object to nanogram-level testing. It is ridiculous. If the practice isn't ended, eventually everyone would have a bad test, as a lot of them have already. Testing is needed, but there should be a level on each drug to show how much it would take to have any effect on a horse. All owners and trainers should stand up and be heard.

Billy G. Ashabraner - Clarksville, Ind.

Arkansas Derby deserves top rank

I think Steven Crist was right in his Sept. 20 column, "Canadian Grade 1's meet standard," when he wrote that the number of Grade 1 races in the United States, as presently constituted, should be scrutinized and reduced. Crist pointed out that the volume of racing in the United States has been reduced, and horses are making fewer starts than ever, yet we still have the same number of Grade 1 events.

While agreeing, however, that the total number of Grade 1 races should be reduced, I feel there is one Grade 2 event, the Arkansas Derby, that certainly deserves to be upgraded. It baffles me that the Arkansas Derby continues to be a Grade 2 despite being won by the likes of Smarty Jones (subsequent winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes), Afleet Alex (Preakness and Belmont Stakes) and Curlin (Preakness, Breeders' Cup Classic). This year, Summer Bird finished third in the Arkansas Derby before going on to win the Belmont and Travers Stakes (so far).

Year after year, the Arkansas Derby has been as strong, if not stronger, than any of the other Kentucky Derby preps. And keep in mind that whatever success the Arkansas Derby has had in recent years, it has done so despite being a Grade 2 instead of a Grade 1.

The time has come for the Arkansas Derby to be elevated to Grade 1 status, beginning in 2010, which would properly put it at the same graded level as such other major Kentucky Derby preps as the Florida Derby, Santa Anita Derby, Wood Memorial, and Blue Grass Stakes.

Jon White - Monrovia, Calif.

Visit to sale site a welcome pleasure

Well, the missus and I went to the Keeneland sale a week ago Wednesday. . . .

Keeneland employees greeted us warmly and helpfully, right from parking the car. The two of us went into the sales pavilion itself and watched some of the bidding. Beautiful horses were paraded in, followed by short speeches about the bloodlines and success thereof. Then the bidding commenced. A few low-priced horses and some over $300,000 were sold.

We then went to the back of the building, to the Limestone Cafe. We had a great lunch among people eating and digging through sale catalogs. A few folk were exchanging congratulations on purchases completed.

We looked through some literature, provided by Keeneland free of charge, learning more about the whole sales process.

Then we went out back where horses were waiting their turns in the ring. We stayed there for more than an hour, literally a few feet from these amazing animals. We asked questions of the walkers. We talked to buyers. Everyone was polite, friendly, and glad to speak with us.

Bottom line: We spent three hours at Keeneland, not betting, and had a great, relaxing time. We learned a lot about the industry and both the great investments made and chances taken by these buyers.

Thank you, Keeneland, for welcoming us fans in with the prime investors of this sport.

Ray Davis - Nicholasville, Ky.