01/12/2007 12:00AM

Letters to the Editor


Simulcasting needs tiered fee system of revenue sharing

In regard to Steven Crist's Jan. 6 column, "Simulcasting needs new math," Woodbine might be viewed as fairly objective on the issue raised by Mr. Crist of buying and selling rates for signals. Woodbine sells more live races than any other individual racetrack, but also handles hundreds of millions in wagers on purchased signals. Consequently, it represents the interests of both buyers and sellers.

The reason racetrack buyers have to keep so much of the revenue is simple: The incremental revenue from simulcasting must pay the additional expense of running massive facilities, offtrack teletheatre networks, and other distribution systems over extended simulcast hours.

Buyers like Woodbine, after paying local taxes, regulatory fees, host-track fees, and local purses, are left with about 6 percent of simulcast wagers. Too often this is not enough to cover the additional expenses noted above, as the simulcast races don't generate enough incremental wagering. There are some notable exceptions, such as the Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup races, but buying tracks may only keep 1 percent of wagers on these events.

All selling tracks, including Gulfstream, typically have more incremental revenue than the buying tracks. The seller's additional expense of broadcasting a signal are easily covered by the new fees paid by buyers. As an added benefit, the seller's signal becomes more valuable and popular as pool size increases. So the standard buy/sell rate of 3 percent between tracks does follow the simple economic theory of supply and demand.

Mr. Crist correctly pointed out that "there could be one rate between fellow racetracks that support live racing and another for pure bet-processors." Since the "pure bet-processors" do not typically have the same large local expenses like regulatory fees, purses, and bricks-and-mortar infrastructure, they most certainly should pay more for signals.

Now that's where the new math is really needed!

Steve Mitchell, Senior Vice President and CFO, Woodbine Entertainment Group

New Cup races add up to no good

So they're messing with the Breeders' Cup ("Three new $1M Cup races," Jan. 10). Let's diminish the one great thing racing has built. The new Juvenile Turf is welcome. That will get a big field and won't affect the dirt races. The Filly and Mare Sprint is marginal. At six furlongs it has no place whatsoever. One of the story lines we don't want to lose is the fillies trying the boys in the BC Sprint. And when it goes to seven furlongs it's never going to be Breeders' Cup quality.

As for the so-called Dirt Mile, to run it at Monmouth at one mile and 70 yards around two turns is just foolish. And as a one-turn mile it's going to be the shallowest Breeders' Cup field. It will also cannibalize the Sprint. No more seven-furlong specialists to bet against.

The powers that be need to keep one thing always foremost in mind: Betting drives this sport. The Breeders' Cup has grown to become what it is because it's a gambling day like no other. And that's all about contention. You have to be careful when you start siphoning off competition and creating races that don't live up to the standards of the event.

Two of the new races don't help and, I think, actually hurt the event. A turf sprint would have been a better addition - 5 1/2 furlongs or down the hill at Santa Anita, American speed versus European quality, half the field within a couple lengths of each other at the wire. That's a Breeders' Cup race.

Jim Caputo - Albany, N.Y.

Menu will serve too much of a good thing

So the Breeders' Cup is expanding to 11 races, over two days. Bad idea.

This is nothing more than trying to milk a good thing for more money for everyone involved. They're going to water down the Breeders' Cup until some races become meaningless.

The Juvenile Turf will be for 2-year-olds who lack the talent to compete in top company on the main track. Look at the existing 2-year-old grass stakes coast to coast: little established form, very few future starts. Boring.

As for the Filly and Mare Sprint: Who cares? A good filly can compete with the boys. The rest are irrelevant.

The Dirt Mile would appear to be for horses who are too slow for the Sprint and not good enough for the Classic. What kind of horses will they draw here? A one-turn mile could be interesting but would take away from the Sprint field. This year it will probably look like the Salvator Mile at Monmouth, a meaningless race.

The worst concept is dragging it into two days. It's like a seven-course meal where everyone is ready to get sick after course five.

Bill Stevenson - Carson City, Nev.

Oversaturation may dampen fan interest

The announcement that Thoroughbred horse racing's most exciting day, the Breeders' Cup, is now going to be a two-day affair, with three more million-dollar races, was a short-sighted decision by those in whom the sport has invested its future. "Greeders' Cup" might now be a more appropriate title, as these new races, which place a premium upon speed and precociousness, cater only to the crass commercial interests of breeders who are more interested in turning a quick buck than ensuring the soundness and longevity of North American bloodstock, and the aspirations of an organization whose only concern seems to be increasing betting turnover.

Sure, the handle at Churchill Downs last October may well have been a record. But that was in the most vibrant market and was primarily owed to the simulcast signal being sent to a larger overseas audience. And, as was unfortunately confirmed by the lamentable television ratings, the North American public ("Breeders' Cup TV audience at new low," Nov. 9) apparently could not have cared less.

Horse racing is quite complicated enough as it is for non-racing people. So changing a good formula and diluting quality, with new esoteric conditions that can only result in smaller, less competitive fields, is confusing and senseless.

Robin Dawson - Toronto

Expansion a boon to global interest

I write in regard to Steven Crist's Jan 13. column, "New Cup races welcome, but . . ." on the new Breeders Cup races. While it may be odd that the Breeders' Cup would add a Juvenile turf race and not a turf sprint, in reality it's refreshing to see that the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and Breeders' Cup Ltd. are looking to a more expansive and global vision of racing by adding a turf mile for 2-year-olds.

The 2006 races were noticeably bereft of European juvenile stars such as Holy Roman Emperor, and adding this race can only enhance the chance that prized Euros (and maybe others) will take a shot at a seven-figure purse.

As for those horses like Johannesburg and Arazi who won the Juvenile, clearly, that option still exists, and I doubt that operations like Coolmore, et al., will pass on double the purse if the horse makes sense in the race. Moreover, perhaps this will lead to some meaningful turf 2-year-old races, something this country is sorely lacking. I would rather, though, see the Breeders' Cup take the lead towards the expansion of racing, rather than just reacting, which they have done here.

Angelo Grasso

Angelo Grasso - Brooklyn, N.Y.