02/02/2007 12:00AM

Letters to the Editor

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Mourn Barbaro, but don’t forget about Ferdinand

While the reactions to Barbaro’s departure are justified, it’s important to remember another Derby champion who deserves even greater recognition in light of his ignominious demise – Ferdinand. He deserved far more attention for his horrific fate, in a Japanese slaughterhouse, in light of the attention and adulation bestowed upon Barbaro, whose final days were anything but as cruel as those of the 1986 Derby champ. I guess in order for a Derby winner’s plight to remain fresh in the public consciousness, and for him (or her) to therefore avoid being killed for consumption, more champs should break down on the Triple Crown trail. Should it have to come to that? I should hope not.

Jeff Bryant - Los Angeles

Call for change in Barbaro’s wake

I guess one can’t expect much, but the hypocritical eulogizing of Barbaro by racing writers is ridiculous. If the horse racing industry would clean up its practices of breeding fragile horses, asking too much of them too soon, and then sending them to the slaughterhouse or an early death at the track, then it won’t have to write eulogies between races. It’s unbelievable what that horse had to endure, and he’s one of thousands. For folks in the horse racing industry, putting some blather online about the latest horse destroyed by racing makes everything okay, and it’s onto the next round of exploitation. Utter hypocrisy.

Lenna Warner - Rockport, Mass.

Japanese have the right idea

I read with interest Alan Shuback’s article “Trying to map racing’s global future” (Jan. 28). Three cheers for Mr. Shuback. He got it right!

No sport can exist without fans in the stands, and it is no coincidence that racing’s popularity began to wane when the emphasis turned to wagering rather than live attendance. We need new blood in the game, and without the ontrack experience, let’s not fool ourselves into believing we can bring new owners and fans into the sport. Racing needs to improve its product, and to achieve this goal we must revisit our liberal use of medications for training and racing. Medications are chemicals. All chemicals have side effects. Just read the disclaimer the pharmacy gives you the next time you fill a prescription.

The path seems clear to me. The Japanese certainly showed the auto industry the way; maybe they are telling us something, too!

Richard Shapiro, Chairman, California Horse Racing Board

Way to fans’ hearts through stomachs

No doubt, as Alan Shuback suggested when mentioning the recently completed Asian Racing Conference in Dubai (“Trying to map racing’s global future,” Jan. 28), there is much legitimately placed concern about horse racing’s rapidly dwindling status as a spectator sport, and the need to do something so as to cultivate a greater fan base and reverse the ongoing decline in ontrack attendance.

Along with doing something about decreasing not just the number of races with miserably short fields but also the sinful level of parimutuel taxation and incidence of drug violations, to say nothing of the number of weak-kneed prosecutions of those violations, I would like to suggest the following measure for the creation of a significantly larger ontrack fan base: The provision of lots and lots of good food at very reasonable prices.

If the racing game’s rulers can find a reason for people to go to the track that has nothing to do with gambling, or even, for that matter, with horse racing itself, then they will succeed, eventually and inevitably, at getting the ontrack attendance numbers moving in the right direction. Food that is both affordable and as good as any that is available offtrack, at comparable prices, may very well be one of the few cards that the racing czars have left to play when it comes to winning the attendance game in the currently very competitive and challenging environment that horse racing finds itself in.

John J. Marshall - Toronto

Plenty of blame to go around

Stan Bergstein’s article featuring Ben Liebman (“Professor gives racing failing grade,” Jan. 25), who is now master of the Albany Law School, was interesting. Professor Liebman thinks that regulators and legislators – not management or horsemen – have messed up racing. I attend the races in Chicago and south Florida where both management and the horsemen have messed up racing.

Consider what management has done:

1. Lost two generations of fans due to poor and rude service. Throw in an arrogant attitude of “We are the only gambling game in town” prior to the 1980’s.

2. The stand-alone daily racing product has become so inferior – with small fields, an abundance of maiden races, running the same tired stock – that without casinos the product itself cannot turn a profit alone.

3. A lack of creative marketing to attract much-needed young people to the sport.

4. Overpriced venues. Other forms of gambling offer better value to the consumer.

5. A lack of racing education. It is management’s responsibility to help educate the new consumer.

Consider what the horsemen have done:

1. Using illegal substances. Unlawful doping to alter a horse’s performance puts the public in a non-trusting position. It is a double whammy when the violating

trainers have big stables with high win percentages.

2. Late trainer scratches. Once the program is printed it should represent a contract with the paying patron.

3. The latest jockey suspensions continue to plague the integrity of the sport.

Maybe the colorful Ben Liebman can influence the regulators and legislators to get their act together, so that in conjunction with management and the horsemen racing may someday climb back to the lofty attendance figures professor Liebman laments.

Jim Lentz – Wheaton, Ill.