02/23/2007 12:00AM

Letters to the Editor


Multiple fields could enliven Derby futures

In his Feb. 10 column, "Derby futures need shot in the arm," Steven Crist lamented the fact that one can bet only 23 individual horses, plus a field of all other nominees, in the Kentucky Derby future pools. I would like to offer a plan that would serve to offer many additional horses to bet and would make the pools much more interesting.

When some friends and I used to run a Kentucky Derby party, we used a computer program that allowed only 12 betting interests. We solved the problem, not with one field, but with several. Without any reprogramming whatsoever, Churchill Downs could apply the same concept. Instead of 23 individual betting interests, Churchill could set up maybe 10 individual interests, plus 13 fields of five or six horses each, plus a larger field for the remainder of nominees. This would be a lot more exciting than the current setup and probably would lead to higher prices on some of the individual horses. And those of us who like horses not among the select 23 might be able to bet them.

Ron Jones - Imperial Beach, Calif.

Cup can grab jackpot-chasers

The addition of three new events to the Breeders' Cup, to be run the day before the main event at Monmouth Park, ("Three new $1M Cup races," Jan. 10) creates a real opportunity for Breeders' Cup Ltd. to attract lottery players to the championship day by simply moving one of the new events to the main day itself.

Adding a ninth BC race to the main day (assuming it could easily be added to the ESPN telecast) would allow the introduction of a Breeders' Cup "Pick Nine for a Dime" wager, a 10-cent pick nine that could effectively replace the pick six and be much more attractive to smaller bettors as well as lottery players. The possibility of being able to win millions for just 10 cents would have genuine appeal with those who play lotteries and the like in search of the big jackpot.

The 10-cent pick nine was featured last year at Balmoral Park, a harness track in the Chicago suburbs. Such a bet may be just the ticket to bring in new blood the sport desperately needs.

Walter Parker - Philadelphia

New Gulfstream pales in comparison

My, how much Gulfstream Park has changed over the last three years. Free concerts were once used to introduce new fans to racing. Novices experienced the sport in a park-like setting, with thousands of free seats, most with a panoramic view of the racetrack. There was a large open paddock area affording a close-up look at these magnificent animals. It was a family-oriented environment, and the horses were the main attraction.

Now slot machines are the new lure. Racing patrons are greeted by a small, inadequate facility where it is virtually impossible to get seats on the weekend. There are few seats overlooking the racetrack, and the small paddock area borders on claustrophobic. On days of inclement weather, it is probable that the only horse a patron will see is on a monitor. I can't imagine that the casual fan will be in any hurry to return.

This once-grand home to the great spectacle of horse racing has been lost, replaced by a windowless gambling den. This is going to promote horse racing? To borrow a phrase from another debacle: You're doing a heck of a job, Frank Stronach.

Edward Pineau - Boca Raton, Fla.

Ohio track's stance hurts all involved

Beulah Park's management is acting like a petulant child in its dispute with the Ohio Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association ("Ohio loses California signals," Feb. 21).

Not only does Beulah seem not to grasp the basic right of signal ownership, but it also seems to have a dinosaur-like approach to simulcasting. The simulcast fee structure must change. Much has been written on the matter, and everyone with an understanding of the broken model gets it. Unfortunately, the simplistic thinkers at Beulah seem not to.

Ultimately, Beulah will lose this battle, and in the meantime the impasse harms horsemen, Ohio racing, and most importantly, the fans. Beulah's stance is just flat-out bad for racing.

Brad Edwards - San Francisco

No-calls illustrate stewards' failing

On Saturday, Feb. 3, in both the fifth race at Aqueduct and the third race at Santa Anita, stewards at both tracks erred by not declaring the races "no contest" when more than half the field was affected by serious incidents that cost the majority of horses in the races any chance of a fair shot of earning money.

I find it amazingly easy to conclude that the majority of horses were denied any chance of winning by incidents out of their control by reading the charts of the races and watching the videos. Why the stewards at those tracks did not reach the same conclusions and act accordingly is beyond my comprehension.

How is it possible that these stewards can use the factor of assessing blame and disqualify a horse in a race when the horse's actions cost another a better placing, while at the same time ignore the obvious fact that when more than half the field has to swerve to avoid a fallen horse or one who is pulling up (in order to avoid going down themselves), it is permissible to let the results stand and to declare the race official?

It is high time that the rules of racing were made as clear as a bell, to protect the interest of the fans and therefore the sport itself, as without those wagering dollars there would be no sport. When a majority of horses in a race have been denied a chance at winning, or even a better placing, then in the same manner as when rulings demote horses when a single horse has been denied his rightful placing, the race must be declared "no contest."

To do anything less demonstrates to the fans, who essentially foot the bill for racing, that the stewards feel that their employers are the owners and trainers and not the fans.

The integrity of the sport and its continued success are reliant on protecting the fans. When a majority of horses are affected by incidents similar to those of Feb. 3, a majority of fans are affected as well.

Ellis Starr - Lexington, Ky.