Updated on 02/28/2011 6:49PM

Letters to the Editor: Feb. 27


Trainer defends his home base against intruder

After reading Andrew Beyer's Feb. 12 column, "Tampa finding life in major leagues a challenge," I felt a strong dislike for its arrogant, negative attitude about my home turf for the last 30 years.

Some of Beyer's statements were true, including those about track announcer Richard Grunder's mispronunciations and the malfunctioning timer. The timer was designed to be an improvement by a company that has been associated with Tampa Bay Downs for some time. The fact is that there were glitches that will soon be adjusted to save the track's general manager, Peter Berube, further embarrassment. If occasionally you hit hurdles in an effort to make improvements, it is still better than no effort to improve.

In Grunder's case, Beyer does not know the man behind the voice. Grunder's natural enthusiasm leads to his errors. Most of us aren't that upset with his occasional miscalls and find his excitement and natural love of the game refreshing. Horse racing is more about excitement than imperfections.

As a trainer and past board member of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, I have had several dealings with Berube in the last decade. He is the most visible general manager I have dealt with in my 30 years of racing at various tracks. He never fails to return phone calls and responds to everyone. He is very aware of other simulcasting schedules. On his watch, Tampa Bay Downs has been very fan-friendly, with several options for dining, plenty of clerks, and a picnic area.
That's not to say that the general manager and I haven't had differences of opinion, but the overall financial line indicates that the track must be doing a lot of things right.

The turf course is among the best for a reason. After it was installed, Tampa Bay Downs did not run on it full time for 18 months. Only a few test races were run on it during that period. Maintenance of the turf is unsurpassed. Beyer, though, failed to mention the non-bias that Tampa's surfaces possess. For a decade, on both dirt and grass, horses have an equal chance, regardless of positioning. Tampa Bay's surfaces are great not only for bettors but also the horses. They are by far the kindest surfaces I have used.

Beyer fails to realize that this is a family track, from the owner to the announcer, to the horsemen who have an 80-percent return rate. Tampa carefully strives to improve the quality of its horse population, while taking care of its "regulars."

The only thing stopping Tampa Bay Downs from joining the elite is slot-machine revenue. As usual, the well-run parimutuel operation got the least help from the legislature.

Bruce Alexander - Oldsmar, Fla.

Tampa caller a rousing voice

I would like to point out that the Tampa Bay announcer, Richard Grunder, at least gives the names of owners and jockeys. Several announcers don't, and if it weren't for the owners, Andrew Beyer would be out of a job.

Richard may not pronounce some names perfectly, but we appreciate his calling of the races, including owners' names, just the way he has been doing it.

Karen Metzen - Phoenix

Proposed levy in New York a tax too far

Only a fool continues to sit in denial, failing to acknowledge the obvious. Such is the way for many who continue to believe that New York's Thoroughbred racing, once the preeminent bulwark of the sport, is not in serious decline. Whether you choose to point to declining field sizes, the growth in number of cheaper claiming races, the corruption and destruction of New York City Off-Track Betting, the out-of-control expansion of inferior statebred contests, or the pathetic attendance numbers at Aqueduct and Belmont, the resulting conclusion is the same: New York racing is a shadow of its former self.

As if those factors were not enough, along comes newly crowned Gov. Cuomo seeking to impose another cost upon the people who already shoulder the financial burden in the sport ("New York owners face new tax," Feb. 3), an act that will surely contribute to further deterioration. This political brainstorm not only sets a new precedent, but is certain to influence the defection of owners and their horses to other racing jurisdictions. I ask, what industry imposes a tax on its members to finance its regulatory body? Taxpayers foot the bill for the Securities and Exchange Commission, not financial institutions. The same can be said about the Federal Communications Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, and others. Why isn't the tax being imposed upon the casino operators who employ the racing industry in order to conduct their trade?

When you tally up the day rates of New York trainers, veterinary bills, farrier charges, and shipping costs, (and keep in mind commissions paid to trainers, jockeys, and stable help), it now easily costs the average owner in New York State between $40,000 and $50,000 per annum to keep a Thoroughbred in training. In real terms, that figure is significantly higher pre-tax after the purchase of the horse. With the added issue of "supertrainers" monopolizing all the quality stock and the higher purse rewards, how can anyone imagine a regular guy ever having a chance in the sport?

Anthony J. Perrotta, Jr. - Red Bank, N.J.