12/30/2011 3:23PM

Letters to the editor Jan. 1

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Rapid Redux fits all the criteria for Horse of the Year

The discussion whether Rapid Redux is a fitting candidate for the 2011 Horse of the Year voting should start with the name of the award. The award is the horse of the “year.” Not the horse of the spring, not the horse of the fall, and not the horse who wins the Breeders’ Cup.

To say that Rapid Redux is not a deserving champion is nonsense. The fact that Rapid Redux has not participated in stakes races is secondary to the fact that the horse made an amazing 19 trips to the starting gate, ran his race 19 times, and met the cameraman each and every time. At least one time in every calendar month in 2011, Rapid Redux made a start and finished on top. Many of the contenders mentioned for the award did not make even a dozen starts, took extended breaks throughout the campaign, or left the racing scene altogether. Sure, there were many sensational moments throughout the year, but no other contender sustained brilliance over the course of 12 months. The award is for Horse of the Year. Nineteen trips, 19 wins. An incredible campaign deserves the recognition as the best of 2011.

Rob Tuel
Omaha, Neb.

Better to spread around that $10M

In their never-ending quest to find out what’s killing racing’s attendance and handle, the ostriches at the Jockey Club are expected – to quote the Dec. 10 article “Jockey Club plans business boost” – “to launch several of the initiatives in its five-year, $10 million project to attempt to reverse significant declines in racing’s popularity by early next year. The efforts will include a free-to-play handicapping site and social-network game.”

I’m sure people will be lined up at their computers days in advance to make sure they don’t get shut out of this major development to revitalize the sport. I know I’m all agog. And I’m thrilled to the core to know that it’s only going to cost $10 million.
Instead of throwing the money in the street as the Jockey Club intends to do, it would do better by giving $1 million to each of 10 tracks that are teetering on the brink of failure, such as Beulah Park, Portland Meadows, Turf Paradise, and Thistledown, to name just a few. If each track added $2,000 to every overnight purse at an average of nine races a day, each could do wonders for the horsemen with that million bucks over a period of about 55 days.

And instead of developing new little games that nobody cares about, the Jockey Club should peruse the charts of any day’s races and maybe the answer will pop into their brains the way cartoonists draw lightbulbs over the heads of their protagonists.

On Dec. 15, 65 horses competed in nine races at Aqueduct, an average of 7.2 per race. Among the stellar fare, we were treated to two races with five runners, one with six, and three with seven. The ontrack handle was $645,974, intrastate wagers reached $699,303, and out-of-state betting was $3,471,287. For the premier venue in North America, that borders on dismal. It has been that way almost every day for months.

At Hollywood Park, once a bastion of the sport, there were 50 runners in eight races, an average of 6.25, and that was with one race drawing 10. Without that one, the other seven averaged 5.7. Hawthorne’s numbers were 67 runners over nine races for an average of 7.4, and that included one race with a field of 11.

Add to the mix that TVG is no longer showing Tampa Bay Downs and several other venues due to disputes over simulcast commissions, and the need for a national racing commissioner, not social networking games, becomes more apparent each day.

Bernie Dickman
Ocala, Fla.

Valenzuela won’t be missed at races

As a longtime fan and avid follower of the game, let me say “Thank God!” after reading “Valenzuela announces retirement as a jockey” (Dec. 11).  Thank goodness he retired before he ruined whatever little credibility the sport has and before we had to hear how closely he shaves again.

I do not want to hear what talent he has, what ability, how he gets horses to run. That’s all very true. What also is very true, however, is that the guy was banned more than once. I have been a loud advocate of never reinstating his license several times, but the California Horse Racing Board or other flaccid power gives in and makes an exception every time.

There are so many riders today – who do everything it takes to ride a horse for a living without breaking the law – who weren’t getting mounts because Valenzuela was back. Now they will get their chances. Now we don’t have to hear about his “troubles” whenever Valenzuela wins a stakes race, or hear how many wins he “could have had” if he didn’t lose so many years to suspensions.

Bye, bye, Pat, you have had more than enough chances.

Greg Scherr
Monrovia, Calif.