01/06/2012 5:42PM

Letters to the Editor Jan. 8


DQ policy needs an overhaul to let results stand

Over the years there have been many arguments (including on these pages) about whether the official order of finish should be changed when the stewards agree that an infraction has occurred.

Some argue that letting the results stand would lead to rough riding and serious injury or worse. Others (like me) believe that the order of finish should be left as is while penalties are significantly enhanced – if indeed they are warranted. All other competitive sporting events have evolved with rule changes except for horse racing, the one event where wagering on the results is a necessary part of the entire equation.

The whole object is to reach the finish line first, and the role of opinion (educated or not) as to whether the second horse could have won or the third horse would have finished second should have no role in the parimutuel process. Instead, horse racing should institute a new practice: Redistribute purse money so that if a race winner's infraction caused another horse to finish out of the purse distribution sequence, the money is deducted from the transgressor's proceeds.

Also, the jockey (if required) should be punished more severely than under the old rules. In this way there would be no more inconsistent rulings affecting the betting public (upon whom this entire game depends) and no more disqualifications of clear-cut winners. The sport will have improved and the safety issue will not be compromised.

Richard Napolitano – Westhampton, N.Y.

Game loses its fun when players find they can't win

We're four regular guys who have been horseplayers our entire adult lives (with 160 years of attending racetracks among the four of us). We love it so much that every year we take a weeklong trip to a region of the country and visit the tracks, much like many guys do with baseball stadiums.

Over the past few years, however, we have become increasingly frustrated to the point that we all go to the track far less often and are thinking of giving it up entirely. And it's not because of the traditional reasons such as the decaying physical state of the tracks, the diminished quality of racing, or the fact that the paucity of people makes you feel as if you're in a mausoleum.

The reason is that we just can't win anymore. We have never had any illusions that we could win in the long run, but over the years we have had many winning days, and we always went to the track with the optimism that today was going to be our big day. But now we've going with such trepidation that we just don't know how long our egos can take another losing session.

And it's no wonder that we can't win anymore.

Takeouts have steadily climbed from an already-steep 15 to 20 percent for win betting and 20 to 30 percent for exotics. Electronic and off-site betting, along with smaller pools, makes one have no idea what one's final odds will be. The overlay you think you're so clever at picking becomes everyone else's overlay, and the 4-1 shot you think you're betting goes down to 2-1 after the race goes off. (That happened to the only winner for one of us the other day. It made the difference between losing a hundred dollars and making a few bucks.)

In what other form of gambling do you not know what your final odds are? Fields tend to be so small that picking the overlooked longshot becomes almost impossible.
Cruelest of all - and flying in the face of every economic principle any of us ever learned at school - as demand for racing goes down, prices go up. For instance, Hollywood Park, which always used to charge a nominal fee to get in, now charges $10 for grandstand admission.

We think we have some ideas to help. The fact that we have visited more than 30 racetracks in the last few years gives us a good perspective, and we welcome any inquiries to discuss what can be done to save our beloved sport.

Richard Foos, David Foos, Rick Stoff, John Farkash – California racing loyalists