07/08/2011 4:58PM

Letters to the Editor July 10


Young rider's death brings warning of poor role models

I read with great interest the July 2 article in DRF Weekend "Wake-up call: What can racing learn from Michael Baze's death?" Baze's death at such a young age is tragic. I don't think that can be disputed. But no one should consider that his death was the result of anything except the obvious 9 he was a drug addict. If not for his notoriety - say, for instance, he was just some average Joe on the street - there would be nothing of substance printed about his demise. With my sincere condolences to his mother, Teri Gibson, I must say that there is far too much denial surrounding this death.

I would never dispute that professional jockeys are in a risky business, particularly from a physical standpoint. But when one considers the "risk for reward" prospect of it - well, oh man, it's worth it. The money that top jocks make is astronomical compared with what's earned by, say, construction workers, nurses, research techs, policemen, firemen, soldiers, and so on. Those professions have inherent risks as well. But if you screw up on one of those jobs, you very likely will get the proverbial boot. But not jockeys. Take people like Pat Valenzuela, for instance. That guy is the poster child for substance abuse. But time and again he has been allowed back on the job to make millions more. No pink slip for him or Tracy Hebert, Francisco Torres, Jerry Bailey, Pat Day, etc., etc. Why is that? Is it fair when compared with all the other professions that employ average guys who could lose their jobs if found drunk or high on illegal substances? I think not.

The death of this young man of extraordinary ability and potential is terrible. But blaming the dangerous nature of the job, the fact that people surrounding young jockeys are pushing them or relying on them for income, or that becoming a jockey automatically means you must become an addict - all that is rubbish.

The racing industry should be shouldering a major portion of the blame for allowing habitual abusers to remain in the industry, continuing to make millions. They are the role models the younger riders see. Youths tend to emulate what they see. In the horse racing industry they see highly successful riders abusing drugs and alcohol and still getting paid. If they see there are no real consequences for that behavior, why wouldn't they do the same? So they do. And occasionally their lives end tragically, as did that of Chris Antley, and now, Michael Baze.

Martin Rogers - St. Louis

Belmont incident gets another look

So the writer of the June 19 letter "Syndicate voice sounds too harsh" doesn't think that Animal Kingdom being broadsided a couple of steps out of the gate and clipping heels, causing John Velazquez to lose his iron, hurt his chances to win the Belmont. He wants to know what race Barry Irwin was watching. Must have been the same one that Velazquez and Ramon Dominguez were in, judging by their postrace remarks. Dominguez was aboard Mucho Macho Man, the middle bumper car in the game. Both jockeys were far more outspoken than Irwin and they had a better view than the letter-writer.

The stewards - who watched the race several times after the fact - seemed to agree with Mr. Irwin, thus the suspension handed down to Rajiv Maragh, rider of the errant Isn't He Perfect.

Whether you think he would have made a run or not, Animal Kingdom had the opportunity taken away from him. At least it looked that way to most of us.

Al Montella - South Ozone Park, N.Y.