06/17/2011 4:13PM

Letters to the Editor June 19


New Cup race raises questions of overkill and basic purpose

When the idea of the Breeders' Cup was born in 1984, the point was to bring the best horses in the country to decide year-end championship honors such as Horse of the Year, champion juvenile, and champion grass horse. In the past five years, however, the Breeders' Cup board has decided to add races such as the Juvenile Turf, Juvenile Fillies Turf, Turf Sprint, Marathon, and now I see the June 16 article "Juvenile Sprint new Cup race."

My concern is this: What champion is being decided in a race category where an Eclipse Award is not awarded? For example, each year a champion 2-year-old is decided in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, becoming the future book favorite for the Kentucky Derby. Now, the addition of a Juvenile Sprint presents a new problem for Eclipse Award voters. Should one vote for a 2-year-old who was brilliant at distances shorter than 1 1/16 miles or vote for a 2-year-old who won over a route of ground?

Instead of crowning champions, the Breeders' Cup has now become an institution more concerned with the almighty betting dollar.

Christopher Ado - Torrance, Calif.

Syndicate voice sounds too harsh

Is it safe to say a little bit of Barry Irwin goes a long way? First, on national television following Animal Kingdom's victory in the Kentucky Derby, he slam-dunks trainers formerly employed by his Team Valor International syndicate, then five weeks later he blames another horse, Isn't He Perfect, for Animal Kingdom's sixth-place finish in the Belmont Stakes.

What race was he watching last Saturday? I saw the same incident at the start, and I did not see this costing Animal Kingdom the nearly 10 lengths he was beaten in what will go down as one of the all-time weakest Belmont fields. There is hope, however, if Irwin simply picks up the dictionary and familiarizes himself with the meaning of the word accountability.

Rick Higgins - Columbus, Ohio

Belmont keeping new fans away

In 2004, I was on a Long Island Rail Road train heading toward Belmont Park for the Belmont Stakes. The train was filled with hundreds of young, enthusiastic sports fans in their 20's.

I am not sure how many of them had been to the Belmont Stakes before. They were excited about Smarty Jones.

They were young people excited about horse racing. They were exactly what horse racing needs, exactly what horse racing has been in dire need of for dozens of years. They were exactly what I thought the horse racing establishment had desperately wanted.

Thousands of young racing fans descended at Belmont Park that day to help draw a record crowd for the Belmont Stakes - more than 120,000 people in total.

What did the New York Racing Association do to take advantage of this new young group of horse racing fans? They were so upset by reports of long lines and giddy young people playing Frisbee that apparently they sought to keep them away.

The next year, admission went up from $2 to $10. Parking went up to $10. Stiff restrictions on coolers and alcohol were put into place.

The next year, attendance declined nearly by half to 62,275, and last year it hit a pathetic 45,243 - the amount of people who regularly attend the big stakes days at Saratoga in the summer.

Despite these horrid attendance numbers at New York's premier racing event, the leadership at NYRA has done little to get back a new generation of fans to develop a love of a great sport.

I read almost with shock that NYRA was trumpeting the 55,000 people in attendance this past Saturday as a 23-percent increase over last year. That is still the fourth-lowest total in this century. The main reason for the increase was the closing of all the New York City offtrack betting shops.

NYRA is also happy that betting was up nearly 9 percent this year. That's good to hear, but I have news for NYRA: If it doesn't get young people in the gate soon, it won't have gates to open.

Discounting admission as well as out-of-control food and beverage prices and sprucing up the offerings at the track would go a long way.

Meyer Cohan - Rye, N.Y.

New York should honor news anchor

The death on May 24 of CNBC anchor Mark Haines was when many of us who watched him over the years found out he had a great love for horse racing. He was one of the foundations of CNBC, whom NBC apparently never thought to use on its horse racing coverage, something he may have loved doing.

With how beloved he truly was both by his colleagues on CNBC (all of whom wore red, white, and blue ties or scarves on the air on Friday, May 27, to honor Haines, who wore a flag tie every Friday in honor of our troops) and those in the business world (many of whom are also involved in racing), the New York Racing Association should seriously consider renaming the Bowling Green Handicap (a Grade 2 at 1 3/8 miles on turf) the Mark Haines Turf Cup.

NYRA also might consider doubling the purse from the $150,000 it has been in recent years to $300,000. The race has been run the past two years on the weekend of the 9/11 anniversary. If it again is run on the opening Saturday of the fall Belmont meet, it would be run on the eve of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, a day when Haines's work was considered to be the finest of his career.

Given everything, it would be a fitting tribute for the late Mr. Haines if NYRA did rename the Bowling Green in his honor, as everyone at CNBC and many in the business world to whom he was beloved would make every effort to be at Belmont Park that Saturday to honor Mr. Haines, a true giant in financial news who loved the sport of kings.

Walter Parker - Philadelphia