03/08/2013 5:23PM

Letters to the Editor March 10


Switch to synthetic at NYRA tracks could bury game

The March 1 article "NYRA house rules recommended," took note that the feasibility of installing synthetic racing surfaces at Belmont and Aqueduct is being studied by the New York Racing Association's Equine Safety Committee. Well, here we go again trying to take the last breath out of a sport on life support.

Let's assume that the study finds that there are 10 percent to 15 percent fewer racing "incidents" on synthetic tracks. That sounds great. Okay, now let's assume that 20 percent to 30 percent of the horses currently racing in New York will be removed from the pool of horses because they don't "like" the synthetic surface (for reasons too numerous to get into). Now let's say an additional 20 percent to 30 percent of the people who make NYRA possible (the gamblers), and who have been handicapping races run on traditional dirt surfaces for years, decide that they will not start all over again trying to figure out how to handicap these new parameters. We're looking at four- to five-horse fields that nobody is betting on. Looks like more and more people will be moving from Aqueduct to the adjacent Resorts World slots parlor, where even the negative-expectation games are less challenging.

I'm all for safety being increased, but you can't take a sport that is inherently dangerous and manipulate the parameters that make it attractive to begin with, i.e., a fair chance for everyone to profit. Nobody wants to see horses or jockeys injured, but simply put, those dangers are not a direct result of racing on dirt. I believe that the incidents occurring on racetracks across the nation on a daily basis are a result of just that - issues related to racing every day. What happens when you try to fill nine or 10 races a day with fields of at least seven horses? You get fields with some unfit horses, or worse, horses overmedicated to make it into a race - a formula for disaster. Where does the blame lie? Somewhere between the trainers and owners, and the states (who are influencing racing secretaries) demanding that their take not be compromised by a lack of racing dates. Well, guess what, slot machines are finding their way into the hearts of governors all over the country, and they don't need to be "fed" anything but money.

If NYRA does want to make some changes, then I hope at least some of the races will remain on the dirt. Perhaps the inner turf course at Belmont and the main track at Aqueduct could be changed to synthetic surfaces, leaving at least some races to be run on the dirt (Belmont's main track and Aqueduct's inner track). Face it, there is no next generation of horseplayers, so try to keep the current generation happy. In a few years there will be no "live" racing anyway, so get ready for the electronic game coming to a casino near you.

Frank DeRiso - Hicksville, N.Y.