03/29/2013 4:48PM

Letters to the Editor March 31


Longer races, synthetic tracks would benefit horses

Studies have shown that motorists wearing seat belts are much more likely to survive a crash, as are motorcyclists wearing helmets. Nutrition analysts have gone on record as stating that a diet consisting of fruits and high fiber is more likely to prolong a life than one chock-full of saturated fats. Yet, there are still people who will pull up to the drive-through at McDonald's with their seat belts off and order a Big Mac and fries. Why? Because it's their choice. ­Thoroughbreds don't have the choice to ­decide what's best for them. They are bred by us and inherently depend on us for every minute aspect of their lives (at least while they're racing).

So why is it, that when we're given such concrete data as that presented to us by The Jockey Club that horses are twice as likely to break down on a dirt track, than a synthetic track ("Synthetic is still safer," March 10), are the best interests of the racehorse not immediately put in the forefront? When synthetic surfaces were originally introduced, trainers complained of "back-end injuries." That stood to reason, as horses weren't used to the surface, and it took a while to become acclimated to it. That time has now passed, as the new complaint is "synthetic is ill-suited for speed" or "it's difficult to handicap." When did we take the "horse" out of "horse racing?"

Furthermore, the study reveals that races shorter than six furlongs comprise 24 percent of the racing in America, yet these races produce fatalities at a rate 30 percent higher than longer-distance races. Once again, this statistic is not a surprise, given that sprinters run at a higher rate of speed and would understandably be more susceptible to injuries than those traveling at a more leisurely pace in longer races, but still, a question needs to be answered: Why, given this intrinsic data, do we continue to run such a glut of sprint races? And if there must be sprint races, why aren't we running them over the substantially safer synthetic surface, instead of over the dirt? Such a switch could have saved the lives of dozens of racehorses last year.

Kevin Cox - Oceanside, N.Y.

Jones has the stuff of Hall material

I have reviewed many pages of racing statistics concerning trainer Gary F. Jones, and the only conclusion one can draw is that it would be an absolute injustice if he is not elected to the Racing Hall of Fame this year.

Jones had nearly 7,900 starters, with 18 percent winners, earning more than $52 million. (This when a dollar was a dollar!)

Jones had 610 graded stakes starters: 17 percent winners, 18 percent place, and 14 percent show.

We could go on and on. The remarkable part of this was his specialties of lay-up horses he made winners and good horses he made champions. He developed Turkoman, Fali Time, Kostrama, Best Pal, and Radar Ahead (who bested Affirmed twice), to name a few.

Over the past 20 years, I have spoken to many jockeys and trainers, and they are unanimous in considering Jones the consummate horseman. Voters should let his body of work speak for itself and finally elect Gary Jones to racing's Hall of Fame.

Duke Freyermuth - Monrovia, Calif.