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Letters to the Editor May 1
Drug quandary calls for action to reassure public
The past and current chairmen of the Association of Racing Commissioners International got the industry's attention recently on their recommendation to ban raceday medication, as we were reminded in the April 30 article, "RCI calls for rethinking of drug." I fail to see the wisdom in the opposition's side to maintain the current medication platform while the industry holds meetings and contemplates more scientific studies.
Have I missed something over the past few years while reading the Equibase reports or clear messages contained in the letters from Congress to our industry? When was the last time we received a quarterly or annual report indicating an increase in attendance, wagering, or purses (not generated by alternative gaming)? Wagering had a 0.90-percent increase in the third quarter of 2007 from the previous year.
To me this medication issue is not about science. It is about a philosophy and a perception. The philosophy is that the industry thinks it knows what's best for our sport. The perception from our customers, both current and potential, is that we are a drug-infested sport. True or false, there is no amount of money that can be raised to promote a public relations effort to convince our customers otherwise. They read about the trainers who have abused our current medication rules, and although that may be a minority, the perception is that everyone is abusing. Yes, one bad apple does spoil the barrel. Why do we allow the inmates to run the asylum? It is insane to continue to do the same thing over and over again expecting a different outcome.
Let us break tradition, try something new. It might change that perception and bring some customers back.
"The first thing you have to do to get out of a hole is to quit digging." That's the Cowboy philosophy.
David Switzer, Executive Director
Kentucky Thoroughbred Association/Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders' Association
Home viewing hurt by remote control
This special commission that is studying racing and its problems -- as noted in Andrew Beyer's April 24 column, "Time bomb ticking for industry" -- isn't dealing with the biggest issue: control of televising races from all major tracks.
If a racing fan is watching TVG, he can see only certain tracks. Churchill Downs, with its Twinspires account-wagering operation, and MI Developments, with XpressBet, restrict the signals of their major tracks, so a bettor has to resort to streaming video, something that the majority of horseplayers simply do not want to do.
I'm watching TVG on Comcast Cable in Miami, and I want to see all of the major tracks that are open on any particular day. TVG couldn't show Gulfstream Park, or Santa Anita, or Fair Grounds, or Oaklawn, or, starting this weekend, Churchill Downs. It's just plain nuts. Bettors deserve more, and this corporate self-interest is a major roadblock to fans having access to live television viewing of the big tracks. And you have to realize that local cable operators usually carry only one horse-betting channel in any one major city.
Racing is shooting itself in the foot, and the fans are getting more and more disenchanted.
Jerry Pinault - Miami
Fan's favorite spot now off limits
Approximately five years ago, when the new Gulfstream Park was opened, the refrain from horseplayers both casual and serious was identical: "Where are the seats? Where can we watch the races?" The answer: "We have two separate rooms with multiple TV's, and the paddock has a Jumbotron, or you can stand on the infield. Now go enjoy your day." Just great.
So let's fast-forward to the opening of Calder and its 40th anniversary this past Monday. Apparently this winter, the Calder management team went to the Gulfstream school of customer satisfaction. Calder introduced the new year by closing the fourth floor terrace to everyday horseplayers.
The fourth floor terrace at Calder offered arguably the best vantage point of any track in America. You sat high over the track with an unobstructed view of the entire course. For years there were chairs and tote machines, and it was truly the best place in America to enjoy the races. So Calder has ruined the experience.
When my friends and I complained, a track employee mentioned the expansive network of television monitors on the second floor and that the infield had new benches. Well, let's give Calder some credit: It didn't have to spend millions of dollars to destroy the experience, just some signs and a couple of padlocks.
Ophelia Hernandez - Miami
Exchange-bet study misjudges market
The recent study on the effects that exchange betting would have upon horse racing in North America ("Betfair-funded study finds positives,"April 27) is a stunningly naive document. Indeed, I'm shocked that people as smart as the guys at Betfair allowed such lightweight nonsense to be published.
North American bettors are, by habit, exotic-pool bettors, options that Betfair does not offer its customers, and any scavenging of the few bettors left will seriously cannibalize handles and undermine the credibility and integrity of the sport.
The only good news is that serious major league sports, such as the NFL and NBA will never ever allow such an invasion. So racing, unwittingly, will be saved temporarily.
Robin Dawson - Toronto
Drysdale touch a special one
Just before last Sunday's Inglewood Handicap at Hollywood Park, when Liberian Freighter made the post parade turnaround at about the eighth pole, he balked. He had run 15 days before, and he balked. His rider just waited. An assistant to trainer Neil Drysdale came out and started communicating with the horse. He wasn't communicating with the jockey or the pony boy. He walked up between those two, still communicating with the horse. The horse quieted down. The assistant petted him. The horse's body language changed. He displayed the body language of a horse, if not eager to run a race, ready to run one. The assistant saw the answer he was seeking and left.
Liberian Freighter went on to win the Grade 3 Inglewood, leading throughout.
Too bad there isn't an award for passing on expert horse-handling to assistants. Neil Drysdale would get it.
John Wiedeman - Arcadia, Calif.