05/13/2011 6:02PM

Letters to the Editor May 15


Owner's remarks way out of line at Derby festivities

Owner Barry Irwin's post-Kentucky Derby interview on national television ("Trainers respond to Irwin claim," May 11) had to be a first in the history of horse racing. Irwin was given a 30-second "tell us how you feel, Barry' opportunity to share the excitement of winning the Kentucky Derby with all of America. Instead, he chose to use the time to talk about "trainers lying to me."

What an egotistical piece of work this guy is. It's hard to believe that he'd spend the time to tell the world that he thinks someone is a liar rather than celebrate the moment of winning the Derby.

The remarks constituted disgraceful behavior by a horse racing owner on national television.

Mark Balawejder - Philadelphia

Federal oversight may be the answer

The May 1 article "Legislators set to propose federal medication laws," touched on one of the most important issues facing the racing industry today.

The bill in question, sponsored by Rep. Ed Whitfield from Kentucky and Sen. Tom Udall from New Mexico, does not deal just with Class 1 drugs. It calls for a total ban on raceday medication. Canada and the United States are the only countries that allow any raceday drugs. It's easy to think that these permitted drugs, and allowed systemic residues of certain drugs, are being used to manipulate form every day. It's easy and it's legal, and it shouldn't be.

Even at that, violations are rampant. We test far fewer horses each day than when I got a trainer's license in 1994. So, the odds are very much against one getting caught. When one does get caught, penalties only amount to a slap on the wrist. Certain trainers get slap after slap after slap, and nothing more ever happens to them.

Congress keeps telling the racing industry to clean up its act or face federal regulation. The powers that be in racing just keep passing the buck, and calling for more and more studies, and nobody does anything that really brings U.S. racing into alignment with other countries.

As Plato said, "We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark. The real tragedy is when men are afraid of the light."

Racing faces a severe public image problem. The industry absolutely must do everything possible to prevent even the perception of impropriety. The powers that be in the industry just bury their collective heads in the sand and avoid the real issues. If the Feds have to take over to get racing's house cleaned up, and that perception of impropriety removed, then so be it. If the powers that be in racing continue to do nothing, then racing is doomed.

The people on the street, and many industry insiders, perceive that the races are unfair, if not downright rigged. Animal rights groups publish daily diatribes against racing because of the abuses of drugs, and the slaughter/retirement problem.

Every element in racing is doomed if something doesn't change.

Sandra Bignault - Orinda, Calif.

No reason to shun dime bettors

Why does Churchill Downs remove the 10-cent superfectas on Kentucky Oaks and Derby days? Are they afraid that a small player might win big? It's ridiculous, as they already reduced the cost for the pick three, pick four, and the new pick five to 50 cents. Come on folks -- be consistent and give the little guy a chance to win big.

I don't want excuses about crowd size. Churchill could make 10-cent supers available at the SAM betting machines only, and also give online players a chance to play.

When horse racing is losing its market share, tracks should be doing all they can to get the small, lottery-type players involved.

Frank Avilla - Portland, Ore.