10/28/2011 5:09PM

Letters to the Editor Oct. 30

Alysse Jacobs
Life At Ten, with John Velazquez riding, trails the field in the 2010 Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic.

Life At Ten tale has one bettor questioning Cup

After reading the Oct. 22 DRF Weekend article "Upon further review," about the Life At Ten incident in last year's Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic, have to ask myself: Will I - a horse owner of 25 years and a horseplayer for 40 years - ever wager on another Breeders' Cup race?

I understand that the astute handicapper spends time at the paddock and time watching horses warm up before making a final decision on wagering. This is all well and good at your hometown track, but when you are watching the Breeders' Cup from an offtrack betting site, you have to assume that the racing officials are protecting the integrity of the sport and the racing fans' money.

Now, Kentucky steward John Veitch would have all communication between jockeys and the media stopped once the rider leaves the paddock, to prevent people hearing comments regarding warm-ups and getting an unfair advantage over those who didn't. What? In other words, conceal the truth in a way that would allow even more people to lose money.

The Breeders' Cup cannot be attended live by everyone, and as a result we depend upon television coverage and offtrack wagering to help showcase a championship day. We need more transparency, not less. The fact that the media does have commentators in communication with jockeys before a race on national television helps provide more interest in the sport and promotes the product. Isn't that what horse racing really needs?

Since offtrack sites get their feed from the host track, bettors there do not hear the prerace interviews of trainers and jockeys that are available to the home TV viewer. In the absence of that information, the only conclusion I can draw is to stay home and keep my hand out of my betting pocket.

Paul Burck  - Palatine, Ill.

Velazquez shouldn't pay for his honesty

In the matter of Life At Ten and the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic, I am actually curious as to why what John Velazquez said before the race was somehow wrong. To me he was stating an observation: His horse didn't quite seem right. I'm sure he had mentioned this to the owners and trainer. I don't see why he would be obligated to tell the veterinarians.

It was not as if Velazquez  told the reporter that he believed his horse was injured or even sick. Merely, he stated that she was sluggish.

I'm sure human athletes feel that way too without requesting to be taken out of the lineup. Sometimes those feelings go away when the first pitch is thrown or when the starting gate opens.

To me, this is more a case of sour grapes from bettors who failed to take advantage of information that was made available on national television. Fortunately, I was one of those bettors who was privy to this conversation and changed my wager accordingly, and as it turns out, fortunately. Had I bet early and not watched, I would have missed out on this information, but that would have been my fault, no one else's
Anyone who wagers in advance misses out on lots of important, useful information such as track bias, weather changes, appearance of a horse, and clues from wagering patterns.

From what I can see, Mr. Velazquez is an honorable person who foolishly answered a question honestly. He is being punished and pilloried for little more than that.

Steven Cooke - Toronto

Sport's marketing gets lost in the stars

With the Breeders' Cup upon us, it's worth considering what Thoroughbred horse racing's annual equine Olympics mean to the general public, not just hard-core fans who, this year, are ruing the lack of overall quality and marquee horses, beyond the wonderful French mare Goldikova.

According to the sport's marketers and television directors, horse racing is all about stars: horses like Cigar and Zenyatta. But, for the uninitiated, it is often confusing to be sold a package that is based upon such fragile beasts, who, even if they live up to expectations, can vanish just when new fans have got the message. "Hello . . . here's Barbaro. Don't you just love him?" And, in the blink of an eye, he's gone. Much the same could be said about Sea the Stars. Now you see him, now you don't. "Sorry folks. He's too precious, therefore he's off to make millions for his owners at stud."

Famous horses who race over many seasons, like Seabiscuit and Kelso, are easily remembered. The trouble is, they're very rare, and on Nov. 4 and 5 the vast majority of viewers will not have a clue who is running in this year's championship races.
These viewers don't care about the size of the purses any more than golf fans care about how much the winner of the Masters takes home. They watch because of the live action and a chance to wager a few dollars on a genuinely exciting spectacle.

Indeed, happy fans who have had success at the betting windows are far more important for the future of horse racing than the triumphs of any individual owner,  breeder, or horse, because racing, which offers numerous wagering opportunities, goes on every day. It might not always feature the sport's major  stars, but there is constant action, and a 2-1 winner at Charles Town pays the same $6 as any similarly priced winner of a Breeders' Cup race.

If racing is properly marketed and presented in a simple and easily accessible manner, it shouldn't take Joe-fan long to figure out that such entertainment is a lot more fun than any scratch card or computer-generated game.

And, when fans get to know their horses and favorite jockeys, it won't be necessary to tell them when they're running and why they should watch.

Robin Dawson - Toronto