01/07/2005 1:00AM

Letterts to the Editor


Misgivings over motives of prime movers

Let's have everyone outside of New York decide, or recommend, how New York should run its racing ("Outsiders look to shape New York racing," Dec. 18). Come on, Tim Smith has never owned, bred, or raced a horse in his life, but he's going to lead this charge? He had an opportunity to be involved with the New York Racing Association, and he ran from the challenge. He ran to a bigger payday for himself, apparently. This is racing's problem - always too many who want to own the pie rather than help make it grow.

Let's look at Magna Entertainment's involvement. Can there be an organization with a worse track record for following through and actually doing what it says? A category five hurricane could be created from the turnstile that is the Magna corporate headquarters. But now we should believe them to be credible in what should be going on in New York racing?

How about Scientific Games Racing, formerly Autotote? Is this not the same group that had such lax security that one of its employees was single-handedly responsible for one of the worst black eyes this sport has experienced, the Breeders' Cup pick six sandal? Scientific Games has no passion for this sport, its passion is the lottery.

How about Keeneland and Churchill Downs? Do they have great track records of giving back to the sport? Sort of. Keeneland makes so much money off of the breeders it's sick. It could cut its commissions in half and still make a killing. So I guess it may be a little self-serving, also.

The only one with any true, unbiased credibility in my eyes is Oak Tree Racing, a group dedicated to the sport and the supporters of and participants in the sport. Perspective (if not direction) from Oak Tree could be of great value to New York and its Thoroughbred breeders. The rest of these overblown entities are nothing more than sharks in the water waiting to suck New York dry.

Allen Bismark
San Diego

Time for betting shops to be more tech-savvy

As the big industry players seek ever-more-inventive ways of cutting expenses (such as skimping on accident insurance for jocks) or adding new revenue (such as scamming the betting public with slot machines), one has to wonder if there isn't a single individual out there who can see the forest for the trees.

For instance, online betting is gradually building an enormous presence, yet there isn't a single entity really taking advantage of what that technology offers.

Picture this: a small offtrack betting shop in a restaurant in a suburban mall. Only this OTB is unlike any you have ever been in. Instead of a bank of tellers, there is a smaller number of customer service agents. Their job is to manage cash flow and monitor high-speed computers that allow bettors access to the full spectrum of racing. Food service, video monitors, and all other amenities are at hand. Additionally, the voice-activated betting that works poorly over a phone line but works great at a PC terminal makes it ultra-convenient to place a bet by speaking into a microphone that connects to a betpad appearing on an individual computer monitor.

In this type of wagering shop, a customer walks in, puts his or her money in the system through customer service and is all set to go. The labor costs of having a bank of tellers who take bets and count money all day, and their managers, are eliminated, making it cost-effective to open more outlets in more places, with better service and ambience than a traditional OTB.

The technology for such a place exists now, it doesn't have to be invented. How long will it take someone in the racing industry to figure out that it is racing's best hope for improving revenue in a straightforward manner?

Rob Smoke
Boulder, Colo.

California fan hopingfor happier new year

I have the several wishes for California horse racing in 2005:

1. Free parking and admission.

2. Two track programs, one for the "advanced" player and another for the "novice."

3. Well-manicured turf courses that provide horse and rider with the safest racing conditions possible.

4. Fuller fields, even if it means more lower-level claiming races.

5. That horses trained by the same trainer ran as a coupled entry.

6. That tracks would invest more of their marketing dollars educating new fans how to play, rather than touting what to play.

7. Lower concession prices.

8. That the Golden State Rewards program could do more for bettors who generate $10,000-plus in action. (Sorry, but a $50 voucher just doesn't cut it.)

9. That tracks would provide complimentary shuttle service to parking lots for our senior citizens and those with disabilities.

10. That bettors had more convenient access to shoe information like bar shoes, stickers, mud caulks, etc.

11. That California tracks would be the first in the nation to permit fans to see and hear what goes on in the stewards' room when inquiries or objections arise that may affect the outcome of a race.

12. For a California-bred to win this year's Kentucky Derby.

Glenn Alsdorf
Chino Hills, Calif.

As slots spread wider, racing talent gets thinner

Tracks are making such a big deal about getting slot machines, but has anyone looked at the bigger picture?

I will assume that in 10 years, all states that have horse racing will have slots as well. Slots make purses higher, which is good for owners, trainers, riders, etc., as they make more money. It does not, however, improve the quality of racing. Seeing cheap, unsound, inconsistent horses running for big purses is a waste, in my opinion. I would rather see quality, as opposed to the big purses for horrible fields, as at Charles Town and Mountaineer Race Track, for example.

Down the road, when everyone has slots, there will simply be huge purses for bad horses, because the small tracks that got slots first will fall back into obscurity once everyone in New York, California, Kentucky, etc. get slots also.

What racing should be trying to do is not rely on slots to save the sport, but downsize to maybe 12 to 15 tracks around the country and get the quality and field size up. How about breeding tougher horses who can run every two weeks instead of every five weeks?

Jeff Richardson
Lincoln, Neb.