01/16/2015 6:25PM

Additional safety measures adopted at Aqueduct


Aqueduct racetrack will not take entries for horses that have raced in the previous 14 days and reduce its weekday race cards to eight races per day effective Jan. 22, the association announced on Friday as part of a new round of steps seeking to address a stubborn spate of fatal breakdowns at the track.

The changes were made in consultation with the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, according to the New York Racing Association, which operates Aqueduct. In addition to the 14-day prohibition and the reduction in live racing, NYRA will raise the bottom level for maiden claiming races from $12,500 to $16,000, also effective Jan. 22, and its stewards will begin to maintain a “poor performance” list of horses that were beaten 25 lengths or more in their last races, NYRA said. A horse will need to work four furlongs in 53 seconds or less to work off the list, NYRA said.

“The measures announced by NYRA today constitute an important step toward addressing the troubling situation at Aqueduct,” said Robert Williams, the executive director of the New York Gaming Commission, which regulates racing in New York. “We continue to thoroughly investigate the circumstances of each fatality in order to determine if additional actions need to be taken to protect horses and riders.”

So far, 12 horses have died of racing-related injuries since the Aqueduct inner-track meet opened on Dec. 3. The latest occurred on Thursday, when You Take the Cake was euthanized after being diagnosed with a fractured vertebrae following a fall in the second race at Aqueduct.

The spate of deaths has become a grisly reminder of the winter of 2011-2012, when 21 horses died at Aqueduct. That string set off a cascade of events that led to the formation of a task force that recommended dozens of steps to improve safety. While fatalities were sharply down last year during the Aqueduct meet, the fatalities have rebounded this year.

One week ago, NYRA and horsemen met to discuss the deaths and said that they would tighten the criteria for pre-race veterinary exams and encourage trainers and jockeys to take extra precautions with horses. Martin Panza, NYRA’s director of racing, also said at the time that he had produced a list of approximately 20 horses that would be barred from running at Aqueduct.

Veterinary officials contend that breakdowns are multi-factorial, and an analysis of large sets of data on racing fatalities have not produced many smoking guns, other than fatality rates being sharply lower on artificial surfaces. Data has also suggested that shorter races produce more fatalities than longer races, and that older horses suffer fatalities at a greater rate than younger horses. In addition, horses in claiming races suffer more fatalities than horses in allowance races and stakes races.

NYRA said the names of horses that have been put on the “poor performance” list will be published on its website. 

As part of the reduction in races on weekdays, first post at Aqueduct will be moved from 12:20 p.m. to 1:20 pm. First post on weekends will be 12:45.



paul27787898 More than 1 year ago
I didn't see when the poor performance list will be available. Mr. Panza stated he has already comprised a list of 20 horses. I can't find anything on the NYRA site. Anyone know?
Peter Murphy More than 1 year ago
I agree, especially the move to 8-race cards during the week, and the prohibition on horses running back within 14 days. The bump-up in claiming prices is somewhat cosmetic, but is probably meant to discourage low-quality horses shipping in and trying to grab pieces of the inflated purses on these races. I am waiting to see the names of the horses being given their walking papers--- wonder how many belong to the Jacobson, Rodriguez, Rice trio?
paul27787898 More than 1 year ago
Peter, Exactly why do you think 8 race cards will help? I also disagree that changing the the $ amount the horses can be claimed for will make any difference since they will still be running against the same horses as before. They will all be in the same boat. From what I have witnessed this year the ship in horses are not the ones breaking down. Lastly I believe putting L. Rice in the same group as D. Jacobson or R. Rodriguez is way off base.
John Stevelberg More than 1 year ago
Steps in the right direction - I may not completely agree, but I'll certainly give credit for trying to improve the situation. That said this time of year I bet Oaklawn Park and Tampa Bay Downs most of the time.
Walt Gekko More than 1 year ago
The moves made overall are good by NYRA, however, eight days would have been more than sufficient to prevent trainers from running three times in say 12 days with perhaps a qualifier that a horse can't run more than twice in any 20-day period. In most cases, that would more than suffice. The "Poor Performance" list is good as well as it will likely weed out some horses who have been performing poorly and could contribute to problems, On the other hand, raising the claiming bottom to $16,000 may not really do much since many horses who likely would have run for $10,000 or $12,500 tags will likely now run for the higher tag. Cutting back to eight races on weekdays is the right move. This has long been needed, and I don't think having eight races instead of nine is going to hurt anyone. California has had eight race programs on weekdays for over 20 years now and it does help with field size. To that end, one thing NYRA ought to consider experimenting with during the summer at Belmont on weekdays would be "Six at Six" programs. These would be six-race programs on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays starting with the week after the Belmont Stakes during June and July that would have a 6:00 PM first post with the last race each evening going off around 8:35 PM or so (as it is light out to do that and is actually quite common in Europe during the summer), possibly even with the day after the Belmont Stakes being the first of those to give people more time to get Belmont Park cleaned up following Belmont Stakes day if they have to race that Sunday. This would actually be very appealing to Millennials who would be looking for some early evening entertainment after work and might very well prove very popular with them and west coast bettors who don't have to be looking at NYRA at 10:00 in the morning Pacific Time, at least during the week. Such might also prove to Harness interests that they would not be harmed with NYRA running in the evening enough to where they could allow for the laws to changed to allow for a limited number of programs during the year that would be purely at night (under the lights), which likely will be necessary if NYRA wants to host the Breeders' Cup in the future due to the likely demands of Comcast (parent company of NBC) wanting the Breeders' Cup to extend further into prime time (possibly to 11:00 PM ET) to appeal more to Millennials who have been rapidly re-writing the rules of how things are done and who consider anything the afternoon to be irrelevant (as likely will be proven this year at Keeneland). This would not be NYRA looking to go nights all the time, but more likely the way Churchill Downs has done it with a limited number of "Downs after Dark" cards being a huge success for them, with maybe 10-12 night cards a year at Belmont, usually tied to major stakes or certain other days plus having the ability to extend cards past sunset when television demands dictate such. Overall, NYRA looks to have gotten right even if it was not perfect by any means.
Larry Kaufman More than 1 year ago
nyra cant rven fix leaky roofs or keep pigeons out of the clubhouse at aqueduct there is really a sign 1st floor clubhouse saying please do not feed the pigeons and you expect them to spend money on lights?
Walt Gekko More than 1 year ago
It's thinking ahead. The Millennials have changed many of the rules to where in all likelihood you will possibly as early as next year see lights become a requirement of any BC host track to accommodate demands from Comcast and if so, NYRA would have no chance at hosting a BC until they were installed.
Rosemarie Cola More than 1 year ago
they got to do something. The world is watching, including folks who would love to see racing go away.
Lawrence Redding More than 1 year ago
Close the dump down. If they want to race in this kind of weather go to Sweden'
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you're not a fan of the sport, why troll us?
Larry Kaufman More than 1 year ago
another stupid plan by nyra 12,500 claimers will now just be 16,000 claimers and the 14 day rule will result in 5 horses fields. mr panza, mr kay why can gulfstream run 6,250 claimers and you can't run 12,500 claimers.
paul27787898 More than 1 year ago
Although I tend to agree about 12.5k's now just running for 16k, I think they are trying to address the perception. I also do not understand why other tracks including F'lakes can run much lower classes with less issue. I have been trying to stay in the group that says "these things happen and will average out". I find it hard to ignore as horses are breaking down, falling down and being pulled up at an increasingly alarming rate. I don't claim to have any answers as I am only a handicapper and horse racing fan. Maybe purses are too high for these cheaper animals. I understand some barns make there living in the winters but something is wrong with the current model. All that being said I want to make it clear I am and have been for many years a BIG fan of inner track wagering. I think it tends to be easier to handicap than Gulfstream or Tampa and value can still be found if you look hard enough (pick 5's can be great). Eight race cards are not the answer as it will only lessen the opportunity for things to go wrong and not address or fix the problem. The shorter cards will also force a player to chose between Pick 5, 4's or the pick 6 instead of offering a chance to play more than one. I have never been a fan of overlapping pick wagers. Maybe NYRA should consider eliminating a pick 4 on these shorter cards. I think I will try my hand at Oaklawn for the time being as they seem to have full fields as well as .50 pick 3's that can be great for a small to medium player such as myself.