03/14/2012 5:38PM

Aqueduct breakdowns draw governor's attention


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - The rash of breakdowns over Aqueduct's inner track this winter have apparently caught the attention of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

On Wednesday, Cuomo's office sent a letter to the New York Racing Association's president, Charles Hayward "advising NYRA to hire a qualified independent investigator or team of investigators to review the circumstances involving these breakdowns, analyze the causes and recommend any necessary action to equine breakdowns at NYRA facilities."

The letter, on Cuomo stationery, was signed by Bennett Liebman, Deputy Secretary for Gaming, and Robert Megna, Director of New York State Division of the Budget. Megna is also the chairman of the Franchise Oversight Board, which oversees NYRA's operations.

There have been 16 racing fatalities on the inner track since it opened last Nov. 30. Seven of those fatalities have occurred since Feb. 25, including Hillsboro Bay, who sustained a fatal injury to her right foreleg during the running of Wednesday's ninth race.

"This pattern of equine loss should not be allowed to continue," the letter reads.

Coincidentally, on Wednesday, NYRA announced - via a paragraph on the Saturday overnight - that racing would move to the main track next Wednesday - two weeks earlier than scheduled.

The letter said that given the fact NYRA has received $15 million in revenue from the Resorts World New York casino that opened in October, NYRA should pay for the investigation.

"The scope of the review should include existing policies on disclosures, necropsies, track conditions and pre-race examination of horses," the letter states. "The rules on claiming, veterinary procedures, and drug use must be examined to determine what we can do to promote equine safety.

"Everyone understands that horse racing poses risks,'' the letter continued, "but that cannot be an excuse for our inaction. The status quo in all aspects of horse racing is not working, and we need to develop procedures now that work for the horses, riders and the racing public in New York."

In a statement issued late Wednesday afternoon, NYRA said, "We will cooperate with the requests made in the letter, and make a recommendation to the Racing and Wagering Board regarding selection of an investigator."

Peter Murphy More than 1 year ago
Ignoring the political issues, there is something very wrong going on here. Cheap horses run every day at tracks like Finger Lakes, Charlestown and the like without breaking down with the frequency that we are seeing at Aqueduct this winter. Yesterday the 16th horse suffered a fatal injury on the Aqueduct inner track. It's getting so that one is afraid to watch a race for fear of seeing one of those gut-wrenching spills which causes a pile-up to the field (see Mike Venezia in 1983). I personally have been going to the track for 40 years and have never seen it like this. Its probably a function of the horse shortage where horses, especially the cheap ones, are being asked to do too much to keep the racing secretary happy. If that is the case, then the only solution is to put an end to year-round racing in NYS.
Charles Seeger More than 1 year ago
Let's see - highest purses ever offered for the cheapest horses ever to perform at a NYRA track. Do you think there are performance enhancing drugs involved? Look, until the sport get rid of the cheaters, get used to seeing horses going down as they try to extend themselves beyond their physical capabilites. This problem will continue to escalate at the similar rate of the purse increases. Do the math - 7.5K claimers running for 25K. What wrong-minded individual is not going to get involed in that situation?
pick4win More than 1 year ago
Another NYS politico move from the Governor. It seems he is angry that the NYRA is receiving money from the slots and he wants to spend it since he can't use it as his personal slush fund. If Cuomo reasoning that the NYRA should pay for this investigation simply because they receive money from slots - then we should be able to investigate the state of NY and make them pay for it because we pay taxes! Keep the State out of horse racing!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Getting mad at a politician you don't like because he wants horse deaths to stop is a classic example of "not seeing the forest for the trees". I mean he's trying to get less horses to die and your mad about that? What's next? You get mad at him for helping a little old lady across the road?
Arlene Factor More than 1 year ago
i have an idea start running these horses on 2 days rest and see how many "break sown" greed!!!
ad More than 1 year ago
cuomo and megna and heyward....this threesome doesnt have a clue about the horse racing industry.this is the same group which was going to make the 2 percent overcharge on bets by nyra ,corrected for people who bet during the time in question.i personally have e mailed nyra 5 times and megna 2 times with no response whatsoever. nice going 'three stooges". all they see is a pr chance to come down on a great industry.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"All they see is a chance to come down on the industry." Wow. I'd say they're trying to make less horses die, but you can spin it any way you want. Maybe if those three came out and said the fatalities were ok and for Aqu to keep doing what they're doing you'd be ok with that? At least they wouldn't be coming down on that "great industry" at Aqueduct that has horses dying every other day. Maybe if the next governor is for horse breakdowns you'll like him more.
Slew32A More than 1 year ago
What's to figure out? There were some of the worst fields I've ever seen this year. So there were some descent looking horses that shipped in because of the increased purses,They ran below what they looked like they were worth. why because they weren't any good and they were ready to break down, yet they looked like a good deal at the claim box. So either you take some stable space from trainers that take a disproportionate of space and are unwilling to run and bring in stables that will or you gotta stop these horses from getting in the gate and if you cant do that.shut down a month or two.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Even if the horses at Aqueduct are bad it's not an excuse for them breaking down all the time. I'm sure the horses at Aqueduct are better than the ones at Turfway and Turfway has only one fatality this winter. There are a lot worse horses running at a lot worse tracks than Aqueduct and they're not breaking down. Saying these horses are breaking down because they aren't good horses is ridiculous. In fact saying horses at Aqueduct are breaking down because they are bad horses is one of the stupidest things I've ever heard.