01/07/2017 1:37PM

Aqueduct cancels Saturday card due to jockeys' safety concerns


OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Saturday’s nine-race card at Aqueduct was canceled after the jockeys told New York Racing Association management they wouldn’t ride, citing safety concerns related to winter weather conditions. It was the second cancellation of the winter meet.

Snow began falling early Saturday morning and was scheduled to continue throughout the day. The forecast called for three to five inches of snow, with higher amounts forecast east of Aqueduct. Temperatures were in the low 20s, and according to weather.com, the wind chill was 9 degrees around 1 p.m.  Management felt comfortable they could manage the track, but the riders had various concerns.

About 45 minutes prior to first post, the riders went out to the track accompanied by management. The riders went back to the room to meet among themselves before informing management of their decision not to ride. Horses were in the paddock for the first race at the time.

“Listening to all the guys talk, and everybody has their opinion what they don’t like about going out there,” said Kendrick Carmouche, the only jockey willing to speak on the record. “Nobody wanted to go out and ride, everybody being uncomfortable about certain things leading up to it. It’s never a sure thing when you have to deal with these conditions. With that being said, all the jockeys came together, and they didn’t want to go out there and chance it.”

According to NYRA steward Braulio Baeza Jr., the jockeys were concerned about visibility.

“They didn’t think it was going to get any better,” Baeza said.

NYRA had accelerated post times to the point where last post was going to be 3:56 p.m., 24 minutes earlier than scheduled.

“We thought the conditions were okay to finish the card,” said Martin Panza, NYRA’s senior director of racing operations. “I’m not going to start a card under the thought process we’re going to run two races and cancel. When we decide to run, we intend to finish the cards. We’ll err to the safety of the jockeys, and if they feel it’s not going to be safe, we have to abide by their decision.”

The Ladies Handicap, scheduled for Saturday, will be run next Friday. The race will be redrawn Sunday.

Racing is scheduled to resume Sunday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:20 p.m.