12/27/2010 2:48PM

Aqueduct expects to resume racing on Wednesday


OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Despite a winter storm that forced the New York Racing Association to cancel two days of training at its downstate facilities, racing was expected to return to Aqueduct on Wednesday as scheduled with a nine-race program. Racing has not been conducted at Aqueduct since Dec. 19 due to a regularly scheduled holiday break.

NYRA officials said that 15 inches of snow fell at Aqueduct in Queens and Belmont Park in Nassau County, forcing the cancellation of training at both tracks Monday and Tuesday as well as simulcasting at both places Monday. There was no training on Saturday – Christmas Day – meaning horses did not go to the track for three of the last four mornings heading into Wednesday’s card.

“They’re going to have to be open minded about it if someone doesn’t like their horse on Wednesday morning,” trainer Rick Violette said, referring to the possibility of scratches. “It’s asking a lot. I was hoping we might be able to train [Tuesday], but it doesn’t look like it. Sprinters will handle it better than horses going two turns. You take your lumps. It’s part of winter racing.”

Glen Kozak, NYRA’s director of racing surfaces, said the training track at Belmont and the inner track at Aqueduct were both sealed and rolled following training hours Sunday morning and before it began to snow. Obviously, the tracks were closed for training Monday as the storm didn’t taper off until late morning. Even though the snow was done falling by noon, the high winds that created severe snow drifts in parts of the Belmont barn area prompted Kozak to wait until Tuesday morning to begin the process of removing the snow from the tracks.

“The big thing is definitely the drifts at both places,” Kozak said Monday by phone from Belmont. “There are drifts up to 8 to 10 feet high in the barn area and on the outside rails of the tracks they are as high as three feet. With the snow as light as it is and blowing everywhere, we felt it best to wait until after the wind does die down. We’ll start on it first thing [Tuesday] morning, and it’ll probably take us eight to 10 hours.”

Kozak said that the Belmont backstretch lost power for approximately four hours from 8 p.m. to midnight Sunday.

Jonathan Thomas, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher, said he worked as many horses as possible last Thursday and Friday, and those horses would have likely had Saturday off anyway. After going back to the track Sunday, Thomas didn’t feel his horses would be too adversely affected by missing Monday and Tuesday.

“It’s a minor inconvenience,” Thomas said. “From a fitness and preparation standpoint, it shouldn’t affect the majority of horses we’re going to run.”

Trainer Mike Hushion said: “I’m going to be fine with it. We’re jogging some in the barn, and that is just fine I’m sure. We’re all in the same boat. As far as the horse, it’ll be formful.”