03/05/2012 4:08PM

Aqueduct: Fatalities reach high level on inner track

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When two horses were euthanized at Aqueduct on Sunday, it brought the number of racing fatalities for the first nine weeks of 2012 on this circuit to 13. Overall, there have been 14 fatalities since the inner track opened on Nov. 30. That number includes one that occurred by cardiovascular collapse, which the New York Racing Association does not factor into its figures.

The 13 fatalities over the inner track since Jan. 1 equal the number for the inner track reported by NYRA to the Jockey Club in 2009. (On Monday, the Jockey Club unveiled a new website, the Equine Injury Database, on which many tracks publish their fatality statistics since 2009.) Based on statistics NYRA provided the press last month, the inner track has averaged 11 fatalities annually since 2007.

Trainer Rick Violette, who is the head of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, said he has not heard anything from horsemen about potential safety issues regarding the inner track.

“I’ve had nobody complain about the racetrack, I mean zero,” said Violette, who has started 55 horses over the inner track and whose stable is based there. “Management is watching it very carefully.”

The majority of fatal injuries have come at the lowest claiming levels that NYRA runs. Four of the horses were competing in races at the $7,500 claiming level, the bottom level on this circuit. Three more were competing in New York-bred maiden claiming races with tags of $16,000 or $15,000, and one was in an open $12,500 maiden claimer. Four fatalities occurred in the maiden special weight level. The other fatality occurred to the 7-year-old Mannington, in a $50,000 claimer.

The inner track is the most utilized of the NYRA dirt surfaces. So far, there have been 412 races conducted over the inner track in 2012; 569 races since the inner track opened Nov. 30. There was on fatality in the month of December. There are still four weeks, or 184 approximately races, remaining in the meet.

Richard Dutrow Jr. is the leading trainer at the meet, with 32 winners from 83 starters, and he maintains a 40-horse stable at Aqueduct. He believes the tighter turns of the mile inner track compared with the wider turns of the 1 1/8-mile outer track are harder on horses, He said each winter he has several horses suffer injuries to the cannon bones of their left foreleg, more so in training.

“The turns are so tight, it gets to the horses,” Dutrow said. “The outer track is such a safe track. I wish they’d use it more.”

The outer track is scheduled to open for racing April 4, but there will only be 14 cards of racing conducted over it.