01/31/2013 4:53PM

Aqueduct: NYRA cuts six days from inner-track meet


OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Beginning next week, Aqueduct will implement a four-day race week for February and March, shaving six days off its winter schedule, it was announced Thursday.

The request by the New York Racing Association to reduce its schedule was formally approved by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board at its final meeting Thursday. It must get final approval by the Franchise Oversight Board, expected to be a fait accompli.

NYRA needed approval from these boards because by reducing the schedule it will not satisfy a state law that required it to schedule 95 cards from Dec. 1 through May 1 or face a significant tax repercussion. This will bring the number of scheduled cards during that period to 91. Three cards so far have been scrapped due to weather.

There will be no live racing at Aqueduct on Feb. 6, 13, 14, and 27 as well as March 6 and 13. Aqueduct and Belmont Park will be open for simulcasting on those days.

NYRA’s reasoning for seeking a reduced schedule is two-fold. First, there is a concern over safety. There have been eight racing-related fatalities over the inner track since the meet began Dec. 12. However, no one has come out and declared the inner track unsafe.

Second, there has been a significant reduction in field size since new medication rules were implemented by NYRA in December. NYRA officials reported at the Jan. 25 meeting of the NYRA Reorganization Board that average field size at this meet has been 6.9, down from 7.9 last winter.

P.J. Campo, NYRA’s vice president/racing secretary, said there has been a 75 percent reduction in shippers from the Mid-Atlantic region due in large part to the new medication rules.

In December, NYRA moved the permitted administration of the medication clenbuterol from four days out from a race to 14 days out. At Parx Racing, in Pennsylvania, and Laurel, in Maryland – which race four days a week – the administration of clenbuterol is permitted to be given 48 hours out from race day.

Also, at NYRA tracks, the administration of intra-articlar corticosteroids, including DepoMedrol was moved from two to seven days out.

Those medication rules changes were recommendations by made the New York Task Force on Health and Safety in September. Gov. Andrew Cuomo called for that Task Force after there were 21 racing fatalities during the 2011-12 inner-track meeting.

Campo said it is his hope, weather permitting, that racing would move to Aqueduct’s main track on March 14.