03/14/2012 4:53PM

Aqueduct to open main track two weeks earlier than planned

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Racing at Aqueduct will move from the inner track to the main track on March 21, two weeks earlier than scheduled, according to P.J. Campo, vice president and director of racing for the New York Racing Association.

Campo said he and Glen Kozak, NYRA’s vice president of facilities and racing surfaces, had been discussing the possibility of opening the main earlier due to the unseasonably mild and dry winter.

The main track was scheduled to open on April 4, but there would have been only 14 racing cards scheduled through the end of the meet, April 22.

Races in the condition book scheduled to be run at a mile, a mile and 70 yards, or 1 1/16 miles on the inner, will be run at one mile, which on the main track makes it a one-turn race. All six furlong races will remain at the distance. The only scheduled stakes race in the last two weeks of March is the Broadway, a six-furlong race for New York-bred fillies and mares. That race will remain at six furlongs.

Campo said that several trainers currently based in south Florida said they would like to begin shipping horses back to New York, but they would prefer to run on the main track as opposed to the inner track.

“There’s no reason not to race on it if we have the opportunity,” Campo said. “There are some guys who won’t run until we get onto the main so obviously that goes into the train of thought.”

There have been 16 fatalities over the inner track – seven since Feb. 25 – since it opened on Nov. 30. Campo declined to comment when asked if that played any role in the decision to move to the main track earlier.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday sent a letter to NYRA president Charles Hayward advising NYRA to hire an independent investigator look into the circumstances involving the rash of breakdowns at Aqueduct this winter.

“The scope of the review should include existing policies on disclosures, necropsies, track conditions and pre-race examination of horses,” Cuomo’s 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,” Cuomo’s 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.”