Updated on 01/11/2013 7:06PM

Aqueduct: Racing Board orders necropsies be performed following all fatal breakdowns


As a reaction to the recent rash of equine fatalities at Aqueduct, the New York State Racing and Wagering Board has mandated a necropsy be performed on each horse that suffers a racing-related fatality during Aqueduct’s inner-track meet.

The mandate began Thursday with the breakdown of Pleasantfriday, the fourth fatality since Aqueduct’s inner-track meet opened on Dec. 12.

The New York State Racing and Wagering Board ordered a necropsy on Pleasantfriday and Gulltopper, who broke down fatally on Dec. 6 over the main track. Gulltopper was one of four fatalities that occurred during Aqueduct’s main-track meeting, which ran from Nov. 3 through Dec. 9.

“Necropsies for two horses that have died at Aqueduct – Pleasantfriday and Gulltopper – were ordered by the Board because circumstances of those incidents raised red flags with investigators and required more information,” Lee Park, a spokesperson for the racing and board wrote in an e-mail. “Going forward, the Board is ordering necropsies for all horses that are fatally injured while racing on the inner track at Aqueduct. The Racing and Wagering Board and the forthcoming Gaming Commission will continue to work with NYRA to establish a consistent procedure for the logistics of necropsies as recommended by the Task Force on Racehorse Health and Safety.”

The task force was convened by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo last spring after there were 21 fatalities during Aqueduct’s 2011-12 inner track meeting. The task force did recommend that the New York State Racing and Wagering Board “should require a complete necropsy . . . of all horses fatally injured at NYRA’s racetracks,” but that recommendation was not formally adopted.

“The Racing and Wagering Board continues to closely monitor and investigate the circumstances of every breakdown at Aqueduct,” Park wrote. “Comprehensive investigative reports for the four equine fatalities from the inner track meet are being completed by Board staff.”

El Macho, racing in a maiden $16,000 claimer on Dec. 13, suffered a fatal breakdown. Last Sunday, Wildcat’s Smile, broke her leg during the running of the Cat Cay Stakes while Bomber Boy, competing in a second-level allowance/optional claimer, was vanned off and euthanized later in the day for a leg fracture.

Thursday, Pleasantfriday, making her second start off a six-month layoff after being claimed for $20,000 by Linda Rice in July, was euthanized after suffering fractures to both sesamoids in her right foreleg.

Typically, according to Park, necropsies ordered by the state are done at Cornell University.

Late Friday afternoon, the New York Racing Association put out a statement that said it "is very concerned with any equine breakdowns during a race or training, and we are constantly examining our procedures."

The statement did not offer any specifics on how NYRA would address the breakdowns, only saying that it "is working to enhance preventative measures, monitoring and reporting with respect to breakdowns; and we are working with Chairman [David] Skorton and our regulators to prevent future fatalities as much as we possibly can."