01/11/2014 3:20PM

Aqueduct: Saturday cancellation upsets some horsemen

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Horsemen were both surprised and upset when the final eight races of Saturday’s card at Aqueduct were canceled by the jockeys because of concerns over poor visibility due to fog.

After running the first race under foggy conditions – and over a sealed, sloppy track – the riders met prior to the start of the second race, though five of the seven horses in the paddock were tacked up. After a brief meeting, the riders informed the stewards that they did not want to ride the remainder of the card.

Officially, the stewards made the decision to cancel the card, but horsemen were upset that New York Racing Association management wasn’t contacted before the riders decided not to continue.

“Nobody is going to make them ride in unsafe conditions, but why not engage management to see if there weren’t other options available,” said trainer Rick Violette, head of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, who did not have any horses on the card.

Jeremiah Englehart, a trainer who had three horses to run, was very upset about the cancellation and said there should be more people involved in the decision.

“Five jockeys checked their tack [for race 2], and two didn’t,” said Englehart, noting that Jose Ortiz, the rider of his horse, and David Cohen were the two who didn’t. “No horsemen knew what was going on. The decision was made without informing management.”

The fog lifted shortly after the cancellation was announced but did roll back in around 2:15 p.m. Eastern and grew thicker over the next hour.
Jockey C.C.  Lopez, who finished sixth in the first race aboard Concealed, said poor visibility and issues with the wet track were his concerns.

“You can’t see too far in front of you while the track is barely acceptable,” Lopez said. “You got rain, you got fog; it’s difficult to get around there. I think the track surface could have been better or was not ideal to get around there.”

Martin Panza, NYRA’s senior vice president of racing operations, said NYRA was not going to force the jockeys to ride if they felt the conditions were not safe.

“The riders contacted the stewards and said due to poor visibility that there safety was at risk, and at that point, the stewards decided to call the card,” Panza said. “NYRA is always going to protect the safety of the jockeys.”

As a result of the cancellation, NYRA refunded the entire pick five pool of $227,473. In the daily double and pick three, those who successfully selected Physical Delivery ($22) received payouts of $21.40 and $19.60 as the remaining legs of those wagers were considered all-win.

The cancellation of Saturday’s final eight races came six days after a broken-down tractor forced the cancellation of the final race Jan. 5. The entire Jan. 3 card was canceled due to inclement weather.

Live racing is expected to resume Sunday with a nine-race card that includes the $100,000 Ruthless Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.