01/14/2015 12:49PM

Frozen dirt on inner track forces Wednesday cancelation


OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Live racing was canceled Wednesday at Aqueduct due to frozen clods of dirt on the inner track, New York Racing Association officials said.

It is the fourth full card that has been canceled in the last week. The final seven races of Friday’s card also were canceled.

Wednesday’s cancellation was announced less than an hour before first post.

According to management, there were frozen clods of dirt parsed throughout the inner track after a rainy Monday was followed by below-freezing temperatures Tuesday. Less than an hour before post, the temperature was 30 degrees. Temperatures were expected to rise above freezing during the afternoon.

“We could probably run two and a half hours from now but not now, and I’m going to err on the side of caution with everything that’s going on,” said Martin Panza, NYRA’s senior vice president of racing operations.

Panza was referring to the fact that there have been 11 equine fatalities since the inner track opened Dec. 3. Eight of those were breakdowns, two came as the result of a spill, and another was the result of cardiovascular collapse.

An hour before post time, Glen Kozak, NYRA’s vice president of racing surfaces, could be seen picking up frozen clods of dirt as the maintenance crew continued to harrow and work on the track, readying it for the day’s scheduled nine-race program.

It rained here Monday and temperatures were in the low 20s Tuesday and overnight into Wednesday morning.

“We thought we were going to be OK, but it hasn’t warmed up as quickly as we thought it was going to,” Panza said. “We went out there a half an hour ago. The cushion is very nice, but you get some parts where there are some clods, and we can’t break them up quickly enough before these races start. We’re going to err on the side of caution. We need to be a little bit more protective.”

Panza said the forecast called for warmer temperatures this week, and he was hopeful Aqueduct would resume live racing Thursday.