01/05/2015 2:38PM

Handle, fatalities increase in first month at Big A inner-track meet

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A little more than a quarter of the way through Aqueduct’s 70-day inner-track meet, there is both good news and bad news to report.

The good news is that all-sources handle is up 10 percent through Sunday, though Aqueduct has held one more card of racing than during the first month of the inner-track meet in 2013-14.

Through 19 cards since the inner track opened Dec. 3, all-sources handle on Aqueduct’s races is $115,720,281, up from $105,209,468 through 18 cards held from Dec. 11, 2013, through Jan. 5, 2014. There have not been any cancellations due to weather this winter. At this point last year, two cards had been lost due to weather, and an additional race was canceled due to a gate malfunction.

Aqueduct has conducted 171 races this winter, compared with 161 races last winter to this point. This winter, there have been 1,331 starters and 1,315 betting interests, compared with 1,248 starters and 1,235 betting interests last winter.

Ontrack handle on Aqueduct’s races is $15,876,690, an 8.3 percent increase over the $14,655,960 wagered through this same time period last year.

The numbers are compiled by Daily Racing Form through a review of Equibase charts. Racing on the inner track is scheduled to continue through March 22.

The bad news is that through Sunday, there have been 10 equine fatalities, three more than there were for the entire 2013-14 inner-track season. Four of this winter’s fatalities have come in the eight cards since racing returned Dec. 26 following a 10-day break.

The two most recent deaths demonstrate the difficulty in identifying precise reasons for equine fatalities. On Saturday, Golden Bay, a 3-year-old colt debuting in a maiden special weight race for New York-breds, pulled up abruptly in the stretch and was euthanized due to an injury to his right hind leg.

On Sunday, Shewreckstheplace, a 6-year-old maiden making her 36th career start – this one in a bottom-level maiden-claiming race – was pulled up in the stretch by jockey Angel Cruz. She was vanned off and later euthanized due to fractured sesamoids in her left foreleg.

However, six of the seven fatalities that were musculoskeletal in nature – and that were not the result of a spill – involved horses running in lower-level claiming races. One horse, Wicked Irish, was returning from a two-year layoff and showed one published workout in the interim. That fatality led the New York Racing Association to change its protocols regarding workouts, a change that goes into effect Jan. 28.

In the winter of 2011-12, there were 21 equine fatalities over Aqueduct’s inner track, a number that led Gov. Andrew Cuomo to form the New York Task Force on Racehorse Health and Safety, which, among other things, recommended new guidelines involving the use and administration of steroids.