03/20/2010 11:00PM

Horsemen fined for boycotting Aqueduct race


Sunday's first race at Aqueduct was canceled when the six horses scheduled to run were not brought over to the race-day security barn by the proper time, 8 a.m., necessitating that they all be scratched. The remainder of the card was picked up with the second race at the regularly scheduled post time of 1:29 p.m. Eastern.

The decision to boycott Sunday's first race was a show of solidarity among New York horsemen, who are trying to send a message to legislators in Albany that their inability to select an operator for the long-awaited video-lottery terminal project at Aqueduct is having a crippling effect on New York racing. New York horsemen and breeders were scheduled to hold a rally at Belmont Park between noon and 2 p.m. Sunday to bring awareness to the bleak future of the $2.4 billion racing industry in the state.

"We apologize to our fans for any inconvenience caused by the cancellation of today's first race," Rick Violette, the president of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association and a trainer of one of the horses entered in the first race, said in a press release. "However, there is an important rally taking place at Belmont Park that requires the undivided attention and support of all parties who make their living within the New York Thoroughbred racing and breeding industry.

"There has been nine years of broken promises regarding a video lottery terminal operation at Aqueduct, which now threatens 35,000 jobs and a $2.4 billion dollar industry in New York state," the release continued. "Today's rally underscores the urgency of naming a racino operator from the remaining bidders in the most expeditious way possible. We appreciate your continued patronage and we will see you for the second race."

The decision to boycott the races was not met kindly by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, which fined the six trainers involved in the boycotted race $500.

While the New York State Racing and Wagering Board understands the frustration horsemen have with the delayed video lottery terminal project at Aqueduct, today's apparent effort to thwart the first race is an unfortunate action that has negative consequences for the betting public, the very people who are fans of New York's Thoroughbred racing, said Joe Mahoney, spokesman for the NYSRWB. The board's racing steward at Aqueduct formally canceled the first race as a result of these actions. The steward, Carmine Donofrio, has decided to impose a $500 fine on each of the trainers involved in the action.

Last month, Gov. David Paterson selected the Aqueduct Entertainment Group to run the slots operation at Aqueduct, but that deal was scuttled when members of that group were deemed unfit to receive a gambling license.

Legislators have yet to decide whether to select an operator from the remaining bidders or start the process from the beginning.