01/26/2015 12:05PM

More scratches loom on Thursday card

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. – If there is racing at Aqueduct on Thursday, nearly one-fifth of the entrants will have to be scratched after the racing office misinterpreted a new rule instituted by management.

Eleven of the 63 horses, or 17.5 percent, entered for Thursday will have to be scratched since they would be running back 14 days after their last race. In the wake of a high rate of equine fatalities this winter at Aqueduct, the New York Racing Association announced on Jan. 16 that beginning with entries taken for the Jan. 22 card, horses would no longer be permitted to run back within 14 days of their previous start.

“Horses will be permitted to start on the 15th day following said race,” according to the release, which was put out by NYRA in consultation with the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association.

Six of the eight entrants in Thursday’s fourth race will have to be scratched, resulting in a two-horse race between Painted Poney and Epiphany, provided neither is scratched for other reasons.

“If we have to scratch 11 horses, we have to scratch them,” said Martin Panza, NYRA’s senior vice president of racing operations. “We can’t renege on the rule.”

The 14-day rule was one of four new measures put in place by NYRA to help prevent future fatalities at the meet. In 28 full cards of racing since the inner track opened Dec. 3, there have been 14 racing-related fatalities, 10 of which were breakdowns. Two occurred in a spill, one was due to a cardiovascular collapse, and another fell after the finish line and was euthanized after fracturing a vertebra.

On Sunday, the stewards were forced to scratch eight horses because they were running back in 14 days. That, combined with other scratches, left 52 runners for a nine-race card. Not surprisingly, total handle was $4,327,671, down 25 percent from the corresponding Sunday of 2014.

There is no guarantee that Aqueduct will be open Thursday. A major winter storm, possibly bringing more than two feet of snow, was forecast here for Tuesday, putting both Wednesday’s and Thursday’s card in jeopardy.

None of the horses on Wednesday’s card are running back in 14 days or fewer.

◗ Jockey Manuel Franco will serve a three-day suspension Wednesday through Friday as a result of careless riding during Aqueduct’s third race Jan. 19.

Junior Alvarado appealed a three-day suspension handed to him by the stewards for careless riding during the fifth race Jan. 19.