08/30/2016 3:20PM

New York Gaming Commission video promotes effort to place retired racehorses


The New York Gaming Commission on Tuesday released a video it produced with state agencies seeking to raise the profile of fund-raising efforts for racehorse retirement and retraining.

The video, which in long form ran for approximately 12 minutes, was produced as a result of recommendations coming out of a meeting last year held by the gaming commission to discuss in-state retirement efforts, the first of its kind. The meeting Tuesday was described as a follow-up to that first meeting.

During the video, several prominent members of the New York racing industry and a number of individuals who operate retirement facilities ask owners and trainers to consider a racehorse’s retirement needs during their careers. Commission personnel said at the meeting that the video will likely be shown to any person receiving a racing license in New York, and other edited forms of it will be broadcast during racing-related television shows or on the in-house feeds at racetracks.

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Robert Williams, the executive director of the gaming commission, noted that the state has limited powers in monitoring the post-racing careers of horses, citing racing law, but he said that video would allow the commission to “raise the profile” of the issue as the industry crafts its own response.

“This is an issue that begs for self-help, and for the industry to take leadership,” Williams said.

Jack Knowlton, the head of the racing partnership Sackatoga Stable, said that an ongoing project to track the post-racing whereabouts of any New York-bred horse that raced in the state from 2010-2012 had determined the locations of about 27 percent of those horses. He said that 54 percent of those horses had become broodmares and about 29 percent were identified as deceased.

Knowlton, who is a member of the New York State Task Force on Retired Racehorses, which was set up last year, said the project has been partially successful in seeking to “define the scope” of placing ex-racehorses, but he also said that there are more questions than answers.

“I think we’re still frustrated that we haven’t been able to get where we want to get,” Knowlton said.

Following prepared presentations, the commission opened up the meeting to comments from the audience. Many audience members complained that the state and the industry still does not do enough to track horses after they have been retired, and that funding for post-retirement careers is woefully inadequate.

Rick Violette, the president of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, said from the audience that the commission has been sending “mixed signals” to the racing community about its commitment to the cause because of recent efforts to divert a portion of NYTHA’s budget to post-race drug testing for both Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds. Violette contended that any cuts in overall funding would hamper efforts to maintain a new focus on raising funds for NYTHA's relatively new retirement programs, considering the need to maintain funding for well-established programs.

Later on Tuesday, during a regular commission meeting, the commission approved revisions to rules regarding advertising worn by jockeys to allow riders to wear patches for the Jockeys’ Guild and the Permanently Disabled Jockeys’ Fund without the approval of the stewards, provided the patches are below certain size thresholds. The revisions also allow riders to display their names on the back of their helmets and on their pants, also with size restrictions.

Williams said the commission changed the rules after meeting with the Jockeys’ Guild, which supported the revisions. Williams also said that the exceptions are common in other major racing states.