12/10/2009 12:00AM

NYRA adopts anti-slaughter policy

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Owners or trainers who directly or indirectly sell horses to be slaughtered will have their stalls permanently revoked from any New York Racing Association track under an anti-slaughter policy NYRA announced on Thursday.

NYRA, which operates Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga, joins Suffolk Downs, Mountaineer Park, tracks run by Magna Entertainment Corp. and Churchill Downs Inc., and others to have instituted a zero-tolerance horse slaughter policy. A press release issued by NYRA stated the company "requires its horsemen to conduct due diligence on those buying horses and encourages them to support rescue and adoption efforts and to find humane ways of dealing with horses unable to continue racing."

"We are fully committed to protecting our sport's equine athletes," said NYRA's president and CEO, Charles Hayward. "This policy sends the message that horse slaughter will not be tolerated and that those participating in this practice, either knowingly or for lack of due diligence, will not be welcome at Aqueduct, Belmont Park, or Saratoga."

Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito, who ran Commentator in the 2008 Massachusetts Handicap in part to support that track's stance against horse slaughter, lauded NYRA for its policy.

"It's a very, very good thing," Zito said. "I commend NYRA for doing this, because it's long overdue. NYRA should be the leader in everything."

NYRA also has been an active supporter of numerous equine retirement, anti-slaughter, and research organizations such as the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, Columbia-Green Humane Society, Grayson Jockey Club Research Foundation and Exceller Fund.