01/22/2015 9:24PM

NYRA horsemen, management meet after another fatal breakdown

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Following another equine fatality at Aqueduct Thursday – the 14th in 26 full cards of racing since the inner track opened on Dec. 3 – several horsemen met with New York Racing Association management, the second such meeting in 12 days.

Unlike the meeting held on Jan. 10, this one was attended by Chris Kay, NYRA president and CEO, as well as owners and NYRA board members Anthony Bonomo and Michael Dubb. Ten trainers – most of them on the board of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association – also attended the meeting.

Kay refused to comment on the near-two-hour meeting, which was held in the film theater at Aqueduct following the races.
Bonomo, who is chairman of the NYRA Reorganization Board’s Equine Safety Committee, said it was “a general communications meeting.” No new safety protocols came out of the meeting.

“The gist of the meeting was to talk about the changes that we put in and that the trainers understood it,” Bonomo said. “It was nothing more than a communication meeting. It wasn’t anything special.”

On Friday, a trainer who asked not to be identified said NYRA management indicated that in the wake of these fatalities it “has had to constantly defend NYRA against detractors in Albany and on our own board who want to shut us down.”

When asked after the meeting if NYRA would have to consider stopping racing if these fatalities persist, Bonomo said, “I don’t think we’re at that point.”

Beginning Thursday, NYRA instituted four new policies it hopes will help prevent breakdowns. NYRA cut its weekday cards from nine to eight races; prohibited horses from running back within 14 days of their previous race; created a poor performance list that requires horses beaten 25 lengths or more to have a half-mile workout in 53 seconds or faster before being permitted to race; and raised the bottom-level maiden-claiming price from $12,500 to $16,000.

But, less than three furlongs into Thursday’s first race, Miss Macarena was pulled up and vanned off. She was later euthanized due to a fractured sesamoid in her left foreleg, according to her trainer, Jeremiah Englehart.

Miss Macarena became the 10th horse this meet to suffer a musculoskeletal injury that required the horse to be euthanized that day. Additionally, two horses died as a result of injuries suffered in a spill. One horse died of a cardiovascular collapse. Another horse was euthanized a week after it suffered a torn suspensory after being pulled up in a race.

In the winter of 2011-12, there were 21 equine fatalities during the inner-track meet. In 2013, there were 22 catastrophic injuries for the entire year at NYRA’s three tracks. In 2014, there were 32 equine fatalities, but only 24 that NYRA defined as caused by a catastrophic injury.

“We are doing whatever we think is possible to help stop the breakdowns,” Bonomo said. “I think we’ll be successful like we’ve been in the past. We dealt with this before and we were successful.

“It’s a combined effort from everyone,” Bonomo added. “It’s a work in progress. I think we live in a country where the cars are the safest they’ve ever been but yet we still have people die ... The truth is we are doing everything humanly possible.”