01/18/2013 4:54PM

NYRA planning to install Trakus and high-definition cameras

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The New York Racing Association is contemplating the installation of the Trakus data system at its three racetracks in 2013 and has plans to upgrade to high-definition broadcast capability, NYRA officials said on Friday at a meeting of the New York Racing Association Franchise Oversight Board.

The upgrades were cited during a lengthy review of NYRA’s 2013 budget in which NYRA chief operating officer Ellen McClain and chief financial officer Suzanne Stover were frequently grilled in an adversarial manner by several members of the oversight board who claimed to be seeking explanations for a variety of spending items and operating decisions. McClain and Stover remained diplomatic throughout the three-hour meeting, which opened with a 25-minute discussion over the accuracy of the previous meeting’s minutes.

The Trakus system, which is in place at Keeneland, Santa Anita, Gulfstream, and other major tracks, has been welcomed by many horseplayers for its ability to display full-field representations of races by using chips embedded in horses’ saddle cloths. The representations are far more accurate, timely, and comprehensive than a typical race order punched in by placing judges. In addition, the use of Trakus allows for more accurate transcriptions of race data to charts.

Stover said that the system would cost $1 million to install, though it was unclear at the meeting whether she was referring to an installation cost for all three tracks operated by NYRA or for a single track installation. If the association decides to go ahead with the project, Trakus would most likely be installed first at Saratoga, McClain said.

Discussion at the meeting also centered on an announcement on Thursday that NYRA’s board of directors would consider several measures intended to reduce the catastrophic injury rate on Aqueduct’s inner track. So far this meet, which opened on Dec. 12, five horses have died. However, last year, 21 horses died during the inner-track meet, resulting in the release of a report last September containing dozens of recommendations.

One of the recommendations was the consideration of the installation of an artificial surface for the inner track. McClain told the oversight board that the installation had not been budgeted, but it would be an item of discussion at the Jan. 25 board meeting.

Chaired by New York Lottery Director Robert Williams, the oversight board was formed in 2008 by the state legislature to monitor NYRA’s operations. While it has some broad powers, its status as a regulatory agency is waning due to the state takeover of NYRA’s board late last year