08/13/2016 4:44PM

Saratoga cancels final six races of card after rain soaks track

Barbara D. Livingston
Jockeys cited unsafe conditions in refusing to ride the final six races of Saratoga's card after heavy rainfall.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – The final six races of Saturday’s card at Saratoga were canceled after the jockeys refused to ride, citing unsafe track conditions.

Rain began shortly after 2 p.m. Eastern, and over the next hour, 0.66 inches fell, according to New York Racing Association management, making for an extremely sloppy main track. The fourth race, run on the turf, was delayed 14 minutes while rain, accompanied by thunder and lightning, went through the area.

After the fifth race, the jockeys met as a group and informed management that they would not ride the remainder of the card.

“We lost the track, it’s as simple as that,” said John Velazquez, who won the fifth race on the 2-year-old Thirst for Victory. “It rained, we lost the track, it’s unsafe.”

Velazquez said the jockeys met with management – Martin Panza, the senior vice president of racing operations, and Glen Kozak, vice president/facilities and racing surfaces. The jocks were asked for some time for the maintenance crew to continue to work on the surface.

“Glen came in and talked to us to try and buy some time,” Velazquez said. “We decided that there’s no way in a half-hour they could get the track good again. There’s so much water on the track, no matter what part of the track you go, it’s unsafe. It’s not fair to the horses or us to be out there and find a spot where it’s comfortable enough to ride the horses.”

Jockey Manny Franco, who finished second in the fifth race on Adulation, said, “The track was horrible. Too much water. It was unsafe for the horses and for us.”

Panza said that NYRA’s weather service predicted that the rain wasn’t going to come until 6 p.m.

“This is not something they projected,” Panza said.

Panza was naturally frustrated to lose half a Saturday program.

“I don’t think any track wants to cancel a Saturday card,” he said. “It’s not something you want to have happen.”

The Grade 1, $500,000 Fourstardave will be rescheduled for next Saturday. It will be open to original nominees and will be redrawn Wednesday. The Grade 2, $200,000 Adirondack, for 2-year-old fillies, will be brought back Friday. It will be open to original nominees and will be redrawn Monday.

The last time a Saratoga card was canceled after it started was on Aug. 8, 2008, after heavy rain washed out part of the main track.

On Sunday, Aug. 27, 2011, the entire card was canceled in advance of Hurricane Irene.

The final two races on the Sept. 2, 1998, card were canceled due to heavy rain, and the last race on Travers Day, Aug. 28, 2004, was canceled due to heavy rain.

Racing is expected to resume Sunday, with a first post of 1 p.m.