01/09/2015 5:38PM

In wake of breakdowns, NYRA officials consider trimming schedule


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - The deaths of 11 Thoroughbreds during the first 20 days of Aqueduct’s winter meet has New York Racing Association officials contemplating a change to the winter schedule.

Martin Panza, senior vice president of racing operations for the NYRA, said Friday that internal discussions will be held this weekend to determine if there’s anything more the company can do to help reduce the number of catastrophic injuries. Among the topics that will be discussed is a possible reduction to a four-day race week in January and February. Currently, Aqueduct races five days a week those months.

“That might be something we look at,” Panza said Friday afternoon. “Maybe we should back down to four racing days a week at some period here.”

The NYRA would need permission from the New York State Gaming Commission to trim the schedule. NYRA took a 10-day break in December and has a nine-day break scheduled for the end of March (23-31). There are only 13 racing days scheduled in March, when racing will be conducted four days a week.

New York trainers - including Rick Violette, Linda Rice and Richard Schosberg, respectively the president and board members of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association - will meet with NYRA management on Saturday morning to discuss the situation.

“There may not be one right answer, but we will use every avenue possible and examine every angle to address this situation,” Violette said in a statement. “Everything will be on the table, from finding an independent track surface expert to come in and examine the inner track to a thorough reexamination of every procedure and protocol in place before a horse leaves the starting gate.”

Apex became the 11th equine fatality since Dec. 3 when he suffered a broken ankle entering the far turn of Aqueduct’s second race on Friday. He was the ninth horse that had to be euthanized on track. One horse died as a result of breaking its neck in a spill - a horse that fell over him had to be euthanized - and another horse died of a cardiovascular collapse.

“I’ve never seen anything like this in the period of time I’ve been in racing,” said Panza, who was a racing executive in Southern California for 20 years before coming to NYRA in the fall of 2013.

A spokesman for the gaming commission wrote in an email: "The Commission is extremely concerned with the unacceptable number of incidents at Aqueduct. We are thoroughly investigating the circumstances of each fatality so that the Commission can best address the situation. The role of ensuring equine health and safety continues to evolve, and the Commission stands ready to take whatever actions are necessary to protect horses."

The last seven races of Friday’s Aqueduct card were canceled, though Panza said it had more to do with high winds that were blowing snow from the infield into the face of the jockeys on the inner track than the breakdowns. A second horse, Italian Rules, was injured in the second race, but not fatally. He suffered a soft-tissue injury that will, at the very least, lead to the retirement of the 10-year-old horse.

Panza said horsemen have not voiced concerns with Aqueduct’s inner track. Panza also said NYRA is doing everything it can to allow only sound horses to race.

“I think we have a pretty competent vet crew, and obviously they’re fully aware of what’s going on,” Panza said. “They have the full authority if they don’t like a horse to scratch a horse. In the morning, their checks - I feel pretty confident they’re being very thorough throughout.

“In talking to the trainers and to the riders it’s not the track. There are no complaints about the surface.”

Panza also said that in recent weeks racing secretary Dan Eidson has come up with a list of 15 to 20 horses that he will no longer permit to race here.

“We’ve tried to weed things out a little bit that way,” Panza said.

Panza said that NYRA had 24 catastrophic fatalities in 2014, two more than in 2013 and equaling the third lowest in the last 11 years.

“We do probably as much or more than any racetrack in the country,” Panza said. “I can’t think of things off the top of our head that we’re not doing. Jocks know, too; if it doesn’t feel right, scratch it. We don’t want you out there risking your life.”


jjmcgo . More than 1 year ago
The only thing that could save thoroughbred racing is banning all drugs and dramatically increasing the distances. Each card must include 3 races of 6-to-7.5 furlongs; 4 races of 8-to-12 furlongs; and 2 races totaling at least 27 furlongs. 2-year-old races should remain the same. The wholesale gelding of the Touchstone line; the Castrel and Ksar lines; the King Fergus line; the Ormonde lines; the Melbourne lines; and the Isonomy line all have/had attributes that added to the diversity of a healthy breed. Ban all racetrack drugs first.
Mark D More than 1 year ago
I have a great idea.....Install a Polytrack!!!!!..........Polytrack is the key to all of horseracing's problem.....Kidding.
Bruce Alexander More than 1 year ago
The large windfall of breakdowns that have occurred on the inner happened both years when the temps were unseasonable mild. The exception the day of high winds and blowing snow probably was a error in judgment in hindsight but predicting weather is always difficult .NYRA has the highest standards in pre race exams and medication testing. That being said I personally have never been a supporter of winter racing in the north,commen sense would make you think that at the very least it would be uncomfortable for all participants including the fans. Racing does not provide management with the economic windfall that many believe.and shutting down completely during the winter would force a majority of horses to get a long necessary break along with the facilities. Even the players betting need a freshening. The casino would be running and revenue would build meaning more revenue to be used not only for purses but for renovation ,horse retirement breeders fund money and possibly a reduced takeout for the players who seem to have been passed over with the influx of racinos. The quality of horsemanship also has to revert to years past. The medication statements don't carry much weight with me a trainer of 37 years.I can support the use of therapeutic medications with reduced thresholds and longer withdrawl times as long as the illegal not approved drugs are eliminated .Most people making medication comments have no idea what a picogram is and how sensitive the labs are for the drugs that they are testing for. Every legit trainer using legal therapeutic meds in the prescribed time frame fears getting a positive because of a horse not metabolizing effectively and a very trace amount not capable of enhancing performance The ones using new unapproved dangerous drugs have no fear of a positive. The test barn has and always will be years behind the designer drugs both respitory (now drugs)and pain killing.I would like to believe if myself or any one diligent would be able to stop all cheating if I allotted the stalls and hired the security .Every seven eleven and small businesses in the US have video surveillance and racetracks go with little or none. Why ? The majority of posts about meds are from fans/bettors who deserve there say but their info is provided by a biased media Horseplayers adjust to all situations including illegal meds 33 % winning favorites and 67% favorites on board across the country, big tracks small tracks ,turf slop or synthetic The ones that get hurt the most are legit trainers who are either losing their horses to juice trainers or becoming one.
kmunster2003 More than 1 year ago
I agree with need for surveillance cameras in the barn with a security guard that can't be bought Bruce. The 6 hour detention barn that NYRA had for 1 or 2 years was effective because it prevented Jeff Mullins inhalers right before the race. However, for financial reasons NYRA aborted the program. Going back to the first observation. Last fall(2013) one trainer who I shall not name (perennial leading trainer) had his barn under observation by NYRA for 3 weeks. He only won 1 or 2 races in that period . Even Andy Serling on track analyst said "wow, that barn is really in a slump." The field was leveled with the security at his barn and he became just a regular trainer. It doesn't take a detective to figure this decrease in winning percentage. Take care Bruce. Kevin M
Joseph D'Amelio More than 1 year ago
i have work an breezed horse's at aquaduct an been bless .an there one thing i can tell u for sure is have u ever been in your car an the wind hit's it an it move's well at aquaduct if u notice by the two turn's there is two open feild's an the wind come through at will. an it has knocked my horse's over one sometime's two horse's over . if there was someone next to me i would we would bump .so it's like if u were running an u had a bad knee ankle etc.an i pushed u there a good chance u would damage it worse.they need to put up a wall on the turn's to stop it.it would help more than u can imagine. u dont feel it down the stretch cause of the grandstand an that 's why u don't see any horse's breaking down in the stretch.an also since they stopped useing steroid's more horse's are breaking down .horse's aren't baseball player's or football player's they carry a122 lbs on there back for long distance's they need all the muscle they can get more so the gelding an older horse's who lose it with age just like people.u should be aloud to give it or it has to be regulated .like i said 122lbs no joke for any animal.
stockmann9914 . More than 1 year ago
Shut it down for a couple of months. Forces everyone to give their horses a well deserved rest. Workers go on unemployment benefits. Horses live to race another day.
Bryan Tripoli More than 1 year ago
Easy way to quell the issue immediately.. DONT RACE ON A FROZEN SURFACE!!!! Better yet, install a synthetic racing surface for the winter meet to replace the inner dirt.. something that should have been done years ago.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There has to be someone inside the backstretch who knows what drugs of whatever methods these trainers are doing to having these unsound horses run who are hurt and nor feeling the pain by using something of doing something that is a detriment to the horse the jockey and the betting public.there has to be someone with enough humanity to blow the whistle on the trainers and whatever secret miracle they use .please expose whatever is going on behind the scenes before there is no racing at all.this will not be a happy ending unless someone has the courage to do what's right. Before racing ends.is there a decent human being out there?give the honest horsemen a chance and let's end the miracle trainers reign of terror.
Michael Beauregard More than 1 year ago
I think the surface should be removed and heating pipes installed using a geothermal system the track could be heated at little expense and the safety of the inner track resolved for good. Jbeau
mikey More than 1 year ago
Trim it down to 6 months a year.Keep those poor half broke down horse in the barn.NYRA is the joke of racing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Does anyone have the names of the horses that had to put down on the inner track
Chris Lowe More than 1 year ago
Check www.nysgaming.gov and click database.
Priscila Beloch More than 1 year ago
what's scary is that I closely follow the races at the countries that prohibit all types of medications and WE.DON'T.SEE.BREAKDOWNS at this rate. Maybe 1/10 of it. There are statistics out there to prove it. Just look at Australia, New Zealand, Europe (except hurdles or steeplechase). So medication plays a major factor in masking imminent breakdowns.
jaybern1 More than 1 year ago
Most of the races in those country are run on grass so you have to compare breakdowns on US turf races to make a legitimate comparison.
jaybern1 More than 1 year ago