The New York Racing Association, in consultation with the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, announced Jan. 16 additional steps to further enhance safety protocols for Thoroughbred racing already in place at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The additional protocols come in the wake of a recent rash of catastrophic breakdowns at the Queens racetrack and follow a Jan. 10 meeting between horsemen and track management to proactively address the situation.
"The safety of our equine athletes and jockeys at Aqueduct Racetrack is a high priority," stated Christopher Kay, chief executive officer and president. "In that spirit, the New York Racing Association continues to work together with the NYTHA leadership and the New York State Gaming Commission in these important endeavors."
The New York Racing Association will be implementing the following protocols:
1. Effective Jan. 16, the NYRA steward will keep a "poor performance" list. Horses will be placed on this list after performing in a race at Aqueduct and losing by a margin of 25 lengths or greater. Once on the poor performance list, said horse must complete a half-mile workout in 53 seconds or less to be permitted to enter in a future race. This list will be available to the public on NYRA.com.
2. Effective Thursday, Jan. 22, NYRA will reduce weekday race cards (Wednesdays through Fridays) to eight races. First scheduled post time will be moved from 12:20 p.m. ET to 1:20 p.m. on weekdays, and 12:45 p.m. on weekends.
3. Effective Thursday, Jan. 22, the bottom level for maiden claimers will be raised from maiden $12,500 to maiden $16,000.
4. Effective for entries beginning with the race card for Thursday, Jan. 22, and until further notice, entries will no longer be accepted at Aqueduct on any horse that has participated in a recognized race within 14 days of that start. Horses will be permitted to start on the 15th day following said race.
"The measures announced by NYRA today constitute an important step toward addressing the troubling situation at Aqueduct. We continue to thoroughly investigate the circumstances of each fatality and work closely with NYRA management in order to determine if additional actions need to be taken to protect horses and riders," said New York State Gaming Commission executive director Robert Williams.
"New York horsemen continue to work with the New York Racing Association to make adjustments and raise the bar to protect our equine athletes and their riders on their backs," said Rick Violette, Jr., president of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association.
These four steps complement additional measures implemented during the current Aqueduct winter meet. During this time, the New York Racing Association has:
-- Requested and secured approval from the state of New York to implement two lengthy breaks in Aqueduct's winter schedule. One break was completed prior to Christmas, with a second scheduled during March. Both are designed to provide additional rest opportunities for our equine athletes.
-- Instituted stringent workout requirements at Aqueduct, mirroring strict requirements previously implemented on the Southern California circuit. These new requirements mandate a minimum number of official, recorded workouts, as well as minimum distances, for various types of horses.
-- Implemented stricter processes, procedures, and standards at Aqueduct for shockwave therapy, a non-invasive treatment which can speed the healing of orthopedic and soft tissue injuries.
-- Reviewed, and continues to review, our racing inventory to eliminate non-competitive horses from participating in racing.
-- Implemented state equine medical director Dr. Scott Palmer's direction that necropsies be ordered for all equine fatalities taking place on the grounds of Aqueduct, including off-track, non-racing, and training.
Over the course of the past two years, the New York Racing Association has implemented a series of reforms which has resulted in a decrease in the number of catastrophic injuries since the State's 2012 task force report.