The state-controlled NYRA Reorganization Board "will have serious discussions next week to consider important issues that affect the health and safety of our jockeys and horses," according to Chairman David Skorton. This comes in response to recent breakdowns on the Big A inner track.
Four horses -- El Macho (December 13, 1ST race), Bomber Boy (January 6, 7TH race), Wildcat's Smile (January 6, 8TH race) and Pleasantfriday (January 10, 5TH race) -- were injured and euthanized since racing began on the inner track on December 12. [BRIS]In addition to the establishment of an equine veterinary medical director, a Mortality Review Board, and full necropsies on all dead horses (I do hope that the state is devoting as much attention and resources to, say, the deaths of people in its troubled disabled care system), the Board will consider the installation of a synthetic track to replace the current surface.
Now, breaking out my trusty 2013 NYRA calendar, that makes four fatalities in 22 racing days on the inner track; and there are 51 scheduled days left (though NYRA is considering moving back to the main track earlier than March 30 if possible). If fatalities continue at the same rate, then the final total for the meet would be around 13 or 14. That's compared to 21 from the meet last year (which was indeed shortened)....but still slightly more than recent years past: from 2002 through 2011, the figures were 8-8-3-9-8-11-10-12-12-10.
Still, the Board is reacting to a very small sample size - spates of injuries are often followed by long periods without one - and not allowing the meet to fully play out in order to evaluate changes made since last year. Let's face it; four deaths in 22 days would not have garnered much attention if not for the publicity last year. Now I'm all for synthetic surfaces as you may know. But if the NYRA Reorg Board thinks that a synth track is going to be a cure-all for fatal breakdowns, then they are going to be sorely disappointed, and the Board members who actually know about horse racing know that full well. And remember, the inner track surface itself was completely exonerated by the report on the breakdowns last year.
Also up for discussion is a cut back to four racing days a week and eight races a day. Fields are short, and trainer and NYTHA president Richard Violette explains why.
“We need to be given the opportunity to shrink the season a little bit,....One of the reasons is the new medication standards we set here – it’s resulted in over an 80 percent reduction in shippers. [DRF]The problem is mainly the restrictions on the use of clenbuterol, now restricted 14 days out here as opposed to just a few days at other tracks in the region with slots-inflated purses. So you can kiss all the talk about those purses here reviving the winter sport goodbye, due to a medication rule that is really more to satisfy the New York Times as for any scientifically yet-to-be-proven purpose.
- Made my first visit to the Big A last weekend, and lasted for about a half hour. Indeed, the back rooms on the second floor are closed, ostensibly so that Genting can help to construct the promised simulcast/sports bar facility there. Until that room is ready, I'll continue to play the races from home.