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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Big A Fatalities Draws Unwelcome Attention

Hillsboro Bay, euthanized following the 9th race at the Big A on Wednesday, was the 16th fatality thus far on the inner track, and the 7th since Feb 25th. Jeez! It's actually the main track about which I've heard safety concerns in the past, but NYRA officials now can't wait to get back on that surface, moving its date of operation up by two weeks. That announcement was termed as "coincidentally" by the Form's David Grening, but I'm not so sure about that. NYRA insists that the inner track is safe, and personally I have little reason to doubt that. These unfortunate streaks happen, and are, more often than not, a statistical oddity that's bound to occur from time to time.

The bizarre spate of catastrophic injuries has even captured the attention of Governor Cuomo, who sent a letter to Charles Hayward demanding that NYRA conduct an investigation into the breakdowns. Really? I mean, how the hell did Cuomo even know about this? Is he following Grening on Twitter while he's not working on the budget, pension reform, DNA databases, and giving in to the Senate Republican goons and the laughable redistricting lines he'd previously pledged to veto?

The letter, on Cuomo stationery, was signed by Bennett Liebman, Deputy Secretary for Gaming, and Robert Megna, Director of New York State Division of the Budget. Megna is also the chairman of the Franchise Oversight Board, which oversees NYRA's operations. [Daily Racing Form]
Ah. Been wondering what Ben Liebman has been up to since he disappeared into the Cuomo Administration. Hadn't heard from him lately, but good to see he's helping to look out for the governor's political interests. Because the governor, while he might be a nice guy and a family man who's for equal rights and world peace, surely doesn't give a rat's ass about dead horses at the track. If you look a bit closer at the letter (without even having to read between its lines), you'll see that this all fits in with his narrative questioning the viability of the sport and the slots revenues currently being diverted to it.
"Everyone understands that horse racing poses risks....but that cannot be an excuse for our inaction. The status quo in all aspects of horse racing is not working, and we need to develop procedures now that work for the horses, riders and the racing public in New York."
Additionally, the letter states that NYRA should pay for the investigation, pointing to the fact that it has received some $15 million in slots revenues from Resort World thus far. That fits right in with Cuomo's recent comments that questions how much, and if, the state wants to 'quote-unquote' subsidize the industry. This governor has shown more outright hostility towards the sport than all of his recent predecessors combined, and, as far as NYRA and horse racing in the state goes, his expected run to succeed President Obama in 2016 can't come soon enough.

- The agreement between the legislature and the governor on casino gambling calls for the addition of up to seven non-Indian facilities across the state. So it surely should be quite interesting how the New York Gaming Association (NYGA) of the existing racinos reacts, because that math doesn't add for them. You see, NYGA has been advocating for casinos to be located at their nine facilities. So, even if these existing facilities are tabbed as the casino locations, two of them are going to be left out. So there surely could be some infighting within what has heretofore been a tight-knit group, at least outwardly. Can't quite see Genting going: "Oh, it's OK Yonkers and Jeff Gural, you take it." The governor says that decisions on the locations won't take place until next year....and I'd guess that's at the earliest. So, this should be fun.


jk said...

Cuomo's convention center and casino plan will spell the end of racing at the Big A. RW has said there is no room for racing at the Big A with a convention center/casino. Everything Cuomo says should be viewed in this light. Winter racing will have to move to Belmont.

Ultimate Vindicator said...

Genting is dropping big bucks into a project that from all appearances will be utterly magnificent. They deserve the right to have some degree of non-compete within a geographical distance.

Joe A said...

While Cuomo may be hostile to horse racing in general and NYRA in particular, shouldn't more of your outrage be directed at the death toll? These are in fact the athletes that we follow and love.

Why hasn't there been more done to investigate the causes? Is it a random occurance? Is there a problem with the surface? If so, why haven't they switched to the main track already, its certainly been warm enough. Are the breakdowns in any particular class of race? Has the lucrative purse structure for cheaper claiming stock incentivized trainers to run horses of questionable fitness?

These are all reasonable questions. And not too difficult to study for such a small set of races. Why aren't we asking them?

Dan said...

The industry has to do a better job explaining to these politicans that horse racing produces REVENUE for the state. All recent gov's from both parties are not fans of NYRA. This is the handwriting for the state to reduce the share of money from the casinos going directly to the tracks- Look at Ontario recently- Its a matter of time. Lets enjoy the good racing @ Belmont & Saratoga this year. I'm not sure how long this will last.

Figless said...

All these deaths are investigated but we could use more transparency from NYRA in this regard.

I believe this increase, from I believe 12 last year to now 16 this year is a statistical anomaly, considering the number of starters (due to purses) and races (due to weather) is up if they run the percentages it will not be significant.

One good point I noticed elsewhere was the increased purses at the lower claiming levels should be examined. When the winning share is worth double the horse's value there is perhaps too much incentive to run a less than perfectly healthy animal. Put more money in the allowance races, 20k should be enough money for a bottom claimer, 29k is absurd.

Bill D said...

It's not a statistical anomaly. It is absolutely the increaased purses bringing in horses who shouldn't be racing anymore. The number of 7, 8 and 9 year olds I've seen on AQU cards this year rivals your average Turfway card. It's the law of unintended consequences at work.

Speaking of fatalities - I absolutely hated "Luck" but I was explaining to a co-worker this morning it's no surprise about the fatalities there. Only horses unfit for the track would be used in this type of production. Unfit for the track - simulating racing conditions over and over again. Hmmm...I wonder what will happen?

Teresa said...

And for what it's worth, Turfway has had one racing-related fatality in the time that Aqueduct has had 16.

Dirtyshirt said...

Bill D -

I usually let stupid comments speak for themselves, but in this case you need to be informed, because I'm sure you're repeating your opinion to anyone who will listen.

Only 1 of the 3 fatalities occurred on the track, and the horse was sound and of racing age. The most recent death was a horse flipping in the barn and hitting his head. Freak accident; not "Unfit for the track - simulating racing conditions over and over again"

Regardless, you must hate racing, because many horsemen will lose jobs, track revenue will drop, and new fans will stop coming out. Is that what you want?

Think before you type.

junebug719 said...

Maybe horse racing should be finished. Everyone here seems to only care about the trainers,the track personnel and their jobs. None of you are addressing the drugging of the horses and THEIR deaths. GREED has ruined racing just like it has this country. WHo stopped Dutrow from racing drugged up unfit horses?? Not any of you.

Anonymous said...

Good to see that lazy ass Jerry Bossert finally do some work. Guy can't pick a winner to save his life. He should be embarrassed of himself.

Anonymous said...

I didn't really like Luck that much. The intro was cool and it had plenty of style, but I thought the storylines were ridiculous and it portrayed racing in a largely negative light. It's true there is plenty not to like about horseracing, but Luck seemed to hit on all the dark stuff and didn't do it subtly. Anyway, they can spin it any way they want to but the show was cancelled not because of the breakdowns but because of the ratings. Do you really think HBO would have walked away from a couple of breakdowns if it were a hit show? -jp

Bill D said...

Dirtyshirt - If "Luck" was going to bring new fans to the track then "The Wire" must have led to an explosion of tourism to Baltimore.

Naturally, Dirtyshirt, you who so magnaminously let stupid comments speak for themselves failed to mention that the OTHER two breakdowns in the series were suffered by horses participating in racing scenes.

Way to cite the exception and try to make it the rule.

Change your shirt.

And your shorts. You messed yourself.

steve in nc said...

Figless said...

I would like to see the entire list including trainer and prior racing level before the breakdown race.

If there are a lot of drop downs involved then place the blame with the purses, trainers and owners.

But I still believe it is a statistical anomaly, when you divide the number of breakdowns by number of starters it will be statistically insignifant.

This doenst mean I do not care, I certainly do, I just like to see fact based rather than knee jerk analysis.

IF there is a problem take any steps necessary to correct it, but lets do the analysis first.

The first logical step is to lower purses for the cheapest horses, that seems like a reasonable interim step.

Figless said...

The long term solution is for NYRA to announce, pre-emptively, that they will install brand new surfaces on both Big A tracks including state of the art base and drainage systems.

My preference is a winterized out track surface similar to the current inner, which would allow for a variety of distances and therefore more interesting racing in the winter.

Then install AWT on the current inner track, whichever surface has proven best in colder environments. They should race on both surfaces in the winter, again allowing for more variety in handicapping angles while giving turf meant horses a winter option besides shipping south.

Big A would be the only track with true dirt, AWT and Turf options.

Anonymous said...

Kathy Guillermo, a PETA vice president, said at the time the group didn't consider the matter closed.

"Racing itself is dangerous enough. This is a fictional representation of something and horses are still dying, and that to me is outrageous," she said.

On Tuesday, Guillermo said PETA sent complaints about "Luck" to Arcadia police and an animal humane society in nearby Pasadena.

"Three horses have now died and all the evidence we have gathered points to sloppy oversight, the use of unfit, injured horses, and disregard for the treatment of thoroughbreds," Guillermo said, calling for an immediate halt to filming.

In related news PETA is staffed entirely by kooks.

Anonymous said...

What don't you understand about cheap horses running with painkillers to mask pain and injuries breaking down. The purse structure is out of line with the product. NYRA could run a cards of 7500 claimers. Also - why are the horsemen the benefactors of lost slot money. Shouldn't that money go back to the slot players? They have no interest in horse racing.

Anonymous said...

Slot players don't deserve to win any money. It's called natural selection. -jp