NYRA panel to review racing fatalities

Tuesday, February 26, 2013
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NEW YORK — The New York Racing Association’s safety committee is scheduled to review racing fatalities and continue the implementation of new procedures when it meets Wednesday.

Establishing an Equine Safety Review Board, reviewing the racetrack surface at the Aqueduct Race Track and complying with safety task force recommendations are all on the meeting’s agenda. There will also be a review of racing breakdowns in 2012 and 2013, which includes 16 fatalities at the Saratoga Race Course in 2012.

There were 12 fatalities during the meet, three during an open house day of steeplechase races and one in late October during training exercises.

New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association President and NYRA Board member Rick Violette said Saratoga has a record of few breakdowns. Despite that record of success, he said, “We would like to reduce it to zero [breakdowns], even if it is an unattainable goal.”

According to the state’s Gaming Commission, there were nine fatalities at Saratoga Race Course in 2011, 15 in 2010 and 11 in 2009.

Violette said the low number of deaths was most likely because of the fresh high-quality horses making up most of the fields. “People are bringing their best horses here,” he said.

Most of the thoroughbred deaths that have gained national attention were last spring at the Aqueduct Race Track. There has been debate about whether the death toll there was inordinately high, but NYRA says it is still committed to making its product safer.

“There is no silver bullet” when it comes to horse safety, said Violette, who highlighted the fact they can leave no stone unturned.

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