Every winter the New York Racing Association loses the top thoroughbred horses to warmer climates. Whether the climates are Gulfstream Park, Fairgrounds Race Track, Oaklawn Park or various farms in South Carolina or Florida, the New York circuit loses the top quality horses through the winter. This is not new and has been this way for as long as there has been winter racing in New York.
Winter racing does however serve a purpose. It allows for trainers who have New York Bred horses to race them competitively as 42% of all New York Bred races are run at Aqueduct. It allows for claiming trainers to ply their trade as this is the time when horses are of a different quality than during the height of Belmont or Saratoga. It allows for groom, hot walkers, hay delivery people, concessionaires, and other vital track people to be employed year round, contributing the the Queens, NY economy.
Two years ago, the New York Gaming Commission, then known as the New York Racing and Wagering Board, along with NYRA established a equine safety commission, chaired by Scott Palmer, DVM. This commission was instrumental in creating a number of safety plans for winter racing in New York and racing as a whole. Those policies were followed in part, but not completely.
Fast forward to the inner track season of Aqueduct, 2014-2015. According to the Daily Racing Form, there have been 14 equine deaths since the inner track has opened. NYRA is consistent about one thing; it isn’t the track surface. Really? If it isn’t the track surface, then what is it? Are the same licensed trainers who run at Belmont and Saratoga incompetent at Aqueduct? Is it the disparity between workouts and racing? Is it management? Those of us vested in the industry deserve answers.