THE BREAKINGPOINT OF BREAKDOWNS
Shocking is an understatement to describe the reaction of the New York Racing Association (NYRA) to breakdowns at Aqueduct Racetrack during their current meet. Dave Grening of the Daily Racing Form reported that on this Wednesday at Aqueduct Racetrack 18 of the 73 horses entered were scratched from the cardís entries. Five were scratched by the track Veterinarian, Dr. Yessenia Almeida. Since horses were entered last Friday, there were many reasons that a horse was scratched other than a vet scratch. But the numbers should raise suspicion, at least.
However, sometime perception is often as powerful as is fact. In this case a fan canít help but wonder were the vet evaluations more conservative than in the past? Were trainers advised to take a second look at the competitiveness of their entries? Did Governor Cuomoís request for a full investigation of the breakdowns at Aqueduct have an impact on the scratches? It, also, comes on the heels of Dr. Wayne Johnsonís request to have an animal rights group join him in an effort to shut down Aqueduct.
It would seem from New York racing Associationís perspective, ďif it werenít for bad luck, they would no luck.Ē However, it would seem that NYRA is taking the matter very seriously. In conjunction with the New York Thoroughbred Horsemenís Association and the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, a New York Task Force on Racehorse Health and Safety to investigate Aqueduct fatalities was form today. The task force will be comprised, Hall of Fame jockey, Jerry Bailey, Alan Foreman, Chairman and CEO of the Thoroughbred Horsemenís Associations, Inc., Dr. Scott Palmer, past president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners and Dr. Mary Scollay, equine medical director at the Kentucky Horse racing Commission. Dr. Scollay seems like an exceptional member in that she in the conjunction with the Jockey Club designed and implemented the national race horse injury data base of which we have read much about of late. She will bring to the task force an extraordinary set of skills. It clearly is a serious amalgam of racing experts. With the help of individuals with serous investigative skills, the cause of these injures should be uncovered.
Beyond identifying the cause of these injuries, letís hope the task force can offer guidance on ways to improve outcomes going forward. What system changes should be made to racing, not just NYRA tracks, that would reduce the probability of similar occurrences elsewhere. Although an inventory of racetrack management practices was not done for this piece, it is unlikely that many tracks have an aggressive, high-end quality improvement function. Most corporations their size in the county have such a quality function to be up-stream from problems before they wreak havoc on their end products. Racing needs to benchmark with these companies.
Prominent trainer Linda Rice suggests one of the causes may be right in front of us. Since the long-awaited casino came on line at Aqueduct and purses have geometrically increased, field sizes have been larger, some horses have been running more frequently than perhaps they should. Some cheaper horses have been running in claiming races outside their competitive level. Trainers and owners are trying to take immediate advantage of the new purse structure. Understood, but are these tactics contributing to the skyrocketing fatal breakdown rates?
Intersecting hypothesis. Letís see what the task force finds.