Ehalt: NYRA can’t have another winter like this one

by | 03.19.2012 | 8:50am

At ESPN New York, Bob Ehalt writes that while NYRA has lowered purses for certain claiming races in an effort to combat a rash of breakdowns this winter, more will need to be done before the next racing season at Aqueduct.  Ehalt says other possible changes include an increased veterinarian staff, the power to look at the medical records of horses, and a time frame when horse's legs can be viewed without wraps:

“Surely, as NYRA delves deeper into this, there are going to be unsettling findings, and some of the possible answers — like less races a day to reduce the need for so many bottom level races, and a month or two winter break — might rankle revenue-starved politicians like Cuomo who are speaking one way now and might change his tone later when it could affect the amount of money pari-mutuel wagering turns over to the state.”

“Some answers might not be popular, but quite clearly NYRA cannot endure another winter like this one.”

“Somehow NYRA needs to get across the message to horsemen that the winter of 2011-12 cannot be repeated, and that if more prudence is not exhibited it will be mandated.”

  • for now- anonymous

    Here are some facts from NY that noone seems to want to talk about, so here goes:
    1.  Vet bills in some barns run over a thousand a month,  with injecting becoming as common as feeding.
    2.  Horses with “known”  serious physical problems can be seen by simply watching them limp to the winners circle and than back at the test barn;  If the public can see this,  why cant the vets?
    3.  have heard comment   “if claimed, we can get one more race out of them?”
    4.  If one just reads the DRF which continues to write inane comments, such as NYRA cant figure out all the breakdowns-   every week,  there are horses running every week by the same trainers.   Some horses are claimed and entered the same day before entries close.  One just needs to read the DRF entries to see these patterns.
    5.  Shock wave treatements are sill legal in NY and are being done with regularity inside of the alloted time.
    6.  The type of money given to conditioned cheap claiming races only breeds this “use of horses as monopoly pieces”,   How and what does a racing secretary do that can”t (like most tracks)  fill the better races, where the money should be ?  Is under pressure to have full fields?             The new increasing problem of full fields vs quality racing?

    I think I will just post this anoymously for tired of the lack of constructive comments —

  • Narfink

    What is allotted time for shockwave

  • jorge

    A big part of NYRA problems came in with Charlie Hayward. He started the big fields at all cost policy. The better horses are given fewer chances to race because the racing office is not allowed to use small fields. Look at the number of horses that Mott, Pletcher, and McGaughey ship to Parx, Monmouth, Woodbine, etc to find an opportunity to race, th
    At never used to happen. Look at the quality stables that no longer race at NYRA. Lukas, Orseno, Arnold,Motion. There has to be a reason they are no longer here. If NYRA thinks the racing has not cheapened over the last few years , they have their head buried in the sand. When the slot money arrived, NYRA still had the barn area full of cheaper horses, what did they think would happen? It will take several years to change the complex of the horses stabled at NYRA. They need to get a horse person in to run NYRA , not a disgruntled gambler. One week trainers don’t run enough the next week they run too much. Charlie says whatever it takes to save himself and his pals to get to their next big raise.

  • Ridindirty3

    The horses they have…are the horses they have. This should tell you that even though the purses in winter are far better in NY than they are in most any other state….people that have better horses STILL want to keep them in better weather. The mindset of guys with better horses after this winter is more likely to be….Yeah..right…I’m gonna leave my better horses in NY for the winter & get ’em all hurt. Not gonna happen. See ya at Belmont!

  • George

    Anonymous. Please tell us the names of the horses that you watched “limp” back to the winners circle. Who are you and when did you become more knowledgeble than the veterinarians? How does lowering the purses help the horses?

  • wallyhorse


    It’s not that Hayward wants big fields at all costs, that is dictated by market demand.  The fact is, big bettors want and demand big fields and vote with their wallets in that regard.  The real problem is we no longer have the days where a racing secretary can demand a trainer run a NW2x or NW3x Allowance with a better horse even if they don’t want to go in it under the threat of having the trainer’s stall taken away, as trainers don’t run their better horses like they used to (which in turn to me is a by-product of Lasix, which needs to be eliminated from the sport).

    It also is not just NYRA.  On a lot of days this winter, Parx goes with a $16,000 NW2L or NW3L starter allowance as the feature, and even Gulfstream has several times this winter had a claiming race (and sometimes a restricted claimer) as the feature.  Unless tracks put their foot down and tell owners and trainers of better horses they must make more NW2x and NW3x Allowance races go with 8-10 horse fields or they risk losing stalls, this is going to continue because trainers are going to be patient and wait for their spot as opposed to running against a tougher field.  This is racing in 2012 as opposed to 1972 or even ’92 when the racing secretary had that kind of leverage.  

  • jorge

    That is fine, but
    Without letting some of the higher end races go with smaller fields, NYRA is putting added pressure on the lesser horse to race more, and adding to the breakdown problem

  • Is it maybe possible that unusually warm winter here in New York City had an unintended consequence of changing inner dirt course properties? My understanding is that its composition is designed to battle freezing temperatures and extreme precipitation, so could it be that it just can’t handle the “heat”? And whatever the course is “playing” now is detrimental to horses? I am sure NYRA can do a lot more too to combat the equine breakdowns and human injuries. I don’t know what management is thinking right now. Maybe losing star jockey over the past weekend for several weeks of racing just when Triple Crown action is gearing up might shake them out of apparent apathy. Or maybe it will all be a bad memory when racing switches to the main track on Wednesday? Let’s hope so.

  • Tinky

    If it is a factor, what you mention is trivial compared with the primary problem. The absurdly inflated purses for claiming races mean that many, many of the horses entered are being tapped and tweaked in every possible way before EACH race. In other words, hold ’em together for one race – and they’re likely to be claimed. The cycle then repeats, and the horses are at greater risk each time around.

    As long as the purses are grossly out of line with the claiming tags, there will be higher incidences of breakdowns at every NYRA track.

  • Robb

    Raising the minimum claim from $7,500 to $15,000 should help reduce fatalities.  NYRA should also increase its veterinary staff and conduct more stringent race-day exams of horses.  They might also want to try institute a minimum rest period of five days between starts for a racehorse.

    But in the long run, what Aqueduct really needs is a track overhaul, and now that they have casino money coming in, they ought to renovate the entire track.  The inner track and turf course turns are way too tight; I cringe every time I watch a turf race at Aqueduct; there is always one or two horses who go way too wide into the clubhouse turn and knock themselves (and, sometimes other horses) completely out of contention.

    Since the turf course is used so sparingly in April and November, I’d get rid of it and just have the main and inner tracks. Adjust the inner track so that the turns aren’t as tight as they are now; if these changes make it impossible to run a six furlong race, then build an infield chute. 

  • Merasmag

    u have always seemed like a goodguy 2me
    what do ur trainers say?

  • wallyhorse

    You still need a place for the grass horses to run.  What I would be looking at doing is more likely eliminate one of the two dirt surfaces and combine the main track so it can be used all winter while having two turf courses at Aqueduct like we used to have.  I would also be looking to see if it’s feasible to install an underground heating system underneath the turf course(s) at Aqueduct (not unlike what some NFL stadiums have) that would permit grass racing to at least go further into December and start up again in late February or so in a normal winter and in a winter like this past one actually being able to use the course(s) the entire winter, as such a system would dry the courses out quicker or otherwise keep them in usable condition a lot longer than otherwise.  It may not be feasible, but it is something I would be looking at seeing if it is.

    As maligned as the inner track has been this winter, before this year it actually was widely considered the safest of the surfaces to race on in New York, and the last two winters actually was raced on in very warm weather in March before going back to the main with no problems.  NYRA also has in the past run baby races on the inner track in April in sometimes summer-like weather conditions after racing has otherwise been moved to the main track, so the myths about this mild winter contributing to the problems is more of a myth than anything else..  

  • wallyhorse


    We’ve had mild winters before and not had problems, and in fact, the last two winters have actually had temps near 80 several times late in the season and there were no problems with the inner track late in the season that I know of.  While this winter could have played into this, based on past winters when there has been a lot of mild weather, I doubt it, as said in my other posts.

  • Ridindirty3

    Don’t you guys get that the SAME horses that are running for the bottom ($7500.00) will also be running for the bottom ($12,500.00) or whatever number they decide? All this will do is possibly slow down the claiming activity at these levels. When the slots money came in they should have immediately raised the bottom… that cheap bottom feeder owners had to dig a little deeper to be a wanna be big shot & race in NY with the higher purses. Also…I guess…nobody gets that the reason trainers are putting mostly the same horses in the entries every week….is because they are trying to dig themselves out of the holes the no pay bottom feeders have put them in. It costs just as much to keep a cheap horse as it does a good one! The people who suggest how to make racing better NEVER mention holding owners to their financial responsibilities! How many TV shows, movies or other sports would there be….and how good would they be… if the people who put on those events were always worried when/if they would get paid? This is a major part of any discussion regarding improving the sport!

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