The safety and welfare of horses and jockeys competing at NYRA tracks is our highest priority. That is why NYRA is committed to providing the safest possible environment for racing and training by adopting and implementing the best proven safety practices in consultation with independent experts, veterinarians, horsemen and regulators.
Accredited by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association's Safety and Integrity Alliance, NYRA is a founding member of the Thoroughbred Safety Coalition, a group of the nation's leading racing organizations working collaboratively to advance safety measures across the sport.
In addition to our organizational commitment to keeping racing safe, NYRA and its horsemen are strong supporters of the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, which accredits, inspects, and awards grants to approved aftercare organizations to retire, retrain and rehome Thoroughbreds after their racing days are done.
NYRA is a founding member of the Thoroughbred Safety Coalition (TSC), a collective of the nation's leading racing organizations working together to promote enhanced safety measures. The TSC is composed of organizations that have individually led the horse racing industry in modernizing the sport by utilizing their combined resolve, expertise, and resources to promote enhanced safety measures across the industry.
The New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC) regulates all horse racing and pari-mutuel wagering in New York State. In its role as the chief regulator, the NYSGC is responsible for the rules and laws that govern racing and pari-mutuel wagering.
New York State currently features both Thoroughbred and Standardbred horse racing where pari-mutuel wagering takes place. There are four Thoroughbred tracks and seven Standardbred (harness) tracks in the state.
NYRA operates the three largest Thoroughbred tracks in the state—Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course. Finger Lakes, in Western New York, is not operated by NYRA.
The NYSGC is responsible for developing and administering New York’s equine drug rules and protective measures, which are among the strictest and most comprehensive in the nation.
The Commission, in consultation with Equine Medical Director Dr. Scott E. Palmer, continues to evaluate rules regarding equine drugs to ensure that horses, jockeys and drivers are protected and that the sport is run with the utmost integrity.
New York’s Equine Drug Testing Program (EDTP) is one of the leading equine drug-testing programs in the world. The program for all thoroughbred races is performed by Morrisville State College in Morrisville, New York, under contract with the New York State Gaming Commission.
Currently, the only allowable medication on race day in New York is furosemide and it is only permitted to be administered to horses properly enrolled in a furosemide medication program as prescribed.
In addition, the NYSGC is responsible for:
Launched by the NYSGC in 2012 to promote transparency, the NYSGC Equine Injury Database is a searchable database that lists every horse that has died, sustained a serious injury or been involved in an accident at any track in New York since 2009.
Among state regulatory agencies, the database is unmatched in the country in terms of presenting injury information to the public.
The site categorizes deaths by differentiating between “racing,” “training,” and “non-racing”. The “non-racing” category means, according to the NYSGC, that the death was not caused by exercise either in the form of training or racing. An example of this would be a horse who dies of colic, or a disease like pneumonia.
Unlike the Jockey Club EID, the NYSGC database presents only the raw numbers and does not assess rates of injury/death.
The databases can be found below:
NYRA 2019 (Saratoga, Belmont and Aqueduct)
Race days: 217
Racing deaths: 17
Racing deaths per 1,000 starts: 1.14
Safety Rate: 99.89%
Timed workouts: 45,782
Training deaths: 31
Training deaths per 1,000 workouts: 0.68
Safety Rate: 99.83%
In April 2019, a coalition of leading Thoroughbred racing associations and organizations announced an initiative committed to phasing out the use of the medication Furosemide (Lasix) beginning in 2020 and eliminating the use of Lasix in stakes races held at their racetracks beginning in 2021.
Coalition racetracks that have signed on to this initiative include all tracks owned or operated by Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI), the New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) and The Stronach Group as well as Del Mar, Keeneland, Lone Star Park and Remington Park, Los Alamitos Racecourse (Thoroughbred), Oaklawn Park and Tampa Bay Downs. Taken together these tracks represent 86% of the stakes races assigned graded or listed status in the United States in 2018. The coalition tracks will work diligently with their respective horsemen's associations and racing commissions towards implementing this effort.
Under the new program, which commenced January 1, 2020, two-year old horses will not be allowed to be treated with Lasix within 24 hours of a race. Beginning in 2021, the same prohibition would extend to all horses participating in any stakes race at coalition tracks. Accordingly, in 2021 the races comprising the Triple Crown would all be run under the new rules regarding race day medication.
Breeders' Cup Limited, the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders' Association (TOBA) and the American Graded Stakes Committee of TOBA, and the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association have also joined the coalition in support of this new policy.
Participating tracks include Aqueduct Racetrack, Arlington International Racecourse, Belmont Park, Churchill Downs, Del Mar, Fair Grounds, Gulfstream Park, Gulfstream Park West, Keeneland, Laurel Park, Lone Star Park and Remington Park, Los Alamitos (Thoroughbred), Oaklawn Park, Pimlico, Presque Isle Downs, Saratoga Race Course and Tampa Bay Downs. Golden Gate Fields and Santa Anita Park will continue to run under the previously announced limitations to race-day medication.
NYRA conducts extensive and continuous testing of racing and training surfaces before, during and after each race meet. NYRA has pioneered the use of a system that utilizes both daily measurements and enhanced data collection to create and maintain safe and consistent track surfaces.
Before any meet, the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory (RSTL) team performs comprehensive sampling and analysis of the following:
Before and after each day of racing, NYRA performs testing and data collection of cushion depth, moisture content, and surface consistency to ensure the readings are within pre-determined safety criteria.
NYRA consults and actively shares internal data and daily measurements with leading independent testing and engineering firms to provide additional levels of scrutiny and relevant expertise. All track maintenance work is meticulously documented, logged and subsequently shared in real time both internally and with outside consultants.
All track maintenance decisions and actions are informed directly by scientific data matched with current and forecast weather conditions.
NYRA has consistently shown a commitment to implement science-driven best practices to establish and maintain safe surfaces and facilities for its equine and human athletes. To meet this goal, NYRA has made significant capital investments in recent years to upgrade and modernize racing and training facilities.
Since 2013, NYRA has upgraded turf courses at Belmont, Saratoga and Aqueduct with modernized irrigation and drainage systems to improve the overall surface by increasing turf growth, recovery and consistency. Turf courses at Belmont and Saratoga were widened to create additional running lanes and reduce wear. During the same period, NYRA has renovated and widened the Belmont Training Track and Oklahoma Training Track turf course at Saratoga to add running lanes, decrease congestion and improve overall safety.
Additionally, all three tracks and both training tracks feature innovative alarm systems designed to quickly alert personnel of a loose horse.
In 2017, NYRA completely renovated the main track at Aqueduct while at the same time replacing the inner dirt track with a second turf course and adding the latest in safety rail technology. The opening of the 2018 fall meet at Aqueduct featured the debut of a new surface on the inner turf course. As a result, all Aqueduct racing surfaces have been replaced or completely renovated since 2017.
Through this commitment to track safety and science, NYRA has earned and maintained accreditation for all three racetracks by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association Safety & Integrity Alliance, which, under the direction of NYRA Vice President of Racing Surfaces and Facilities Glen Kozak, have earned "best practice" ratings in virtually every area examined by the Alliance.
Race day inspections are performed by four NYRA Veterinarians and overseen by Dr. Anthony Verderosa, NYRA's Veterinary Department Director, to regulate the safety and welfare of all thoroughbred racehorses at each NYRA track.
Pre-race Horse Inspection: A NYRA Regulatory Veterinarian personally inspects each horse entered to race on the morning of the race date to ensure that the horse - in their professional opinion - is fit to compete.
This inspection shall include: a review of previous pre-race inspection findings for the horse; physical inspection of the horse in the stall to include palpation of both front limbs and any apparently abnormal structures observed in the hind limbs; observation of the horse outside the stall while being walked and jogged in hand away from and toward the examining veterinarian; discussion with the trainer or their designee regarding changes in physical findings or layoffs.
Pre-race Horse Observation: NYRA Regulatory Veterinarians continuously observe the horses at each stage of the pre-race process. This observation begins with the walk over from the barn area, includes each stage of the saddling process, post parade, warm up and transitions only when all horses are in the starting gate ready to race.
NYRA Regulatory Veterinarians have the authority to recommend a scratch to the Stewards at any time prior to the running of the race.
Observation of horses during and after the race: NYRA Regulatory Veterinarians observe all horses during the race and after the race, including the unsaddling process and walk back to the barn area.
All information and data generated by the pre-race examination and race day observation is catalogued and recorded by NYRA Regulatory Veterinarians to add medical details to past performances and workout information.
Enhanced Levels of Scrutiny
In 2013, to ensure the safety of horses placed on the steward's and/or veterinarian's list, as well as those that have not started within a set timeframe, NYRA implemented enhanced levels of scrutiny to monitor such horses.
Steward's List: The stewards may place the name of any horse on the steward's list for any reason they may deem to be proper. While on this list, the horse may not race or be entered to race. The most common reason for placement on the steward's list is poor performance, which is defined as having been beaten by at least 25 lengths in its last race.
Veterinarian's List: The veterinarian's list is designed as a safeguard to prevent unsound or unhealthy horses from being entered before the horse has recovered from a physical condition or illness. Usually these horses have been identified during pre-race inspections as being unsound or having been observed either on-track or in the post-race test barn as unsound or experiencing epistaxis (bleeding from one or both nostrils).
To be removed from the veterinarian's list, the horse must pass a pre-workout soundness inspection, record a 4-furlong workout in 52 seconds or less before a NYRA Regulatory Veterinarian, and pass a post-workout inspection and blood test for the presence of medication above allowable thresholds.
A horse is ineligible to compete if on the steward's list or veterinarian's list.
First time starter: A first-time starter must have at least three works in the previous 45 days, one of which must have been at least 1/2 mile; and been gate approved by the starter.
Not started within 90 days: The horse must have at least three works within 90 days of the proposed start date, two of which must have been within the last 60 days and one of which must have been at least 1/2 mile; and one work at least 3/8 mile or further within 30 days of the proposed start.
Not started within 60 days: The horse must have at least two workouts within 60 days of the proposed start date, one of which must have been at least 1/2 mile; and one work at least 3/8 mile or further within 30 days of the proposed start.
Not started within 30 days: A horse must have one workout of at least 3/8 mile or further within 30 days of the proposed start.
NYRA shares its commitment and focus on safety with the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association (NYTHA) and the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC), with the input of industry partners including the NTRA.
The collective efforts of NYRA, NYTHA and the NYSGC set a standard of excellence when it comes to the evolution and science of preventing and investigating the root causes of equine injuries.
NYRA has implemented or enhanced the following policies and procedures since 2013 in conjunction with NYTHA and the NYSGC to further increase the safety of its racing operations:
The NYRA and its horsemen are committed supporters of the TAA, which accredits, inspects, and awards grants to approved aftercare organizations to retrain, retire, and rehome Thoroughbreds using industry-wide funding. The TAA is supported by owners, trainers, breeders, racetracks, aftercare professionals, and other industry members.
One of NYRA's recent avenues of support for the TAA was created in collaboration with the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association [NYTHA]. With the start of the 2019 Saratoga Race Course meet, NYRA began placing a 1.5 percent assessment fee on all claimed horses at its tracks with the proceeds going to the TAA and the NYTHA-administrated retirement program, TAKE THE LEAD (TTL), which is overseen by NYRA-based trainer Rick Schosberg. TTL helps owners and trainers stabled at Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park and Saratoga find placements with TAA-accredited facilities for horses retiring from the NYRA tracks.
For more information on the TAA, visit https://www.thoroughbredaftercare.org/
For further information on TAKE THE LEAD, visit http://www.take2tbreds.com/take-the-lead/
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