The NYRA Way

Back in the spring of 2012, Governor Cuomo’s office ordered the New York Racing Association (NYRA) to investigate a spate of racing fatalities (30, in all) at Aqueduct’s 2012 winter meet. Ultimately, the Racing and Wagering Board (RWB) appointed a 4-member “Task Force On Racehorse Health and Safety.” Summarizing the findings, Howard Glaser, Cuomo’s director of state operations, said (The New York Times, 9/28/12), “At the New York Racing Association, concern for the health of the horses finished a distant second to economics.” Here are the highlights:

Lack of Transparency and Disclosure: None of the fatally injured horses had complete necropsies. In addition, there were no urine samples collected and only limited blood testing, leaving open the question of illegal administrations. Although rules exist for when and how much drugging is allowed, trainers failed to report (and the RWB failed to monitor) injections. Furthermore, racing’s ubiquitous corticosteroids often mask breakdown-causing injuries or preexisting conditions like this one, making the track vet’s job all the more difficult. And lastly, there were discrepancies between the trainers’ description of veterinary care and the practicing vets’ actual records, which, by the way, are not required to disclose dose information.

Conflict of Interests: All regulatory vet responsibilities are performed by NYRA vets who answer directly to NYRA racing officials; these officials, not the stewards, execute scratches, and racing officials do not like scratches. In addition, “written protocols containing standards and practices were not provided to the NYRA veterinarians,” leading to inconsistent pre-race procedures and scratch criteria. Worse, the dollar-driven, mind-your-own-business culture discourages whistleblowing: Generally, trainers don’t tattle on other trainers, and jockeys, with ever an eye on future mounts, are disinclined to voice soundness concerns.

Disproportionate Purses in Claiming Races: The Resorts World Racino, which opened in the fall of 2011, resulted in artificially inflated purses in the claiming races that predominate at Aqueduct. The extraordinarily high purse-to-claim ratios “incentivized poor decision-making by a range of stakeholders that increased the risk for mismanagement and subsequent injury.” In short, racing cheap, broken horses for jacked up purses is great for people, bad for animals.


Let’s see if I have this straight: The owners, buying and selling at a frenzied and historic rate, are chasing racino cash with second-rate (at-risk), expendable assets. The trainers, operating in a highly competitive environment, either skirt or outright flout existing drug rules, often with a wink and a nod from private veterinarians who disdain answering to bureaucrats. The track vets, briefed on the primacy of field size, are compromising their professional integrity. And the jockeys are risking their teammates’ lives to preserve paydays.

Whether some or even all of the promised reforms have taken hold is quite beside the point, for as recently as last year, the preceding was standard operating procedure at the New York Racing Association. Says all we need to know.

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  1. The racing industry already knows the truth. Now they are focused on either ignoring it or covering it up. Everyone is in survival mode. Jobs and paychecks are on the line. The horses are forgotten.

  2. Yes, you have it right !! It really is disgraceful but as long as there are people who will compromise their integrity for money this will continue. However, to begin with, integrity is scarce in the world of racing and not plentiful in politics. Horse racing attracts all the wrong people for all the wrong reasons.
    I shudder to see what it will be like at Aqueduct this season. What will be the sham this time, an other useless investigation ? We know nobody in racing cares anything about the welfare of the horse.

  3. I am so upset tears keep comming till I can hardly type. Horses carried us into battle,plowed our fields so we could eat,were the cowboys sometimes only friends,were our transportation and even saved lives. Mine too. The only good peaceful moments of normalcy was when my little ole pony warpaint would carry me away @age 10,away from a rotten childhood Drunken mother everyday. I no talk to her in 12yrs. Had to an order of harassment to protect me own family. Vengince is mine sayith the Lord, I hold onto that so I don’t freakout. My poor in laws didn’t believe me until she started attacking them thru social media. Impersonated me online and others,so finally after 21plus yes,her karma is slapping her down. I live in Arizona lots of Indians. Hopis do a hoop dance,the hoop life,and what comes around I assure goes around. There God will judge them as too the works they did on earth. There adults know right from wrong. No excuse but pure greed. Money money money,man cannot serve 2 gods. I will not just stand by, I Will contact the media,guy on TV loves these stories,and make public aware of this Nazi type of treatment. Have a wonderful day to all who suffer, The Great Spirit will right all.Keep the faith good people with heart.

  4. There are no reasonable, sane or humane people in the racehorse industry. All greed with no heart. They know it’s inhumane to race horses of all ages on hard turf. It’s sad that jockey lives are at risk, too, but, if they don’t speak up against forcing over drugged, stressed and abused horses to race, they are fools and can only blame themselves if they get injured when horses go down and die on the tracks. The racehorse industry is hell for the horses, and greedy owners, trainers, jockeys and vets keep pushing them on the tracks knowing their horses will never make it to the finish line in one piece. One thing I’ve noticed about the racehorses is that not one has safety wraps around their legs during the races, especially the ones that break legs while racing. Setup to die it appears.

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