Four months ago, New York state released the results of a comprehensive investigation into a spike in fatal equine breakdowns at Aqueduct last winter. The thoughtful and rigorous study, conducted by veterinary and racing experts and applauded by every segment of the industry, made more than 30 reasonable recommendations for improved safety protocols. It also repeatedly emphasized that there was nothing inherently unsafe about the Aqueduct inner track or the way it was maintained by the New York Racing Association.
So imagine the resounding “huh?” from the racing community when the state-controlled NYRA Reorganization Board issued a press release last Thursday that at its next meeting it will “consider” replacing the inner track with a synthetic racing surface for next year. (The report had briefly raised the issue but took no position and proposed no action.)
To date, there have been five equine deaths at the meet this year versus seven through the end of January last year, even though many of the “safety protocols” have been put in place, so it’s not that far out of the question to at least discuss synthetics, in my opinion. And though Steve is correct in saying that the Task Force report didn’t find fault with the inner track surface, it did mention that moisture is key to a winterized surface and a mild winter last year may have played a part in the way the track played. It, therefore, actually suggested a synthetic surface discussion.
Here’s some of what the Task Force said: