In a special two-part video released June 3, just ahead of California Chrome's Triple Crown bid in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) this weekend, New York Racing Association president and CEO Chris Kay and two industry experts discuss the steps being taken to enhance equine safety and ensure the integrity of racing in New York.
Moderated by NYRA racing analyst and champion jockey Richard Migliore, Part 1 of the 15-minute program focuses on the joint efforts of NYRA and the New York State Gaming Commission to develop a culture of safety at Belmont Park, Aqueduct Racetrack, and Saratoga Race Course.
Kay and New York State Equine Medical Director Dr. Scott Palmer, who chaired the New York State Task Force on Racehorse Health and Safety, cite the Task Force recommendations that have been put into place by the Gaming Commission and NYRA, resulting in a significant reduction in racing fatalities over the past 16 months. In 2012, racing fatalities were 2.2 per 1,000 starts, and 2013, they fell to 1.3 per 1,000 starts. With the increased level of risk management and the standardization of pre-race exam and veterinary protocols, so far this year, says Palmer, the fatality rate is the lowest it has ever been.
Kay also credits a significant part of the increase in safety to the Racing Committee and the Equine and Jockey Safety Committee of NYRA's new board of directors; NYRA's new executive talent, including Martin Panza, the senior vice-president of racing operations who works closely with Palmer and NYRA chief examining veterinarian Dr. Anthony Verderosa, as well as NYRA vice president of facilities & racing surfaces Glen Kozak, who ensures the association's three tracks are at the highest level of safety.
As the injury rate has fallen, Kay says, standards have risen. In Part 2, Kay and NYRA safety steward Hugh Gallagher examine his role on the backstretch of the racetracks as he trains and supervises NYRA's security personnel in overseeing integrity missives such as the "Horse Watch" detail and monitoring the activities of private veterinarians.
"I think my presence on the backstretch will create questions, and I am there as a source of information," said Gallagher. "I also will be a link to the stewards as they do their job during racing."
All these steps, explains Kay, are designed to ensure that guests can have confidence in NYRA and the sport of horse racing.
"This is an unprecedented time at NYRA as we, along with the governor and Gaming Commission, have put together a team of board members, NYRA and state employees, racing officials and veterinarians whose primary mission it is to protect out horses and jockeys, and ensure the integrity of New York racing," says Kay. "The changes we have made together have proven to be the right formula to achieve that goal."