Hurricane Sandy aftermath at Country Life Farm in Maryland.

Hurricane Sandy aftermath at Country Life Farm in Maryland.

Josh Pons

Hurricane Sandy Impacts Northeast Tracks

Several had to postpone or cancel training and racing schedules.

By Esther Marr and Frank Angst

Initial reports suggest tracks across the Northeast suffered some damage and power outages as a result of Hurricane Sandy, but that damage was moderate compared with the devastation in the area.

There were no initial reports of injuries to humans or horses, although information is still being gathered. Several tracks had to postpone or cancel training and racing schedules, some horses had to be relocated, and horsemen had to scramble their schedules.

Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J., has canceled training for the remainder of the year. The race meet wrapped up Oct. 7.

Both Monmouth Park and Woodbridge OTB have reopened for simulcasting, however, and anticipate being able to offer full-card simulcasting of this year's Breeders' Cup Nov. 2-3. Monmouth lost power during the hurricane, but it was restored Oct. 31.

"As of now, we are unsure of the extent of the damage at Monmouth Park," said Bob Kulina, president of Darby Development, operator of the racetrack. "We were extremely lucky that no people or horses were injured during the storm, or its aftermath. Property damage, however, is yet to be ascertained.

"The racing surface itself needs to be evaluated and therefore we have canceled all training for the year. The stable area will close as quickly as possible to facilitate a complete diagnosis of any damage to the barns."

Locally based trainer Kelly Breen said six barns had flooded and horses had to be moved to higher ground. Breen's barns held up in the storm but some large trees fell outside his home in Tinton Falls, N.J.

Many horsemen call the area near Monmouth Park home and Breen said travel is difficult, gasoline is scarce, and horsemen, like other local residents, are dealing with widespread power outages.

Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J., will be closed for the remainder of the short fall meeting, which was to run through Nov. 3, according to a release on Monmouth Park's website.

Meadowlands reported on its website that its simulcast facilities had re-opened Oct. 31 after being closed the two previous days. The track plans to still open its grandstand for the full-card simulcast of the Breeders' Cup World Championships Nov. 2-3.

John Brennan reported on the website "Meadowlands Matters" that Hurricane Sandy had caused "first-floor flooding at the Meadowlands, as well as damage to fences, signs, port-a-johns, and trees at the Meadowlands Sports Complex, according to New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority executive Jim Minish."

Belmont Park reopened for training at 7 a.m. Oct. 31 after being closed Oct. 29-30. The Elmont, N.Y., track is still without power and its simulcast facilities remain down. New York Racing Association spokeswoman Ashley Herriman said she is not certain when the power will be restored, but she hopes it will be up and running by Nov. 2, when it would feature the Breeders' Cup World Championships simulcast from Santa Anita Park.

Herriman said there were several trees down around Belmont's facilities, one of which fell on the roof of Barn 14, where trainer John Terranova and some Darley horses are stabled. The tree did not go through the roof, however, and Herriman believed it was removed the afternoon of Oct. 30.

Herriman said Aqueduct Racetrack in Jamaica, N.Y., plans to race the weekend of Nov. 2-3 as previously scheduled. The track drew entries for those days Oct. 31. Aqueduct, which suffered only minor damage, does have its power restored and was also open for simulcasting Oct. 31.

"We're proceeding full speed ahead; we have the card drawn," said Herriman. "All things considered, we are in pretty good shape. There were no injuries reported to horses or humans; we weathered it pretty well at NYRA."

Suffolk Downs officials stated there had been no major destruction at the East Boston, Mass., facility., though there was some minor damage to the track's fence posts.

Suffolk, which raced on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays during the month of October, was scheduled to end its meet Oct. 31. Since the facility was closed Oct. 29 due to the storm, however, it plans to make up that day on Nov. 3. The facility reopened for training Oct. 31 after being closed Oct. 29-30.

Maryland Jockey Club spokesman Mike Gathagan said Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course held up well through the storm.

Because of the impact on horsemen and horses in the Northeast, Tampa Bay Downs has elected to move up the opening of its barn area to 8 a.m., Nov 5.

"A number of our horsemen are affected at Monmonth Park and Delaware Park; to ease the burden of flood waters and lack of electricity we elected to open early to try and accommodate as many horsemen as possible," said Tampa Bay Downs general manager Peter Berube.
Tampa Bay Downs is strictly enforcing health certificate guidelines due to the recent outbreak of equine herpes at Hawthorne Race Course.

Breeders' Cup officials, while expressing concern for those affected by the storm, said they have been in contact with major simulcast outlets in the storm area and those outlets have said they plan to open for simulcasting of the World Championships Nov. 2 and 3.

On site, Breeders' Cup adjusted its travel rules this week because flights of horses were delayed. Breeders' Cup had required horses to arrive at least 72 hours before the race but officials said if the flight is delayed on departure so as to affect the 72-hour ship-in rule, "Breeders' Cup security personnel will accompany the horses on the flight so security protocols are maintained."

The Pons family's Country Life Farm in Fallston, Md., tweeted a picture of a large tree that had fallen. Officials at the farm said the tree did not hit any structures.

"The eye of the story passed right over us, but except for hard sustained winds all day Monday and Tuesday, it wasn't as much rain as we would have thought," said Josh Pons. "We had a tornado come through the farm in June that ripped out 30 trees and had a greater impact on us. We were really fortunate."

Bo Smith, owner of Smith Farm and Stable in Millstone Township, N.J. and a board member of the Thoroughbred Breeders' Association of New Jersey, said his operation was still without power and continued to function on a generator Nov. 1.

"We've got well water and a generator for ourselves and the horses," said Smith, adding that he and other surrounding farms had experienced minor damage in the form of fencing being carried away by high winds and trees being down.

"We're very thankful...many people lost so much and the loss we have here at the farm was just an inconvenience and cost a little bit of money," he said. "But we have everything that's important and that's what we're so thankful for."

Smith said he heard the New Jersey Equine Clinic, which treats the majority of the Thoroughbreds in the area, is also without power and operating on a generator.