The new provision is in response to the recent round of equine deaths at Aqueduct Racetrack.

The new provision is in response to the recent round of equine deaths at Aqueduct Racetrack.

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Rule to Void Claims of Dead Horses Enacted

The rule was enacted by state regulators in New York during an April 2 meeting.

State regulators in New York have enacted new rules voiding claiming sales of horses that die during a claiming race or are euthanized on-track after a race.

Regulators at the State Racing and Wagering Board, which enacted the emergency rule April 2, said the new provision is in response to the recent round of equine deaths at Aqueduct Racetrack.

“It’s not worthwhile to stand by while the rules almost encourage putting at-risk animals into a claiming race,” said Racing Board chairman John Sabini. The rules were adopted in a 10-minute discussion.

The rule ends--for 90 days during an emergency period while the board considers making it permanent--the long-standing practice that a horse in a claiming race becomes the property of a new owner once the race begins, regardless of whether the horse dies in the race.

The 22-word addition to the state racing law, reported last week by The Blood-Horse, states that “a claim shall be void for any horse that dies during a race or is euthanized on the track following a race.” It is effective at all New York Thoroughbred tracks.

Investigators have been examining a whole host of possible factors for the 21 equine deaths during the winter meet at Aqueduct, including type of racing, such as claiming, track conditions, trainers, jockeys, and medical condition of the horses.

Sabini did not provide specifics, but said there has been an “astronomical” increase in the number of claiming races since purses were increased last year at Aqueduct following the opening of its new casino. He said the number of entries in claiming races is up 20% the past several months.

The three-member board unanimously rejected a plea by the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association to defer action on the rule until a task force studying the equine deaths at Aqueduct issues its findings and recommendations in the weeks or months ahead.

Jim Gallagher, NYTHA’s executive director, told the racing board that its new rule could end up leading to more on-track euthanizing of horses as a way to protect claiming owners. He said the board should wait and not act at what he called a “hastily assembled” emergency meeting.

But the board dismissed his concerns, and Sabini said the rule’s intent is to dissuade owners from putting a “compromised horse” into a race--risking the life and safety of the horse and jockey.

“That’s what we seek to do here: to preserve the horse population,” Sabini said.

The board chairman said the idea has been talked about in New York for years. “It’s not the last step. It’s far from it,” he said of other work the board and the new task force is doing to reduce equine deaths and injuries.

“We need to act now,’’ said board member Daniel Hogan.

“The time for talk is over. The moment is now and it’s time for this change,” added Charles Diamond, the other racing board member.

Officials said the rule could be in effect as early as April 3.

Several hours before the racing board’s meeting, the agency made public two searchable databases, including one showing details about every equine breakdown or death at all New York tracks since 2009. The database, reported on last week by The Blood-Horse, can be searched by a number of variables, including the horse’s name, owner, jockey, trainer, type of incident and location.

The board also updated an existing database to make it easier for users to obtain information about all fines and suspensions issued over the past three decades against anyone licensed by the agency.

The databases are available at the board’s web site:

“The wealth of information in these two databases leaves no stone unturned regarding incidents at tracks in New York and who is being held accountable for rule infractions by the board,” Sabini said. “As the adage says: sunlight is the best disinfectant, especially for the state’s horseracing industry.”