Panel to Investigate Aqueduct Breakdowns

Leading veterinarians and a Hall of Fame jockey are among the panel members.

Leading veterinarians and a Hall of Fame jockey will be among those studying the 20 fatal breakdowns of horses racing at Aqueduct Racetrack since December, New York officials announced March 22.

With some animal rights groups calling for at least a temporary shutdown of the track, the state Racing and Wagering Board said a panel of four industry experts, chosen with the help of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, will investigate everything from the condition of the inner track at Aqueduct to pre-race examinations of horses.

The appointment of the investigators comes a week after Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office called for a review of the equine deaths.

The panel will include retired jockey Jerry Bailey; Alan Foreman, who is the chairman of the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association; Dr. Scott Palmer, the hospital director and staff surgeon at the New Jersey Equine Clinic and past president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners; and, Dr. Mary Scollay, equine medical director of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

The New York Task Force on Racehorse Health and Safety’s findings and recommendations will be made public.

The panel will have a wide range of issues to address, including drug use, track conditions, public disclosures about horses, and veterinary and claiming procedures.

“We have assembled an outstanding panel of industry experts, who will conduct a fair and objective investigation to determine if there is a definitive cause for the increase in the number of catastrophic breakdowns at Aqueduct this winter,” Rick Violette Jr., president of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, said in a statement.

“This team of renowned experts has the knowledge, experience and objectivity to shine a light on the causes behind these tragic breakdowns,” added John Sabini, chairman of the state racing board.

"Providing a safe environment to conduct racing is NYRA's highest priority, and this panel of industry experts will ensure that the proper procedures and best practices are in place to reduce the inherent risks involved in horse racing,” said Charles Hayward, president of the New York Racing Association, which runs Aqueduct. "This skilled group of racing professionals posses the knowledge and expertise needed to perform a comprehensive review of NYRA's procedures and recommend changes to improve safety at all our racetracks."