State Wants NYRA to Probe Aqueduct Breakdowns

The office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo sent the racing association a letter March 14.

The administration of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has sent a letter to the New York Racing Association advising it to hire an independent investigator to analyze the 15 fatal breakdowns that have occurred at Aqueduct since Nov. 30, 2011.

The letter states that because NYRA has received more than $15 million in revenue from video lottery terminals at Aqueduct, it should pay to hire an investigator or team of investigators.

The letter was sent to The Blood-Horse and other media outlets March 14. It was signed by Bennett Liebman, deputy secretary for gaming under Cuomo, and Robert Megna, director of the New York State Division of the Budget.

“The scope of the review should include existing policies on disclosures, necropsies, track conditions, and pre-race examination of horses,” the letter states. “The rules on claiming, veterinary procedures, and drug use must be examined to determine what we can do to promote equine safety.”

The state said a report must be compiled and made public.

NYRA spokesman Dan Silver said NYRA will cooperate with the requests made in the letter and make a recommendation to the New York State Racing and Wagering Board regarding the selection of an investigator.

Officials at NYRA recently said the inner dirt surface at Aqueduct is safe, and that they were at a loss to explain the breakdowns, 11 of which were in January and February.

Until both houses approve the resolution, which backers say could be later tonight, anything is possible -- including the deal falling apart. A furious, behind-the-scenes fight was already underway in the Senate between Democrats and Republicans that critics were hoping could slow, or halt, the deal.