Meeting with NYRA Starters, Jockeys at Saratoga a Success

A succesful meeting Aug. 9 among members of the racing industry and jockeys at Saratoga Race Course was a success.

An Aug. 9 meeting among members of the racing industry and jockeys at Saratoga Race Course was a deemed a success by Bruce Johnstone, the New York Racing Association’s manager of racing relations, as discussions took place over the recent issues before the start of several races at the New York oval.

Meeting attendees included NYRA management, head starter Richard Brosseau, steward Braulio Baeza Jr., New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association representative Jim Gallagher, jockeys John Velazquez, Edgar Prado, Calvin Borel, and Raul Rojas, and trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.

“From my perspective, the initial meeting went well,” Johnstone said. “This was one of the first times in my knowledge that we’ve brought everyone together in this way. These aren’t groups that necessarily talk to each other very easily, we all know the individual issues separately and see them in different ways, so this was a step in the right direction toward improved communication.”

“These are very simple issues, very little mistakes, but they can be dangerous,” said Jockeys’ Guild Chairman John Velazquez, who has escaped injury thus far in two gate incidents and a separate July 25 spill during the current Saratoga meet.

Six incidents at the gate have occurred during the past 14 racing days at Saratoga, with two refunds being issued to the bettors.

A $459,000 refund was issued Aug. 1, when the Gary Contessa trainee Rumspringa acted up in the gate before the first race. The colt broke sideways and was tangled up with the assistant starter, a crewmember with more than 20 years of experience. Jockey Ramon Dominguez was unseated but not injured.

A second refund of $640,000 was issued Aug. 6, when jockey John Velazquez was unprepared for the start and fell off Anthony Dutrow trainee Phone Home as the gates opened in the fifth race.

Other incidents occurred July 25, when a horse named After Dark flipped in the gate and was scratched; July 29, when My Sister Diane reared in the gate and was scratched by the attending veterinarian; and Aug. 3 in the fifth, when a horse named Tobruk threw his head as the gate opened and was unprepared for the start, and in the seventh, when Gaelic Storm stumbled two jumps out of the gate and lost Velazquez.-- Claire Novak