The New York Racing Association, after discussions with horsemen, is making improvements to its race-day security barns at Saratoga.
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said July 27, opening day of the Saratoga season, that the security barn compound on the backstretch of the historic track wasn't satisfactory.
"We are 100% committed to maintaining the race-day security barns at NYRA tracks," NYRA president Charles Hayward said in a July 29 release. "We think it's an important step in improving the integrity of racing. I met with a group of trainers at the security barn (July 26), and was presented with their concerns. NYRA has taken immediate action to address those concerns."
Due to a shortage of stall space at Saratoga, NYRA decided to use the combination of a barn and a tent to house horses for the six hours before they race. In May, NYRA began requiring horses to visit the security barn on race day at Belmont Park to prevent them from being treated by private veterinarians.
While Lukas said he is in favor of the NYRA policy, which was designed to restrict the use to illegal substances and restore integrity to the sport, he said the association hadn't developed an appropriate detention area.
"It's tough," Lukas said. "In principle, what we're trying to do is very, very solid. I think we're really on target there. We need to gain the confidence of the public, obviously. We need to be on a level playing field. We've got horse trainers and we've got chemists. We're aware of that.
"This is a world-classs facility and the best racing in the world,. Having said that, we can't do a band-aid approach and that's exactly what we did. What we need to do is we need a first-class facility where a horse can go over there, have a fan on him, have a full stall, and good security. We lost some horses in the races today because of that facility."
Purge, winner of the Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II) last year, was scratched from the seventh race July 27 because trainer Todd Pletcher said he had washed out. Lukas said other horses, including some of his, were affected by the conditions in the stalls on a day in which the temperature reached 90 degrees.
Lukas said Folklore, who he trained to victory in the Adirondack Stakes (gr. II), was among the horses bothered by the stakes barn. He said it's not fair to the public to lead over a horse that "stood there and shook and trembled for six hours and washed out" before it got to the paddock.
Hayward said the two temporary barns located near the far turn have been reconfigured. Six stalls in each barn have been removed to create an additional 500 square feet per barn.
The barns have been upgraded to accommodate an electric fan for every stall, and rubber floor mats have been placed on the plywood floors to prevent horses from slipping.
NYRA said the improvements were made prior to the July 29 program.