Mother Nature is no friend of the New York Racing Association these days.
The combination of bitter cold temperatures and light snow forced NYRA to cancel its Dec. 30 card at Aqueduct Racetrack after four races and a continued Arctic freeze led to the scrapping of the Dec. 31 and Jan. 1 cards.
Now, with the temperatures in the low teens as well as snow in the forecast for the coming week, NYRA is uncertain when racing will resume and the three stakes wiped out by the weekend cancellations, topped by the $150,000 Jerome Jan. 1, can be rescheduled.
In addition, racing was cancelled at Aqueduct Dec. 28 and that day's $100,000 East View Stakes was shifted to the Jan. 7 card.
Racing is scheduled to resume at Aqueduct Jan. 4, but according to the National Weather Service for Ozone Park, N.Y., there is a 30% chance of snow Jan. 3 that will extend into Jan. 4.
The long-range forecast for that area calls for a high of 15 degrees and a low of 7 degrees Jan. 5, and a high of 18 degrees and a low of 11 Jan. 6.
With such bitter weather on the horizon, NYRA senior vice president of racing operations Martin Panza says he will wait until there is an optimistic forecast before deciding on when to re-schedule the Jerome (a points race in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series), the $100,000 Damon Runyon from Dec. 30, the $100,000 Alex M. Robb from Dec. 31, or the $100,000 Bay Ridge from Jan. 1.
"At this stage there's doubt over when we'll be racing next week," Panza said. "It looks like 6-7 inches of snow on Thursday with 35 mile-per-hour winds, and Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are supposed to be colder than this week. It doesn't make sense to say we're going to run the Jerome on Saturday and then have to cancel it. The last thing I want to do is cancel stakes two or three times. It's the same with the other stakes. It's not fair to anyone to cancel them several times.
"We'll wait until we get a favorable forecast and plug in the stakes as soon as we can. We sent a text to horsemen today telling them once we get a clear forecast on the weather we'll make a decision and let them know when we'll be running the stakes."
Panza said the Jerome will not be cancelled entirely, even if it cannot be run during the upcoming weekend.
"We'll run it," Panza said. "It's Derby points. It's just a matter of when we can get it in."
Mr. Amore Stable's Champagne Stakes (G1) winner Firenze Fire was expected to be a heavy favorite in a field of eight entered for the Jerome, which awards 10-4-2-1 points toward a starting spot in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) to the top four finishers. Trainer Jason Servis said he plans to wait and run Firenze Fire in the re-scheduled Jerome.
Ron Lombardi, who owns Firenze Fire, said he would not be surprised if the Jerome is pushed back to Jan. 11 and that he's fine with waiting for the one-mile stakes to be rescheduled.
"It's like a rainout in baseball," he said. "It's just colder."