Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Dogs trained to sniff out drugs and bombs are commonplace in society, used by both law enforcement and the military. Such dogs are at train stations, airports, parades and many sporting events. Why are they not common at Thoroughbred racetracks?

At Ruidoso Downs in New Mexico, Chini, a three-year-old Belgian Malinois, guards the stable gate and patrols the track’s backstretch with her handler, searching tack rooms and stalls for illegal drugs. She was trained by K9 police to detect 12 equine drugs, as well as the plastic used in syringes.

Chini can check out a vehicle in the time it takes to verify an ID for admission. Logic dictates all racetracks should employ such dogs. Drugs are not manufactured at the track. They must enter through a guarded gate. These guards are underutilized if employed only as admission personnel.

Another effort to keep horses from racing on drugs will be instituted at Remington Park in Oklahoma. Remington and the Oklahoma Quarter Horse Racing Association, with approval of the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission, jointly agreed to implement a “house rule” during the 2019 American Quarter Horse Mixed Meeting, requiring a clean hair test, free of any prohibited drugs, be submitted for every horse prior to entry in any race at the meeting.

The New York Racing Association could use a dog like Chini. In fact, it could employ a herd with horses stabled at three tracks, all with several points of entry. NYRA should apply to the New York State Gaming Commission to do so, along with hair testing.

However, NYRA does not seem to be seriously interested in catching cheaters doping racehorses. It would probably scare away horsemen, who are already in a financial pinch due to the extremely high cost of doing business in New York. NYRA can ill afford to cause any decrease in the local horse population.

NYRA already runs an abbreviated schedule and still has trouble filling races. In its heyday, NYRA raced 313 days per year. In 2018, only 229 live racing dates were scheduled.

To help horsemen earn more in 2019, NYRA applied to the New York State Gaming Commission to permit a greater purse-to-price ratio in claiming races. The NYSGC gave its approval at yesterday’s meeting.

NYRA is not about to chase away people and horses it needs to put on its show and local law enforcement has neither the resources nor interest to do so. This leaves the responsibility of enforcement at NYRA tracks to the New York State Legislature, in much the same way The Jockey Club is looking to the federal government to control Thoroughbred racing nationwide. A strong anti-drug policy that includes drug-sniffing dogs and hair testing is imperative, lest horseracing suffer the same fate that dog racing has in Florida.

Correction: Time is not on your side
NYRA announced Dec. 9, that a review of race timing on Dec. 1, Cigar Mile Day, resulted in the adjustment of times in three one-mile races run before the featured Cigar.

The races were originally timed from the gate, without the normal run up of 54 feet, because the auxiliary starting gate was parked along the outside rail and improperly positioned, obstructing the timing beam for the start.

The problem was eventually recognized and corrected before the Cigar Mile.
NYRA and the stewards have instituted additional protocols to prevent a similar error from occurring in the future. Some questions remain.

How can the same mistake happen three times before being corrected? When I ran the Teletimer at NYRA’s tracks, we employed a simple fail-safe system. I had a walkie-talkie to contact the stewards, judges, outriders and the starting gate. Any problems that arose were easily corrected before a race started.

NYRA employs Trakus for its graphics and as a backup timer. Why weren’t the backup times used? The races were originally timed electronically and though the fractions and final times were incorrect, the sectional times – those between each fraction should have been consistent when corrected. They are not. Again, why?

Finally, why did it take more than a week to get it wrong again?

TimeFormUS chief speed figure analyst Craig Milkowski provided his times for purposes of comparison and said, “I’m very confident in those times.” I concur with Milkowski.

Following are the fractional and final times as originally posted, the corrected times, the Trakus times and Craig Milkowski’s times.

Race 2
Maiden Special Weight for two year olds.
Original.......:25.85, :49.82, 1:15.30, 1:41.41
Corrected....:24.68, :49.14, 1:14.01, 1:40.17
Trakus.........:24.13, :47.85, 1:13.39, 1:39.42
Milkowski.... :23.77, :47.74, 1:13.22, 1:39.33

Race 3
Non Winners of two races/$25k claiming for three year olds and up
Original.......:26.08, :50.55, 1:16.62, 1:42.92
Corrected....:25.13, :49.78, 1:15.37, 1:41.77
Trakus.........:24.47, :48.71, 1:14.94, 1:41.11
Milkowski....:24.43, :48.90, 1:14.97, 1:41.27

Race 6
Go For Wand Stakes (Grade 3) Fillies and Mares three years old and up
Original.......:25.27, :48.56, 1:13.34, 1:38.35
Corrected....:24.52, :48.14, 1:12.14, 1:37.50
Trakus.........:23.49, :46.64, 1:11.51, 1:36.42
Milkowski....:23.55, :46.84, 1:11.62, 1:36.63

Belmont arena update
The latest news about the New York Islanders future arena, scheduled for construction in the vast unused parking lots of Belmont Park, were revealed at a New York State Empire Development meeting on Dec. 6.

The Draft Environmental Impact Statement was released on schedule and there are no significant hurdles in the path of the development. The ESD will hold meetings for public comment at the Elmont Public Library on Jan. 8, at 6-9 p.m., on Jan. 9, at 4-8;30 p.m. and on Jan. 10, at 6-9 p.m. The period to comment in writing will extend into February.

A couple of politicians and lawyers took the opportunity to showboat. They represent approximately 100 protesting NIMBYs, while 50,000 other local residents voiced no objections.

New York State officials are not likely to blink for a few dissenters when a $40 million payment for land use from New York Arena Partners is soon due.

The Isles brass have been meeting with local groups, politicians and NYRA. Pat McKenna, Communications Director for NYRA, read a letter from NYRA CEO and president, Chris Kay, at the ESD meeting.

“NYRA has had a productive series of meetings and dialogue with both NYAP and ESD in an effort to insure that our separate venues and separate plans can be implemented in a way that is mutually beneficial. As a result of these meetings, a number of issues have been resolved.

NYRA and NYAP have agreed that they will not schedule large-scale events at the same time in our separate venues. For example, NYAP will not have a hockey game on the day of the Belmont Stakes.”

The RFP calls for NYAP to accommodate NYRA’s renovation and racing schedule.

Islanders’ owner Jon Ledecky said NYAP expects to break ground in May 2019, and work 24/7/365, including paying union overtime rates, to get arena built for the 2021-22 hockey season. The arena’s projected opening is September 2021, with shopping, dining and entertainment and a hotel to come later.