Aqueduct Safety Rules Lead to Eight Additional Scratches on Sunday Card

16 scratches on Sunday’s Aqueduct card left horseplayers with small fields. (Photo credit:

Sunday’s Aqueduct card was decimated by 16 late scratches, leaving two races with fields of three, but it could have been avoided if anyone in the New York Racing Association had the ability to count to 14.

After a spate of recent breakdowns, the NYRA instituted new safety measures, one being horses are not permitted to run back inside of 14 days.  There have been 14 equine fatalities in the last 27 racing cards at Aqueduct.

Despite this rule, the racing office accepted entries for eight runners for Sunday’s card that had raced within 14 days, forcing the late scratches.

There is no medical evidence that suggests having horses wait 14 days to race again would reduce the number of breakdowns that are occurring at the inner track meeting.

Trainers are not happy about being unable to run a fit, sound horse back quicker. The 14-day restriction seems like an arbitrary number. If that number had been six or seven days, I do not think anyone would be complaining. It is never good to see a claiming horse drop in class and run back in five or six days only to get pulled up.

Telling a trainer with a sound horse that that it is not permitted to run back on 11 or 12 days rest seems ridiculous.

“Whoever made that rule has no idea about training horses,” trainer Mike Hushion said last week.

Here are the New York Racing Association safety protocols that have been added:

• New York Racing Association stewards will keep a “poor performance” list. Horses will be placed on this list after performing in a race at Aqueduct and losing by a margin of 25 lengths or greater. Once on the poor performance list, said horse must complete a half-mile workout in 53 seconds or less to be permitted to enter in a future race. This list will be available to the public on

• Effective Thursday, January 22, the New York Racing Association will reduce weekday race cards (Wednesday through Friday) to eight races. First scheduled post time will be moved from 12:20 p.m. to 1:20 p.m. on weekdays, and 12:45 p.m. on weekends.

• Effective Thursday, January 22, the bottom level for maiden claimers will be raised from maiden $12,500 to maiden $16,000.

• Effective for entries beginning with the race card for Thursday, January 22, and until further notice, entries will no longer be accepted at Aqueduct on any horse that has participated in a recognized race within 14 days of that start. Horses will be permitted to start on the 15th day following said race.

It is the first Sunday in months without football (the Pro Bowl does not count, does it?) and the Aqueduct card is basically unbettable.

Entries for Thursday’s card show that there are 11 horses that will have to scratch unless the rule is changed. There are only 63 horses entered on the eight-race program.

When I first handicapped Sunday’s card I noticed there were horses entered that did not meet the 14-day criteria. I thought perhaps the NYRA had changed the rule, but I could not find any information, and went ahead and handicapped the card with the eight horses that I suspected might have to be scratched.

Is it just a matter of nobody at the NYRA or the racing office has the ability to count to 14?

I have some advice for the NYRA. Reducing cards to eight races, raising the claiming price, and keeping horses in the barn for 14 days is not the answer.

Does the NYRA realize there are only 14 days between the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness?

The solution is pretty simple actually. Rid the sport of cheating trainers who are running drugged up sore horses and the fatality rate will drop substantially.


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