As competitors prepare for the third and final leg of the US Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, taking place on June 7 at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) is being put under state control by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo in an effort to reform an industry that generates significant revenue for New York State. Meanwhile the racing industry and horse racing fans have been assured that these new developments will in no way disrupt the much anticipated race. This is good news, particularly for supporters of I’ll Have Another, the colt that stands a good chance of becoming the 12th Triple Crown champion by crossing the Belmont Stakes finish line in first place. The last horse to claim the Triple Crown honor was Affirmed in 1978.
The NYRA has agreed to the changes which stipulate a maximum of three years under state control. Issues to be addressed by the new state-appointed board include investigating drug abuse in the racing industry, and its impact on the health and safety of both horses and jockeys. A fairly recent introduction to horseracing venues, casinos with hundreds of slot machines, has made higher purses possible for the current season at Aqueduct. However, the racetrack has seen a significant increase in medical complications and fatalities of competing horses. The number of fatalities has reportedly increased to 10.2 per thousand starts, which is double the national average in the sport. In their eagerness to claim the larger purses made possible by casino activities, horse owners and trainers have been injecting horses with painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications prior to races. In an attempt to discourage this, the New York State Racing and Wagering Board put a limit on purses for some races, but tougher measures have become necessary.
Governor Cuomo has made it clear that state intervention is a short-term strategy, noting that horseracing is ‘not a venture for government to run.’ The new NYRA board will appoint a management team with a view to maintaining the integrity of thoroughbred racing, in the interests of the sport and the people who support it. Senate majority leader Dean G. Skelos noted that the aim is to ensure that ‘New York State remains a leading home for horseracing.’