The New York Racing Association is running claiming races that violate a key standard of the 2012 Task Force on Racehorse Health and Safety. The Task Force stated that the ratio of the purse amount to the claiming price “should be no greater than 1.6.” Over the first 20 days of the Saratoga meet, NYRA has carded races that exceed that ratio 28 times.
The Task Force was created in 2012 following a significant increase in equine fatalities on Aqueduct’s inner track. It was composed of widely-respected racing figures and was charged with investigating the causes of the breakdowns and making recommendations. One focus of their work was the infusion of revenues from Video Lottery Terminals that went to NYRA purses, especially in lower-level claiming races. The Task Force concluded that the existing regulation
“contained no provision to address a potential imbalance between the value of the horse and the purse of the race, as occurred during the Aqueduct meet. This imbalance contributed to perceptions that horses were being entered in claiming races beyond their level of competition and forced to perform to the point of serious injury or death.”
The New York agency regulating racing adopted a rule limiting the purse to claim ration to 2.0, but the Task Force found this inadequate to protect equine safety: “… the Task Force believes that the purse to claim price ratio should be no greater than 1.6, in which the value of the horse is approximately equal to the winner’s share of the purse, and that the Rule should be amended accordingly.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo agreed. When he released the Task Force report, he directed NYRA and the regulatory agency to amend the “claiming rule to allow a purse-to-claim ratio no greater than 1.6 to 1.”
It is a matter of more than academic interest. The Task Force determined that 17 of the 21 fatalities it investigated occurred in claiming races. It concluded that the “disproportionate number of claiming horses in the population of fatalities suggests that inadequate protection was afforded to this class of horse.”