weather icon Clear
RJ App
Vegas News, Alerts, ePaper

NYRA’s 14-day safety rule had good intentions but was poorly conceived

Life is full of instances in which people try to do the right thing but end up with egg on their faces by not thinking things through.

One example happened at the New York Racing Association last month. After a stretch during which 14 horses died in 27 days, the NYRA passed a new rule in which a horse could not run back in 14 days or less from its last start.

I tweeted out that when most trainers run a horse back quickly, it is a sign their horse is doing well and not that a horse is ready to die.

Thankfully, the NYRA just rescinded the rule starting with entries for Thursday.

To see how dumb the new rule was, one only needed to look at the Triple Crown, which the NYRA hosts the third leg of with the Belmont Stakes.

The Kentucky Derby is always run on the first Saturday in May. The second leg is the Preakness at Pimlico 14 days later. Thus, the NYRA rule theoretically would have made all Derby horses ineligible to run in the Preakness.

This is my fourth decade in horse racing. The most amazing feat that I have witnessed was a horse that won two Grade 1 races in less than a week, Conquistador Cielo.

In 1982, Conquistador Cielo won the Met Mile in track-record time on Memorial Day, a Monday. Hall of Fame trainer Woody Stephens then wheeled the colt right back in the Belmont Stakes on that Saturday. He won that race by 14 lengths in the slop.

I would have paid to hear an exchange between Stephens and NYRA officials that he could not enter Conquistador Cielo because of the 14-day rule.

Horse safety always should be a priority. But there are enough rules in place to scratch a horse.

At any racetrack in the United States, there is a pre-race examination in the morning. It usually is a rubber-stamp job done by state veterinarians. If the NYRA was truly worried about breakdowns, then hold your own vets accountable to do a better job.

Another stage is the warm-ups before each race in the afternoon. Vets watch closely for any signs of discomfort. The jockeys have the right to point things out to them if the horse doesn’t feel right.

The jockey is a key element in this equation because if a horse goes down, so does the rider.

The 14-day rule had good intentions but was woefully thought out.

A similar act in Southern California was an expensive lesson for the racing industry. Synthetic surfaces were mandated after a particularly gruesome summer meet at Del Mar. The intentions were good, but now only a pricey asterisk remains on the record books.

A solution to a problem requires research and common sense rather than some knee-jerk reaction.

■ BREEDERS’ CUP TICKETS GO ON SALE WEDNESDAY — The Breeders’ Cup, scheduled for Oct. 30 and 31, will be run at a special venue, Keeneland in Lexington, Ky., a smaller venue with limited seating. If you want to attend, you need to act Wednesday because all tickets will be sold in advance.

Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at rich_eng@hotmail.com. Follow him on Twitter: @richeng4propick.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Irish War Cry due for good race, pick to win Belmont

With Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming and Preakness champion Cloud Computing skipping the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, the Triple Crown races will produce three different winners for the second consecutive year.

This weekend is filled with festival-style horse racing

Today the trend is for racetracks to cluster their stakes in a festival-style program. Thus, the Met Mile will be among nine graded stakes on the Belmont Stakes card June 10.

Always Dreaming’s Preakness run proves ‘horses are human’

Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming by various accounts came bouncing out of Churchill Downs in good order. His Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher felt good about his preparation.

Kentucky Derby offers clues for Preakness winner

Always Dreaming is the horse the racing industry will be rooting for. A win in the Preakness sets up another Triple Crown chance in the Belmont Stakes on June 10.

Preakness questions immediately face Always Dreaming

After Always Dreaming crossed the finish line first in the Kentucky Derby, the first question was, “Is he good enough to win the Triple Crown.”

McCraken gets nod to win Kentucky Derby

Many experts are calling this the most wide-open Kentucky Derby in years. When I hear that, I get cynical. Wide open was in 2009 when Mine That Bird destroyed the field at 50-1 odds.

Kentucky Derby week means betting seminars in Las Vegas

The Kentucky Derby attracts the most novice and casual bettors of any race in our sport. With that in mind, there are all kinds of free Derby seminars next week.

Patience is necessary for future bets in horse racing

I love making future bets, not only in horse racing but also other sports. That’s because horseplayers learn a basic tenet early on. Our goal is to bet a little to win a lot.

‘Super Saturday’ should solidify Kentucky Derby field for many horses

When the folks at Churchill Downs dreamed up the Kentucky Derby points system, I was skeptical at first. Not anymore. It has worked by producing fields of in-form horses that, for the most part, are also bred to race two turns.