Aqueduct | Posted 2/24/2010, 5:05 pm
NYRA may eliminate detention barn
By David Grening
OZONE PARK, N.Y. - In a pair of proposed cost-cutting measures, the New York Racing Association is considering eliminating the race-day security barn beginning with the spring meeting at Belmont Park as well as closing the Aqueduct stabling area once the current meet ends.
Some horses stabled at Aqueduct would be moved to Belmont, while others would have the option to stable at Saratoga. There are approximately 500 stalls at Aqueduct. Eliminating the race-day security barn at Belmont would open up about 100 stalls.
These proposals are expected to be brought up before NYRA's board of trustees at its monthly meeting scheduled for next Wednesday in Manhattan.
According to NYRA CEO and president Charles Hayward, the race-day security barn costs NYRA $1.2 million annually to run. It costs the horsemen approximately $1.5 to $2 million annually to staff it, according to trainer Rick Violette, president of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association and a member of the NYRA board. Closing Aqueduct's stabling area should save NYRA $300,000 a month, Hayward said.
In addition to those costs, Hayward said that NYRA has seen a drop in out-of-town shippers from 1,400 in 2005 to 600 in 2009.
NYRA's financial state is such that - without revenue from video-lottery terminals and with being owed $15 million from bankrupt New York City Off-Track Betting - the company could run out of money sometime during the summer.
The race-day security barn was introduced at the 2005 Belmont spring/summer meeting. The primary premise of the barn was to "keep the private vet out of the stall on race day," Hayward said. Another component of the race-day security barn was to test for excess levels of total carbon dioxide, which are believed to be associated with the practice of milk-shaking. Since the inception of the race-day security barn, there have been two positives for high carbon dioxide levels, according to Hayward.
Hayward said that in lieu of the security-barn, NYRA would likely stipulate two to three races a day that would be subject to pre-race carbon dioxide testing, akin to what Keeneland does. Other testing measures would be considered as well....