By: Bloodhorse Staff

he National Thoroughbred Racing Association announced Jan. 20 that Aqueduct Racetrack in New York City has earned reaccreditation from the NTRA Safety & Integrity Alliance.

Aqueduct, located in the borough of Queens since 1894, is part of the not-for-profit New York Racing Association franchise. Since 2013, NYRA has invested more than $18 million in capital improvements at Aqueduct, showcasing a continued focus on enhancing the guest experience and improving the quality of racing.

In May of 2017, NYRA embarked on a project at Aqueduct involving the construction of a new turf course and renovation of the main track to accommodate winter racing. When successfully completed in September, this marked the most significant track construction/renovation project in New York since the installation of the Aqueduct inner track in 1975. As a result, Aqueduct now offers two turf courses for use during the warmer months and one, year-round dirt surface.

The current winter meet runs through March 25 (Thursdays to Sundays). The spring meet goes March 31 to April 22, highlighted by the April 7 $750,000 Wood Memorial Stakes (G2), a key final prep for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1).

The reaccreditation of Aqueduct was the culmination of a lengthy process that began with the track’s completion of an extensive written application and continued as the track hosted several meetings with Alliance officials. An on-site review included inspections of all facets of the racing operations. Interviews were conducted with track executives, racetrack personnel, jockeys, owners, trainers, veterinarians, stewards, and regulators. The inspection team was comprised of Jim Cain (security and integrity consultant), former chief of enforcement for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission; Jim Gates (racetrack operations consultant), former general manager of Churchill Downs; Steve Koch, executive director of the NTRA Safety & Integrity Alliance; and Greg Taylor (veterinary and regulatory consultant), official veterinarian at Woodbine.

“New York racing continues to set very high standards for safety and integrity at their racetracks, Aqueduct in particular,” Koch said. “The NYRA team exemplifies numerous best practice safety initiatives and we thank them for their leadership in setting a high bar in these areas.”

Alliance certification standards address an extensive list of safety and integrity concerns within six broad areas: injury reporting and prevention; creating a safer racing environment; aftercare and transition of retired racehorses; uniform medication, testing and penalties; safety research; and wagering security.

“We are proud that the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance continues to recognize NYRA’s commitment to track safety,” said Glen Kozak, vice president of facilities and racing surfaces for the New York Racing Association. “This commitment is evident at all three NYRA racetracks through the hard work and dedication required to gain NTRA ‘best practice’ designations in so many categories. From equine safety and research to the scientific analysis of racing surfaces, NYRA’s focus on safe racing operations does not waver. We thank the NTRA for their thoughtful, detailed review.”

Aqueduct received its initial accreditation in 2009, the Alliance’s first year. All accreditations and reaccreditations carry an effective period of two years.

“NYTHA has a track record of enthusiastic support for racetrack safety initiatives, as demonstrated by the 350+ safety equipment vouchers we have distributed to exercise riders, and by our exercise riders handbook,” said Joe Appelbaum, president of the New York Thoroughbred Horseman’s Association. “We are thrilled that Aqueduct has been re-certified and will continue to work closely with NYRA to provide a safe environment for both our equine and human athletes.”

Aqueduct is one of 23 racing facilities fully accredited by the Alliance that together host 90% of graded stakes and generate 75% of the North American pari-mutuel handle.