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Horse Racing : New York Tracks Balk at Installing Safety Rails

Safety rails like the one that cushioned Laffit Pincay’s fall at Del Mar last month are in use at more than 20 American race tracks.

The Jockeys’ Guild, which represents most of the riders in the country, is naturally happy about that.

But there are about 70 other tracks that don’t have the protective rails, including the major New York racing centers of Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga, and John Giovanni, managing director of the guild, has been unable to get the New York Racing Assn., which runs those three tracks, to make the change. Giovanni is now trying to get the rails installed through action in the New York state legislature.

“The NYRA says that because the rail is slanted, it creates a shadow and that could cause freezing in the winter,” said Giovanni, a former rider now based in Boston. “They say the frozen part of the track would be a hazard.

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“Well, I’m familiar with Suffolk Downs and Rockingham Park, tracks that both put in the rails in recent years. Neither one of them has lost a racing day since then due to a frozen track. In the winter, the sun moves quickly enough so that it doesn’t cause the track to freeze.”

When Pincay’s mount jumped the fence in the stretch at Del Mar, the jockey landed back-first on the fence panels, which are made of a rubberized substance that covers the steel goosenecks that support the railing. Pincay suffered seven broken ribs and a punctured lung, but might have suffered more serious injury without the special fence. He resumed riding Wednesday.

“Del Mar was the first track to install that kind of fence, and others have followed suit,” Giovanni said. “But the New York tracks in particular ought to have the same thing. What they have now is something that’s second rate.”

Alysheba got his name after the Jockey Club, which must give its approval, rejected the first five names submitted, on grounds that they either sounded like the names of other horses or were names already taken.

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The five other names were Alyman, Belringer, Pennacle, Finetuned and Head Honcho. The Jockey Club did Alysheba’s owners a favor.

Tom Bell, a Del Mar trainer, visited Remington Park for its opening earlier this month and, like many other horsemen, was impressed with the all-weather racing surface, called Equitrack, that is being used by the $90-million track in Oklahoma City, Okla.

The surface has never been used for racing, but there are Equitrack training tracks in Europe and Hong Kong. The surface is made of sand with a binder that serves as a lubricated cushion.

“It reminds you of granulated sugar,” Bell said. “When it rained, the puddles disappeared in no time. And when the jockeys came back after a race, none of them had mud on their faces.”

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The track superintendent at Remington is Dennis Moore, who worked at Los Alamitos for 10 years.

Horse Racing Notes

Some John Henry trivia: Of the 17 jockeys who rode him, who was the only one who never lost a race? The answer is at the bottom. . . . Not all of the Breeders’ Cup races have been strong, but the Molson Export Challenge at Woodbine near Toronto last Sunday might arguably be called the weakest $1-million race ever run. The winner, Ballindaggin, is a New York-bred who was winless this year and 3 for 12 lifetime. Most of the horses he beat were third-raters from New York, and in American money the purse was less than $1 million.

Keeping Chris McCarron aboard Precisionist might influence the 7-year-old’s handlers as to where to run him in the Breeders’ Cup. If Precisionist runs in the Sprint, McCarron is available, but in the Classic, McCarron will be riding Alysheba.

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After the Woodward Handicap today at Belmont Park, Alysheba may run in the $500,000 Meadowlands Cup on Oct. 14. Also headed for that Meadowlands race is Cutlass Reality, a forgotten horse since his loss to Cryptoclearance at Chicago’s Hawthorne. “Bet Twice might run there, too,” said Craig Lewis, Cutlass Reality’s trainer. “I hope Bet Twice and Alysheba both go, because the track has indicated that the purse would be raised if all three of us ran.”

Goodbye Halo’s warm-up for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5 is the Spinster at Keeneland on Oct. 15. . . . Lively One, after running second to Precisionist at Del Mar, will run in the $1-million Super Derby at Louisiana Downs on Sept. 25. Silver Circus, winner of the Del Mar Derby, will also run in the Super Derby. . . . Trivia answer: Ray Broussard rode John Henry only once, winning the Chocolatetown Handicap at Penn National in 1978 when the gelding was a 3-year-old.


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