Hurricane Sandy Impacts Racetracks in Northeast

By Esther Marr and Frank Angst

Initial reports suggest racetracks across the Northeast suffered some damage and power outages as a result of Hurricane Sandy, but that damage was moderate compared with the devastation in the area.

There were no initial reports of injuries to humans or horses, although information is still being gathered. Several tracks had to postpone or cancel training and racing schedules, some horses had to be relocated, and horsemen had to scramble their schedules.

Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J., hasn't released an official statement on its situation as a result of Hurricane Sandy, but locally based trainer Kelly Breen said horsemen have been told that training has been canceled for the remainder of the year. The race meet wrapped up Oct. 7. Monmouth Park officials were not immediately available for comment.

Breen said six barns had flooded and horses had to be moved to higher ground. Breen's barns held up in the storm but some large trees fell outside his home in Tinton Falls, N.J. Many horsemen call the area near Monmouth Park home and Breen said travel is difficult, gasoline is scarce, and horsemen, like other local residents, are dealing with widespread power outages.

Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J., will be closed for the remainder of the short fall meeting, which runs through Nov. 3, according to New Jersey-based trainer Chuck Simon. Meadowlands officials could not be immediately reached to confirm the cancellation.

Meadowlands reported on its website that its simulcast facilities had re-opened Oct. 31 after being closed 29-30. The track plans to still open its grandstand for the full-card simulcast of the Breeders' Cup World Championships, taking place Nov. 2-3 in California.

John Brennan reported on the website "Meadowlands Matters" that Hurricane Sandy had caused "first-floor flooding at the Meadowlands, as well as damage to fences, signs, port-a-johns, and trees at the Meadowlands Sports Complex, according to New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority executive Jim Minish."

Belmont Park reopened for training at 7 a.m. Oct. 31 after being closed Oct. 29-30. The Elmont, N.Y., track is still without power and its simulcast facilities remain down and will not be available Nov. 1. But the track does plan to be ready for Nov. 2, when it would feature the Breeders' Cup World Championships simulcast from Santa Anita Park.

New York Racing Association (NYRA) spokeswoman Ashley Herriman said there were several trees down around Belmont's facilities, one of which fell on the roof of Barn 14, where trainer John Terranova and some Darley horses are stabled. The tree did not go through the roof, however, and Herriman believed it was removed the afternoon of Oct. 30.

Herriman said Aqueduct Racetrack in Jamaica, N.Y., plans to race the weekend of Nov. 2-3 as previously scheduled. The track drew entries for those days Oct. 31. Aqueduct, which suffered only minor damage, does have its power restored and was also open for simulcasting Oct. 31.

"We're proceeding full speed ahead; we have the card drawn," said Herriman. "All things considered, we are in pretty good shape. There were no injuries reported to horses or humans; we weathered it pretty well at NYRA."

Suffolk Downs officials stated there had been no major destruction at the East Boston, Mass., facility, though there was some minor damage to the track's fence posts.

Suffolk, which raced on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays during the month of October, was scheduled to end its meet Oct. 31. Since the facility was closed Oct. 29 due to the storm, however, it plans to make up that day on Nov. 3. The facility reopened for training Oct. 31 after being closed Oct. 29-30.

Maryland Jockey Club spokesman Mike Gathagan said Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course held up well through the storm.

Breeders' Cup officials, while expressing concern for those affected by the storm, said they have been in contact with major simulcast outlets in the storm area and those outlets have said they plan to open for simulcasting of this weekend's World Championships.

On site, Breeders' Cup adjusted its travel rules this week because flights of horses were delayed. Breeders' Cup had required horses to arrive at least 72 hours before the race but officials said if the flight is delayed on departure so as to affect the 72-hour ship-in rule, "Breeders' Cup security personnel will accompany the horses on the flight so security protocols are maintained."

Country Life Farm in Fallston, Md., tweeted a picture of a large tree that had fallen. Officials at the farm said the tree did not hit any structures. The Blood-Horse is currently gathering information on other farms that could have been affected.

Because of the impact on horsemen and horses in the Northeast, Florida's Tampa Bay Downs has elected to move up the opening of its barn area to 8 a.m., Nov 5.

"A number of our horsemen were affected at Monmonth Park and Delaware Park; to ease the burden of flood waters and lack of electricity we elected to open early to try and accommodate as many horsemen as possible," said Tampa Bay Downs general manager Peter Berube.

Tampa Bay Downs is strictly enforcing health certificate guidelines due to the recent outbreak of equine herpesvirus-1 at Hawthorne Race Course in Illinois.

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