February 19, 2024 3 min read


NYRA Leads Efforts in Studying Racing Surface Safety After Horse Tragedies

NYRA's objective is to integrate scientific progress to ensure the longevity of Thoroughbred racing in the United States

In response to mounting concerns over equine injuries and fatalities in horse racing, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) has taken the lead in forming an All-Weather Surfaces Committee. This committee aims to delve into the effects of various racing surfaces on equine well-being.

Notable Industry Figures Convene for NYRA-Led Committee Amid Horse Racing Safety Concerns

Chaired by NYRA’s CEO and president, David O’Rourke, the committee comprises notable figures within the industry, including Gatewood Bell from Keeneland, Drew Fleming from the Breeders’ Cup, Craig Fravel from 1/ST Racing and Gaming, and Josh Rubinstein from the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.

The decision to establish the committee follows a series of tragedies in 2023, prompting widespread scrutiny and calls for action. 

Last year four horses died in the week leading up to the Kentucky Derby, raising concerns about the safety of horse racing and leading to an investigation by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. Saffie Joseph Jr., trainer of two of the deceased horses, was suspended indefinitely, and his entry in the Derby was banned from all tracks owned by Churchill Downs Inc. due to safety concerns raised by the unexplained deaths.

At the behest of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA), NYRA initiated the study on all-weather surfaces to address the critical issue of horse safety.

O’Rourke stated that their aim was to incorporate scientific advancements to safeguard the future of Thoroughbred racing in the US, reported the Associated Press. He added that the exploration of all-weather surfaces represented a significant step towards enhancing safety protocols.

NYRA-Led Committee Evaluates All-Weather Surface Viability

The committee’s agenda includes an evaluation of safety data from tracks employing all-weather surfaces and an assessment of the viability of adopting such surfaces nationwide. With the ultimate goal of improving safety standards across the sport, the committee plans to collaborate closely with HISA’s Racetrack Safety Committee and other stakeholders.

NYRA’s proactive stance is underscored by ongoing efforts to enhance infrastructure at Belmont Park. The installation of a one-mile Tapeta track, as part of a broader $455 million renovation, signifies a commitment to exploring alternative racing surfaces. 

Additionally, NYRA previously introduced a Tapeta pony track at Belmont, providing valuable insights into the performance of synthetic surfaces under varying climatic conditions.

Lisa Lazarus, CEO of HISA, expressed gratitude to NYRA for spearheading this crucial initiative and emphasized the importance of the committee’s work in advancing understanding of all-weather surfaces.

As the committee convenes in the coming months, industry stakeholders eagerly await the insights and recommendations that will emerge.


Silvia has dabbled in all sorts of writing – from content writing for social media to movie scripts. She has a Bachelor's in Screenwriting and experience in marketing and producing documentary films. With her background as a customer support agent within the gambling industry, she brings valuable insight to the Gambling News writers’ team.

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