Sobering moments at Aqueduct

At first, it was just another version of disturbing: shortly after the beginning of the eighth race yesterday at Aqueduct, jockey Mike Luzzi was working hard to pull up Cloud Nine. Watching the turf race from the winner’s circle, we could see that a rear leg was badly broken–horse and jockey were directly across from us. It was, as always, sickening, perhaps more so because the horse was so close.

Disturbing turned to distressing when Luzzi couldn’t calm the horse; the jockey was off and holding the reins, but Cloud Nine reared on that broken leg, wheeled, as the small group of us across the track watched, aghast, feeling for both injured horse and jockey.

And—all of this within seconds—distressing turned to horrifying when we realized that they were standing at the finish line, and that before too long, seven horses and jockeys would come thundering down the stretch, directly at them.

NYRA staff began to pour across the race track to help Luzzi; I turned and went down into the paddock, unable to watch any longer. I heard patrons yelling from the apron, “Get him out of the way! Get him out of the way!” The horsemen watching on the paddock TV were silent.

Tom Durkin’s call was disjointed: there were long moments when he said nothing, undoubtedly surveying the scene, wondering what he needed to say, and as the field came around the far turn, he warned the jockeys, “So now, the field is, uh, moving towards the top of the stretch. We’ve got a very dicey situation here at the finish line, ladies and gentlemen, with a stricken horse, hoping that the riders stay to the inside here.” His voice contained trepidation, not excitement, as he called the run to the wire, noting with relief that the horses avoided their fallen rival, lying outside of their path, being “comforted by an outrider,” as Steven Crist put it. The replay shows the horse and outrider, a touching and heartbreaking image.

Following the race and in many of today’s reports, manager of racing operations Bruce Johnstone and director of racing surfaces Glenn Kozak were identified as instrumental in getting Cloud Nine out of harm’s way.

Cloud Nine was euthanized on the track, delaying the start of the Withers, a delay welcomed by many who witnessed the sickening series of events.

Paul Moran wrote about this within minutes yesterday afternoon, and Jerry Bossert does so sensitively in the Daily News today, noting jockey Mike Luzzi’s reaction.

6 thoughts on “Sobering moments at Aqueduct

  1. Teresa- I was watching the race card yesterday at home on the Capital OTB channel. I saw the Cloud Nine injury and the worried, anxious call of Tom Durkin. I was hoping Andy Serling and Jason Blewitt would update the viewing audience on the horse’s condition. But when they came on to preview the Withers, they merrily forecast their Withers picks without even a mention of Cloud Nine. This is not the first time either, it seems a horse gets pulled up and NYRA assumes everyone watching the OTB is only interested in odds/betting/numbers. What about the guy like me , that loves the horse also?Yes, of course I could have jumped on the computer and one of the many writers/bloggers would have the status posted, but don’t the NYRA announcers owe the viewing audience an injury update? I would like your thoughts on this.

  2. The van/trailer they used to euthanize the hors took a good 3 minutes to get to the horse after the end of the race.Gratitude goes to Johnston, Luzzi and Durkin. I was there, people were screaming for the van to get out there before the race was over. There was no reason the van/trailer couldn’t have gotten there using the inner dirt track. This appears to be an appalling lack of preparedness on the part of NYRA. Cloud Nine deserved better.

  3. Couple of thoughts: no way could the van have gotten there and the horse been moved on to it before the race finished. I would imagine (though I have not spoken with anyone about this) that the safety of the rest of the horses and jockeys was also a consideration.As for why it took “three minutes” after the race was over–I don’t know, and I wasn’t watching. SS: Again, I haven’t spoken with Andy and Jason about this (though I will), but I imagine that 1) information is not always available as quickly as the public would like it; and b) Andy and Jason are not NYRA spokespeople–they’re handicappers. It would be the job of the press office to make such announcements, not in-house handicappers. Like you, I think it would be great if updates could be given quickly, and in yesterday’s case, it was evident pretty quickly that Cloud 9 was put down. I was in the paddock and don’t know anything about how long it was between the euthanization and the handicapping broadcast, but like I said, I’ll see what I can find out.

  4. Teresa,It is the saddest of situations we as horseplayers must contend with…the valient animal helpless thankfully the human factor is always there to help.My heart goes out to you Teresa that you were upclose to this tragic occurance.

  5. I was at the track yesterday too and though you wouldn’t expect the van to be able to tend to the horse before the end of the race you would have expected the van to start moving toward the scene to be ready as soon as the race was over. The race was run on turf and the van was parked off to the side of the dirt track near the turn for home. I couldn’t believe they didn’t start moving until well after the race was over.

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