Feb. 28, 2017


A Record Year for NYTHA Benevolence: For calendar year 2016, the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association distributed a record $1,996,200 in benevolence.  Who does that money help?

NYTHA’s largest beneficiary is the Backstretch Employee Service Team, which provides health care and social services to the backstretch community, including two primary care health clinics at Belmont Park (year-round) and Saratoga (April through October). The health clinics are open five days a week, and are completely free of charge. More than 1,800 individual backstretch workers visited the clinics last year. NYTHA donated $800,022 to BEST in 2016.

NYTHA provides $185,573 in college scholarships and grants to backstretch workers and their immediate dependents, $168,810 for the dental care program, and $154,791 for the Race Track Chaplaincy of America, NY division. RTCA-NY offers spiritual guidance, as well as contributing to a better quality of life through the Backstretch Recreation Program, with activities that include trips to sporting events and museums; backstretch soccer, softball and bowling leagues; crafts, cooking and fitness classes; and seasonal parties and carnivals.

“There are so many ways we can work together with organizations like BEST and the RTCA to give the backstretch workers a helping hand,” NYTHA Vice President Pat Kelly, chair of NYTHA’s Benevolence Committee, said. “Our benevolence program is invaluable to the community – not only on the backstretch, but to the local communities that might otherwise bear the cost of providing these services. This is just another example of the Thoroughbred industry supporting its own. Without the backstretch workers to care for the horses, there would be no racing – and we’d lose the tax revenue and economic benefits our industry provides to New York State.”

NYTHA is also dedicated to taking care of the race horses when they’ve retired from the track. Total expenditures for equine research and retirement reached $367,100 last year. 

Trainer Rick Schosberg, chair of NYTHA’s Aftercare Committee, remarked, “Our TAKE THE LEAD Retirement Program has been a true success. We have found placements for more than 250 horses, and it is truly rewarding to see how our owners and trainers have embraced the concept of ensuring secure retirements for our horses.”
Click here for more details on NYTHA’s 2017 Benevolence Program.

NYTHA Meets with NYS Gaming Commission on Rider Safety: NYTHA President Rick Violette Jr. and Executive Director Andy Belfiore met with NYS Gaming Commission Steward Stephen Lewandowski and a team of six NYSGC investigators and agents at Belmont Park on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss plans to implement safety recommendations from Marsh Risk Consulting’s Operational Risk Assessment. The Operational Risk Assessment was commissioned by the NY Jockey Injury Compensation Fund and sponsored by NYTHA, with the goal of creating a safer work environment for the riders and, by extension, the horses. A safer workplace, it is hoped, will result in fewer insurance claims and will help reduce the exorbitant cost of the worker’s compensation insurance premiums.

“We have been working diligently to find avenues that will lead to lower insurance costs for our owners and trainers,” said Violette, who represents New York’s horsemen on the NYJICF Board. “For the first time in more than two decades, we were able to secure a policy with a commercial carrier, Zurich, rather than the State Insurance Fund. We believe that Zurich’s track record of case management and fraud investigation will be a huge step in the right direction.

“We are also working with the Gaming Commission and with NYRA to put into practice the recommendations made by Marsh Risk Management,” he added. “Marsh is a leader in its field, and their comprehensive report will provide invaluable guidance in improving safety at our racetracks.”  

The topics discussed at the meeting included a new requirement for all exercise riders and jockeys to carry medical cards on their persons while on horseback; and a program to ensure that the safety equipment of all exercise riders meets safety codes and is free of defect.

Medical cards have been distributed to 150 jockeys and exercise riders. They are available at the NYTHA and NYSGC Offices. They will become mandatory at the start of the 2017 Belmont Park Spring Meet, which opens Apr. 28, 2017. 

Earlier this month, NYTHA unveiled a safety equipment subsidy program, contributing to the cost of new helmets and vests to replace those that do not meet the safety code or are defective. To date, more than 50 vouchers have been distributed. During the meeting, NYTHA provided the NYSGC team with samples of helmets and vests, to assist them in determining if safety equipment is in compliance or not. NYSGC will implement a random inspection program next month.  

In January, NYTHA Trainer/Director Leah Gyarmati led a group of about 30 NYRA Security Guards through a seminar on backstretch safety and emergency response. 

“NYTHA is firmly committed to doing all we can to protect our workers and our horses,” Violette said.

Legislative Update: The New York legislative session is in full swing, and there are many issues on the agenda that affect New York’s Thoroughbred industry. Governor Cuomo presented a budget bill   Jan. 17 that included provisions on NYRA reprivatization; an assessment on horsemen or tracks or both to pay for NYS Gaming Commission’s Equine Drug Testing and Research; and an attempt to appropriate 25% of NYTHA’s funding for benevolence and to funnel it to the Equine Drug Testing and Research Program.

NYTHA has been working with the legislature on these issues. The organization has asked for language in the Senate and Assembly’s one-house budget bills that will extend industry funding for the New York Jockey Injury Compensation Fund and thereby eliminate the need for the second base premium charge of $1,500, currently due June 1, 2017. In addition, NYTHA is seeking legislation that would give the NYJICF the ability to explore alternative insurance options and to expand to include all backstretch workers.

Also of serious concern to New York’s horsemen is the deal to place the Nassau County OTB VLTs at the Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct. Its impact on the Thoroughbred industry is under serious scrutiny, and representatives from NYTHA and the New York Thoroughbred Breeders, Inc. have been in meetings with legislators and the Governor’s office to discuss potential measures to address the horsemen’s concerns.

“The Thoroughbred industry will feel the impact of the deal between Nassau County OTB and Genting if it is not addressed,” NYTHA President Rick Violette Jr. said. “This could cost horsemen and breeders millions of dollars. The purse structure is in jeopardy, and purses will have to be reduced to make up for the lost revenue if this isn’t somehow rectified.”

BEST Offering Free Tax Preparation Services to Backstretch Workers: For the fourth consecutive year, BEST will offer free tax preparation services from Bethpage Federal Credit Union’s free Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program to the backstretch workers from Aqueduct and Belmont Park.  The VITA program provides no-cost tax preparation help for people who earn below $55,000 per year. Trained and bilingual tax preparers will be available to meet with track workers through April 3 to prepare and send tax returns to the IRS. In 2016, Bethpage’s VITA program resulted in stable-area workers receiving an aggregate of $60,000 in refunds, according to B.E.S.T.’s Executive Director, Paul Ruchames.  

“The track workers are eager to file tax returns and do the right thing, and VITA and Bethpage Credit Union have demonstrated great expertise at making this happen,” Ruchames said.

For more information contact: Stella Cardenas, Outreach Director, at stella@bestbackstretch.org or (516) 488-3434, ext. 101.

New Website, Women’s Literacy Program for BCCA: The Belmont Child Care Association has launched a new website and unveiled a new logo. You can check out the new site at www.belmontchildcare.org

BCCA Executive Director Joanne Adams added, “We are most proud to announce the commencement of a Women’s Literacy Program, made possible through the New York Women’s Foundation. We are thrilled to work with our mothers and assist them with ways to bond with their children through reading. This program focuses on an English-Spanish curriculum, and has proven to be most successful. Literacy is essential to a child’s development, and we are hoping to spread the word about this important program throughout the backstretch community. BCCA’s goal is to provide a safe and nurturing environment where our children and their families can thrive and grow.”

REMINDER: The BCCA’s 2017 Spring Fling Hat Luncheon and Fashion Show will be held June 1 at the Garden City Hotel, and will recognize Ellen Moelis as the industry honoree and Mary Galante as the community honoree. For additional information about BCCA and its programs, contact Joanne Adams at jadams@belmontchildcare.org or (516) 488-2103.

Fire Safety Reminder: Horsemen are reminded that tack room heaters should NEVER be used to dry wet equipment or clothing. A tack room fire at Belmont Park Thursday evening was caused by wet horse laundry set too close to the heater. PLEASE BE SURE THAT THE AREA AROUND THE HEATER IS KEPT CLEAR OF OBJECTS AT ALL TIMES.

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