Still awaiting NYRA overhaul

The outfit that runs thoroughbred racing in New York has failed at one of its most basic duties -- protecting the horses from unnecessary injury and death.

It's another black mark on the New York Racing Association -- and more reason for Gov. Cuomo to force a top-to-bottom overhaul.

An appalling 21 horses broke down and died during last winter's meet at Aqueduct -- double the fatalities of the two previous seasons and well above the norm for tracks nationwide.

A task force empaneled by Cuomo found that 11 horses could have been saved -- had the humans in charge done their jobs more vigilantly.

Much blame, to no one's surprise, lay with NYRA's chronically troubled management.

Desperate for cash, track operators ushered shaky mounts into the starting gate without properly checking that they were fit to run.

They turned a blind eye to overuse of steroids and painkillers that made injuries hard to detect.

They entrusted safety monitoring to veterinarians who were on the NYRA payroll -- a conflict of interests, since vets who disqualified too many horses would cost their employers money.

They used proceeds of racino gambling to boost the prize purses for lower-level races -- enticing owners to take excessive risks with their horses' lives.

Also culpable were owners, trainers and veterinarians who put their financial interests ahead of the horses' well-being -- as well as the state Racing and Wagering Board, which has been lax in monitoring how drugs were being used and abused.

This year, Cuomo gained the power to take control, install a new board of directors and force true management reform -- before returning Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga to private hands, never to be subsidized by taxpayers again.

That cannot happen soon enough.

-- The New York Daily News