In a devastating report, the state’s Racing and Wagering Board found that NYRA had been taking more money than it was supposed to from some bettors, cheating them roughly out of $8.5 million in winnings over a 15-month period.
NYRA has been under fire for decades, but the report prompted the group to serve up its C.E.O. Charles Hayward (and his $475,000 annual salary) and another executive as sacrificial lambs. NYRA’s attempts to replace them were blasted by the administration of Governor Andrew Cuomo, who said the group didn’t have the proper authority to just replace Hayward with someone new.
As the NYRA drama was unfolding, The New York Times was bashing the horse-racing industry like a giant piñata. In a devastating series of articles, Joe Drape and other reporters revealed that horses were getting injured at a high rate while some trainers were illegally drugging them and barely getting punished for repeat offenses, even after they were caught red-handed.
The articles also determined that tracks located at “racinos”—the operations that include a casino whose profits help subsidize the track—had a higher rate of injury because owners and trainers were sending out horses in quest of purses that were often worth more than the horses themselves. Racinos were becoming deadly and Aqueduct was evidence of that: Ten horses died on the track over the winter, the first year that the Resorts World Casino was in operation at the track.
While the Times series exploded, and NYRA was imploding, a positive storyline seemed to emerge, thanks to a horse named I’ll Have Another.