Manalapan, NJ --- In a 90 minute meeting, mediated by Standardbred Breeders & Owners Association of New Jersey President Tom Luchento, more than 150 horsemen had an opportunity to verbalize their concerns to Freehold management.
The meeting, conducted in the Renaissance Room at Freehold Raceway on Jan. 15, was focused on track conditions, medical response and other issues triggered by the horrific spill that occurred in the fifth race on Jan. 10.
Five drivers -- Cat Manzi, Debra Rucker, Vincent Ginsburg, Chris Scicluna and Jim Pantaleano -- ended up at area hospitals and a sixth driver, Rick Pantano, was also checked out after the starting gate slid into the field on the first turn. Horses suffered cuts and bruises.
Representing Freehold were general manager Howard Bruno, director of racing Karen Fagliarone, starter Robert Blum and track supervisor Michael Fagliarone.
“As a result of this meeting, we all seem to agree that there is a need for an independent track expert to review the track surface and the manner in which it is maintained,” said Luchento. “We’ve also called upon Freehold to pay for the replacement of the racing bikes, colors, veterinarian bills and other costs that derived out of this accident. Additionally, the owners of the horses that did not get to race because of the cancellation of the balance of the card on Jan. 10 will be reimbursed $125.”
All seven of the starters in the fifth race will equally split the $4,300 purse.
Some speakers described the freeze-thaw cycle of the afternoon of Jan. 10 as the “perfect storm” for the track conditions to turn dangerous in a short amount of time.
Others expressed concern that if they complained or scratched horses on bad weather days, they would face retribution. Both Luchento and Karen Fagliarone assured horsemen that this would not be the case and that it was important for there to be an open dialogue between drivers and the judges.
While outrider Beth Cumberland was praised for her quick response to gathering up the loose horses, there were questions about the slow response time for additional ambulances from local hospitals. This was exacerbated by the volume of black ice road accidents in the region, it was explained.
Cat Manzi, who suffered multiple broken ribs and a punctured lung, was released from Jersey Shore University Medical Center on Wednesday (Jan. 15). Debbie Rucker, who had internal bleeding in her leg, was discharged the prior day.