Yonkers Harness Racing Resumes After Serious Accident

Posted on: November 20, 2023, 05:04h. 

Last updated on: November 21, 2023, 12:49h.

Yonkers Raceway resumed racing Monday following a serious accident on Friday that injured at least four drivers.

In the eighth race on Friday, one horse tripped coming into the first bend, leading to a domino effect as trailing horses smashed into the sulky in front (above, credit: YouTube/Warhorse).

One driver appeared to be propelled at least seven feet into the air as his cart hit a horse lying on the track. Another driver may have been trampled by a horse or hit by its flailing sulky, although it’s difficult to see clearly from the video.

Incredibly, no horses were injured in the crash. But three of the drivers weren’t so lucky. Driver Tyler Butler fractured his ribs and collarbone in the accident, while Bob di Nozzi was also left with broken ribs, according to News12.

Meanwhile, Jim Marohn Jr. broke his forearms and a thumb. Despite being thrown from his sulky, Matt Kakaley didn’t suffer any serious injury. All are expected to make a full recovery.

Racing on Hold

The accident saw the final race of the evening canceled, and all scheduled events over the weekend were put on hold. Racetrack officials launched an investigation into what was the first accident at the venue in five years.

The safety of our horses and drivers is always our top priority and we are grateful to all racing officials and team members, first responders and the racing community at-large for their continued support of these athletes,” the track’s owner, MGM Resorts, said in a statement about the accident.

Harness racing has avoided much of the controversy that has plagued thoroughbred racing in recent years, such as the spike in equine fatalities at Santa Anita in 2017 and subsequent doping scandals.

These incidents led to the enactment of the federal Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) in 2020, which established national safety standards for the horse racing industry to replace the state-by-state regulatory system.

Some quarters of the horse racing industry are opposed to HISA because of the expense involved in more stringent safety measures and the lack of federal funding to support its directives. Some also see it as federal overreach.

Improved Safety

Harness racing has been exempted from HISA because of its better safety record, which has improved greatly over the past three decades. Safety measures introduced include spokeless wheel hubs and the removal of the hub rail, a metal ring that circled the track.

This has been replaced by pylons, which give drivers a chance to move inside to avoid a fallen horse, reducing the risk of pileups.

However, the sport isn’t without horse fatalities. There were at least 24 race-related deaths of standardbred racehorses in 2021, according to InvestigateTV. That’s compared with 366 thoroughbreds in the same year.