Belmont Stakes notes: Labor agreement averts strike

ELMONT, N.Y. — A potential strike that could have impacted Saturday's Belmont Stakes was avoided Wednesday when New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that a labor contract agreement had been reached between Local 3 of the International Brotherhood of Electric Workers (IBEW) and the New York Racing Association.

Although details of the agreement were not released, it addresses all major economic issues, including shift schedules, benefits for active employees and pension and retiree medical benefits. This extends NYRA's contract with IBEW Local 3, which represents 80 maintenance workers and gate crew, through Feb. 28, 2014.

The workers at Belmont had been without a contract for the better part of two years.

"The Local 3 Negotiating Committee should be commended for protecting not only the jobs of their members, but their pension and welfare benefits as well," said Christopher Erikson, business manager for Local 3 IBEW. "This has been a difficult time for NYRA. Thousands of much-needed jobs, good jobs, are dependent on the success of New York's racing industry and this agreement will ensure the labor harmony necessary to be a part of that success."

Injured Lukas doesn't miss a beat

Even as he sat in a hospital Tuesday night getting a crescent shaped path of stitches put into the left side of his head, trainer D. Wayne Lukas insisted he wasn't going to let a freak barn accident stop him from doing the job that has made him a Hall of Famer.

Sure enough, the man who has saddled 13 Triple Crown winners was back leading sets of horses to the Belmont Park track Wednesday less than 15 hours after being struck in the head by one of his charges.

Lukas, who will saddle Optimizer in Saturday's Belmont Stakes, was taken to Winthrop University Hospital in nearby Mineola on Tuesday after 6-year-old Hamazing Destiny reared up and caught the legendary conditioner on the side of his head.

The gushing wound cut down "to the skull" according to the 76-year-old Lukas and required three layers of stitches to close.

"They did a CAT scan, but I've got a concussion I'm sure," Lukas said. "The first time when I got on the pony was a little shaky. By the fourth set I was ready to get off the damn pony."

Lukas had ridden in the van with his horses on the trip from Louisville and was going on no sleep when the incident happened.

"He (Hamazing Destiny) is a good-feeling horse and the gallop girl was taking him out and I said 'No, I need to get that one myself,' " Lukas said. "So she handed him to me and she wasn't watching him and he squealed and jumped straight into the air.

"The bad thing was they couldn't get the bleeding to stop. The good thing is I made a date with the head nurse and sold two doctors horses while I was there."