Data emerging on racetrack injuries

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The first information released by The Jockey Club from the new Equine Injury Database showed 2.04 horse deaths per 1,000 starts.

The statistic comes from a preliminary analysis of a year's worth of data beginning Nov. 1, 2008, for 378,864 total starts in Thoroughbred flat races at 73 racetracks participating in the database.

Although The Jockey Club did not release the actual number of deaths, the figure of 2.04 deaths per 1,000 starts suggests that there were about 773 horse deaths, or an average of nearly 15 fatal injuries a week.

Thoroughbred horse raceThe March 23 announcement marks the first time an accurate national statistic on racing injuries has been made available.

The Equine Injury Database grew out of a need identified at the first Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit in Lexington, Ky., in October 2006 (see JAVMA, Dec. 1, 2006).

Industry professionals gathered to develop an action plan to improve the well-being and safety of racehorses. One of their recommendations was to develop a standard method for reporting the nature of on-track injuries.

A pilot program began in June 2007 with more than 30 racetracks implementing a uniform, on-track equine injury reporting system (see JAVMA, July 15, 2007). The system was developed Dr. Mary Scollay-Ward, who was a veterinarian at Calder Race Course and Gulfstream Park, both in Florida. More than 3,000 injury reports were received and recorded in about a year's time.

The goal of the injury reporting pilot project was threefold: to record the frequency, type, and outcome of racing injuries in a standardized format that would allow generation of valid composite statistics; to develop a centralized epidemiologic database that could be used to identify markers for horses at increased risk of injury; and to serve as a data source for research directed at improving safety and preventing injuries.

The official launch of the Equine Injury Database followed in July 2008. During the first year, about 120 participating tracks ran Thoroughbred flat races, with 17 of those conducting 20 or fewer days of racing.

For the current year, 81 tracks and the National Steeplechase Association are participating, representing 86 percent of the flat racing days in North America. A list of racetracks participating in the Equine Injury Database can be found at

An agreement with the participating racetracks allows The Jockey Club to occasionally publish certain summary statistics from the Equine Injury Database, but it will not provide statistics that identify specific participants, including racetracks or horses.

The Jockey Club, through two of its for-profit subsidiary companies, InCompass and The Jockey Club Technology Services, has underwritten the cost to develop and operate the database as a service to the industry.

The analysis was performed by Dr. Tim Parkin, a veterinarian and epidemiologist from the University of Glasgow, who serves as a consultant on the project. Dr. Parkin is scheduled to discuss and report on additional analyses of, and insights from, the database during the third Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit at Keeneland, Ky., June 28-29.