Posted: March 12, 2020
Equine Industry Database statistics for 2019 reflect an 8.9% decrease from 2018 in the rate of fatal injury in Thoroughbred races across all three surfaces but a 30% increase in the rate on turf courses.
The Jockey Club, which released the report March 12, noted that the 2019 rate of 1.53 fatalities per 1,000 starts is the lowest since the EID began collecting data in 2009. TJC also said the overall drop in catastrophic injury on dirt, turf and synthetic surfaces from 2009 through last year is down 23.5%.
Based on the 2019 data, 99.84% of flat racing starts at the racetracks participating in the EID were completed without a fatality.
By surface in 2019, the fatal injury rate on dirt was 1.60 per 1,000 starts, down 14.2% from 1.86 in 2018; for synthetics, the figure was 0.93 per 1,000 starts, down 24% from 1.23 in 2018 and the first time a rate was under 1.00 since the EID first issued stats; and for grass, the rate was 1.56 per 1,000 starts versus 1.20 per 1,000 in 2018, which a release called “not statistically significant.”
“Although the incidence of racing fatalities on dirt surfaces reached an all-time low in 2019 of 1.60, the results on turf increased from 1.20 in 2018 to 1.56 in 2019,” said Dr. Tim Parkin, Professor of Veterinary Epidemiology at the University of Glasgow who analyzes the EID for TJC. “The number of starts on turf has been trending upward and this increase in fatalities likely indicates a set of risk factors unique to turf racing may be driving the results. Understanding the factors that contribute to increased risk of fatality is a continuous pursuit, one that would benefit tremendously from reporting data on injuries to horses that occur during morning training hours.”
“The 23.5% reduction in fatal injuries since 2009 indicates that the Thoroughbred industry’s commitment to equine safety is paying dividends,” said Kristin Werner, TJC senior counsel. “Capturing injury data from morning training hours at racetracks as well as data related to treatments and procedures would greatly improve the precision of our risk models, increasing the ability of racetrack personnel to identify horses at risk even before they hit the entry box.”
In 2009, the first year for which stats were released, the overall catastrophic injury rate across the three surfaces was 2.00 per 1,000 starts. The rate was never lower than 1.88 from 2009 to 2014, but since 2015 it has ranged from a high of 1.68 in 2018 to this year’s low of 1.53.
Since March 2012, racetracks have been able to voluntarily publish their statistics from the EID on TJC website. The 27 tracks that self-reported in 2019 had a slightly higher incidence of fatality per 1,000 starts (1.53) than non-self-published (1.52) across all surfaces. Racetracks accredited by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association Safety and Integrity Alliance had a lower incidence of fatality per 1,000 starts versus non-accredited tracks across all surfaces (1.46 versus 1.59).
When grouped by distance, the EID stats show the highest rate of fatal injury regardless of surface (1.63 per 1,000 starts) in 2019 occurred in races run at six furlongs or shorter. When grouped by age, the rates were as follows: 1.18 for 2-year-olds, 1.70 for 3-year-olds and 1.50 for 4-year-olds and older.
The EID stats are based on injuries that resulted in fatalities within 72 hours from the date of the race, TJC said. The statistics are for official Thoroughbred races only and exclude steeplechase races. Summary statistics for the EID are subject to change due to a number of considerations, including reporting timeliness.
TJC also said it “continues to encourage the reporting of all injuries and fatalities occurring during morning training hours. Currently, reporting of injuries and fatalities occurring during morning training hours is incomplete with only a few tracks consistently supplying that data.”
Throughout the course of 2020, 111 racetracks accounting for about 99% of flat racing days are expected to contribute data to the EID.