Void claim rules show promise in helping reduce racing fatalities

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: June 9, 2020

Preliminary information resulting from Equine Injury Database research shows that void claim rules in various jurisdictions or at individual racetracks help lower the incidence of catastrophic injuries in racing.

The information was provided as part of a Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit webinar hosted by the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation June 9. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, a series of weekly seminars in May and June replaced the regular summit held in Kentucky.

The webinar focused on the EID, which now has racehorse injury data for the past 11 years (2009-19). In 2020, there will be 111 participating tracks that account for 99% of flat racing days in the United States and Canada and all National Steeplechase Association races.

The risk of fatal injuries in Thoroughbred racing has dropped 23% since 2009. Dr. Tim Parkin, Professor of Veterinary Epidemiology at the University of Glasgow in Scotland and an analyst for the EID, called it “a significant improvement from where we were 10 years ago.”

The EID, which reports the number of fatalities in racing per 1,000 starts, employs a number of data points including race type. Parkin said the rates for claiming races (1.88 per 1,000 starts) and maiden claiming races (1.82) are higher than those for maiden special weight races, allowance races, and stakes.

He said void claim rules—part of the Mid-Atlantic Strategic Plan to Reduce Equine Fatalities—have shown based on an initial analysis to “significantly” lower the risk of fatal injury in claiming races. He said there are a few caveats, but there is “no evidence they are detrimental, and I would encourage others to do the same.”

Dr. Mary Scollay, Executive Director of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium and an EID analyst, said void claim rules are intended to cause trainers to “self-edit” and can serve to improve decision-making. In jurisdictions that have the rules, a claimant can void a claim for a horse that is vanned off after a race; specifics vary by jurisdiction.

Along with pre-race exams and other precautions, void claim rules “are a second check on entering a horse that maybe shouldn’t be in that race,” Parkin said.

Parkin and Scollay both noted that the expansion of the EID to develop individual reports for regions such as the Mid-Atlantic are an important part of identifying risk factors to help reduce catastrophic injuries.

Report on 2019 Equine Injury Database statistics

Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit 2020 webinar replays