Equine Injury Database: Fatality rate in racing falls to 1.25 per 1,000 starts

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: March 20, 2023

An initial data analysis of information reported to the Equine Injury Database indicates that the 2022 rate of fatal injuries in Thoroughbred racing on all three surfaces was 1.25 per 1,000 starts—the lowest since the first year of reporting in 2009. It marks the fourth consecutive year the number has decreased.

Statistics released by The Jockey Club show the figure never has been lower than 1.39 per 1,000 starts, which came in 2021. The fatality rate dropped 10.6% from 2021 to 2022.

The analysis provided by Professor Tim Parkin (University of Bristol), who has consulted on the EID since its inception, and by Dr. Euan Bennet (University of Glasgow) also shows historic low rates of fatality on each surface type, for 3-year-old horses, and for distances longer than one mile. The three surfaces are dirt, turf and synthetic.

“The data shows that since 2009, the risk of fatal injury during racing has declined by 37.5%, which is statistically significant,” Parkin said. “The overall downward trends are testament to the benefits of an evidence-based approach to safety, which is only possible thanks to the EID.”

By surface for 2022, the rates were as follows: 1.44 per 1,000 starts for dirt, 0.99 for turf and 0.41 for synthetic. In 2021, the rates were 1.51, 1.25 and 0.73.

By age group (2-year-olds, 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds and older), 2-year-olds again had the lowest fatality rate at 0.98, which matches the 2021 rate. Races less than six furlongs had the highest rate at 1.38, while races greater than one mile had the lowest rate at 0.86.

The complete history of the rates from 2009 to 2022 is available here.

Based on the 2022 data, 99.88% of flat racing starts at the racetracks participating in the EID were completed without a fatality. Risk of fatal injury on the racecourse decreased by 10.1% from 2021 to 2022, 11.3% from 2020 to 2022, and 18.3% from 2019 to 2022, according to the release. About 99% of all Thoroughbred starts were included in the EID for 2022.

“We can say with confidence that the risk of fatal injury is heading in a sustained downward direction both overall and in many specific areas,” Parkin said. “The six-month period from July 1, 2022, to Dec. 31, 2022, was the safest six-month period on record since the inception of the EID in 2009. This evidence of positive progress is very encouraging and should be applauded by everyone in North American racing.”

Since March 2012, racetracks have been able to voluntarily publish their statistics from the EID on The Jockey Club website. The racetracks that publish their EID statistics reported racing fatalities per 1,000 starts of 0.99 as compared to 1.42 for those that do not publish.

The EID statistics are based on injuries that resulted in fatalities within 72 hours from the date of the race. 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. All data entered into the EID goes through a multilevel quality control process to ensure the data is completely and accurately reported.