New York — An average of two fatal injuries occur each day on Thoroughbred racetracks, according to preliminary data released from The Jockey Club's new Equine Injury Database.
From November 2008 to November 2009, 2.04 fatal injuries were recorded per 1,000 starts from a total of 378,864 total starts in Thoroughbred flat races at the 73 ractracks participating in a new national database.
The statistic is the first of its kind, since fatality rates in racing previously were only recorded by individual racing commissions. More than three deaths per day were estimated at the nation's racetracks back in 2008.
Although it's the only information to be released so far, The Jockey Club expects this data will shed more light on racetrack safety. The Equine Injury Database collects injury stats from more than 80 racetracks in the United States.
Additional data analysis from the first year's results was set to be revealed by Tim Parkin, DVM, a veterinarian and epidemiologist from the University of Glasgow, at the third Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit at Keeneland June 28 and 29.
"There has been tremendous interest in the Equine Injury Database since its inception and even more since we released the first statistic," says Matt Iuliano, executive vice president and executive director of The Jockey Club. "As our epidemiologist Dr. Tim Parkin noted, the database should yield numerous trends and factors associated with racing injuries and lead to strategies for their prevention as we gather additional data in the future. I think everyone in this industry realizes the importance of reducing injuries. It is encouraging to see so many racetracks participating in the Equine Injury Database and to see so many industry organizations supporting numerous other safety initiatives."
In July 2008, The Jockey Club launched the database after a one-year pilot program with goals of identifying the frequency, types and outcomes of racing injuries using a standardized format; identifying markers for horses with increased injury risks; and serving as a data source for safety research.
As part of data collection, track veterinarians fill out standardized reports whenever an injury occurs, providing details about track surface, length and configuration of the track, the location of the injury, type and body location of the injury, equipment involved and the type of track the horse is accustomed to competing on.
The system will look at horses that run consistently without injury, too, examining their histories and variables in an effort to determine what keeps them injury-free.
In fact, equine groups have been pushing to improve their understanding of racing injuries following the catastrophic breakdown of Eight Belles in the 2008 Kentucky Derby.
"There have been all kinds of statements about increasing injuries, including assertions about the vulnerability of fillies vs. colts and the types of races they run. The fact is, the data just isn't there to support such statements. We're just beginning to collect it now," says Mary Scollay, DVM and equine medical director for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, in an interview with DVM Newsmagazine in 2008.