An analysis of data from the Equine Injury Database, comparing 2015 statistics with figures from 2014, has shown a 14 percent decrease in the frequency of fatal injury in Thoroughbred races, The Jockey Club announced Tuesday.
Across all surfaces, ages, and distances, the fatality rate dropped from 1.89 per 1,000 starts in 2014 to 1.62 per 1,000 starts in 2015. The overall fatality rate of 1.62 per 1,000 starts is the lowest since the Equine Injury Database started publishing annual statistics in 2009.
The statistics are based on injuries that resulted in fatalities within 72 hours from the date of the race.
Dr. Tim Parkin, a veterinarian and epidemiologist from the University of Glasgow, who serves as a consultant on the Equine Injury Database, again performed the analysis.
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“We’ve seen a significant decrease in the number of fatalities and that is certainly very encouraging,” Parkin said. “We will continue to examine data and look for trends, but the wide-ranging safety initiatives embraced by tracks, horsemen, and regulators in recent years have very likely played a role in the reduction of injuries and fatalities.”
Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ellis Park in Henderson, Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky Downs in Franklin and Turfway Park in Florence are participating racetracks in the Equine Injury Database.
The Equine Injury Database, conceived at the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation’s first Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit in 2006, was launched by The Jockey Club in July 2008 and seeks to identify the frequencies, types and outcomes of racing injuries using a standardized format that generates valid statistics, identifies markers for horses at increased risk of injury, and serves as a data source for research directed at improving safety and preventing injuries.
On turf surfaces, there were 1.22 fatalities per 1,000 starts in 2015, compared to 1.75 in 2014. Racing over dirt surfaces dropped under 2.00 per 1,000 starts for the first time, going from 2.02 to 1.78, while racing on synthetic surfaces had 1.18 fatalities per 1,000 starts in 2015, compared to 1.20 in 2014.
With a steady decline in the foal crop and widespread reduction in racing days across the nation, the total number of starts analyzed in the Equine Injury Database dropped from 395,897 in 2009 to 299,121 in 2015.
“When we first started collecting data ... we realized that the more data we obtained and analyzed, the more we would learn,” said Dr. Mary Scollay, the equine medical director for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and a consultant to the EID. “These improving fatality rates are clear evidence that we can move the needle and that the efforts of so many are truly bearing fruit.”
An analysis of 2015 race distance statistics shows that shorter races (less than 6 furlongs) were again associated with higher injury rates versus middle distance races (6-8 furlongs) and long races (more than 8 furlongs). This has been consistent each year over the seven-year span.
Two-year-olds continued the trend of having the lowest rate of catastrophic injuries while 3-year-olds had a lower rate of catastrophic injuries than horses 4 years old and older. From the period of 2009-2015 2-year-olds saw 1.38 fatalities per 1,000 starts compared to 1.85 for 3-year-olds and 1.95 for older horses.
An analysis of 2015 race distance statistics shows that shorter races (less than 6 furlongs) were again associated with higher injury rates versus middle distance races (6-8 furlongs) and long races (more than 8 furlongs).