The number of catastrophic injuries on dirt tracks has gone up while the corresponding number on synthetic surfaces has gone down, according to a revision of a report first given at the March 17 Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit.
The Jockey Club, which coordinated and underwrote the summit along with the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, said in an April 10 release the information had been “thoroughly reviewed.” Thereafter, the numbers were revised.
At the March summit, Dr. Mary Scollay, the track veterinarian at Calder Race Course and Gulfstream Park, reported on the initial results of information compiled from injury and fatality reports from regulatory veterinarians at 42 racetracks. During the reporting period, there were 244 fatalities from 123,890 starters on dirt, for a ratio of 1.96 per 1,000 starts. For the tracks with synthetic surfaces, the ratio of 58 fatalities from 29,744 starts was 1.95 per 1,000 starts.
Those figures surprised many in the industry, particularly advocates of synthetic surfaces, though Scollay at the time told The Blood-Horse the industry shouldn’t “hang its hat on any single number at this point.” She said when all data is collected, a more sophisticated analysis would be performed.
The revised figures released by The Jockey Club April 10 show 2.02 fatalities per 1,000 starts on dirt and 1.47 on synthetic surfaces.
“The revised statistics are based upon injury reports from a limited number of racetracks (34), and represent a reporting period of less than one year at some racetracks,” Scollay said in The Jockey Club release. “Therefore, it is important to remember that these fatality rates are just a snapshot in time from a less-than-statistically-significant number of tracks, and cannot be considered scientifically conclusive at this point.”
The post-summit review established that the catastrophic injury reports covered longer periods of time, with more races and total starts than was previously reported. In addition, further review and follow-up on the individual catastrophic injury reports provided a more accurate number of fatalities on both dirt and synthetic surfaces.
When contacted April 10, Bob Curran, vice president of corporate communications for The Jockey Club, said further details on the numbers won't be available for some time. “We will consider the release of updated statistics once we have a comprehensive set of injury reports from a majority of the tracks in this country over a statistically significant period of time," he said. "It will probably not be this year.”
Scollay said the project, first announced in May 2007, has three objectives: to identify the frequency, type, and outcome of racing injuries using a standardized format that will generate valid composite statistics; to develop a centralized epidemiologic database that could be used to identify markers for horses at increased risk of injury; and to serve as a data source for research directed at improving safety and preventing injuries.
Central to the system is a standardized form created by Scollay and a group of participating regulatory and track veterinarians following the original summit. It’s now being used at 48 racetracks.
In addition, InCompass Solutions has developed the necessary technology tools and created a database that enables track veterinarians to electronically submit injury reports from participating racetracks. The database will become operational in the next couple of months, The Jockey Club reported.
Synthetic surfaces are in place at Arlington Park, Del Mar, Keeneland, Turfway Park, and Woodbine, which all have Polytrack; Golden Gate Fields and Presque Isle Downs & Casino, which have Tapeta Footings; and Hollywood Park and Santa Anita Park, which installed Cushion Track. After the flurry of installations, there have been no announcements in the past year concerning racetracks that plan to switch from dirt to synthetic.