When Dr. Mary Scollay, equine medical director for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, gave her monthly report at the March 14 meeting, it showed only one fatality since Dec. 1 at Turfway Park, the only track in the state conducting live racing during the period.
According to Scollay, the one fatality occurred in December and was followed by two months—January and February—in which no which horses died during races over the track’s artificial Polytrack surface. Scollay said that equated to one fatality for the 4,532 starts recorded at the track during the three-month period. The national catastrophic injury rate is about two horses per 1,000 starts.
Scollay attributed the safe racing to a collaborative effort on the part of Turfway Park management, horsemen, veterinarians working at the track in Northern Kentucky, and the KHRC’s veterinary staff that conducts pre-race inspections.
She said the numbers were even more impressive considering that the holiday/winter meet at the track is conducted at a time of the year when fluctuating weather conditions can result in inconsistency in the track surface, and also in light of the economic challenges facing Turfway and other tracks.
“There could have been more pressure placed on the remaining (horse) population, resulting in the over-racing of the fit or the racing of the unfit, both scenarios associated with increased risk of injury,” Scollay said, noting the decline in horses at the track that could have impacted decisions by management and horsemen. “Corners could have been cut, but weren’t. So through some of the most challenging times facing racing, a collaborative effort resulted in an astounding safety rate.”
Polytrack was first installed at Turfway Park in fall 2005 and at Keeneland in fall 2006. According to figures released by Scollay, fatalities at all Kentucky Thoroughbred tracks fell from 40 in 2007 to 27 in 2012, with a low of 26 in 2010.
Also at the meeting, commissioners were provided with figures showing that Instant Racing at Kentucky Downs in Franklin, Ky., continues to grow, with February handle the largest since the form of electronic gaming was introduced in September 2011.
Instant Racing, modeled after the successful concept started at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas, is technically called "Historical Racing" in Kentucky. Since it began at Kentucky Downs, more than $52.8 million has been wagered through the machines. Of that, $3.7 million has gone to the track, out of which $522,796 have been allocated to purses and $37,342 to a breeders’ incentive fund.
The state has received $791,849 in pari-mutuel tax revenue from Instant Racing, a portion of which is used to fund some equine programs.
Kentucky Downs began with 200 Instant Racing machines and with a recent expansion now has 275 in operation. Ellis Park in Henderson, Ky., is in the process of installing the machines.
Also at the March 14 meeting, the KHRC approved license applications from eight Advance Account Wagering companies to operate in the state. The companies are AmWest Entertainment, Ebet Technologies, Keeneland Select, Premier Turf Club, Racing2Day, TVG, TwinSpires, and Xpressbet.