NYRA Challenges Methodology on Injury Rates

The New York Racing Association is challenging the methodology used by The New York Times to determine horse injury rates that were the basis for a front page article published March 25.

In an April 12 release, NYRA outlined how the Times developed a metric for an “incident rate,” defined as the number of times a set of terms appeared in official racechart data per 1,000 horse starts.

“To assess how often horses break down or get injured, The Times purchased official data covering more than 150,000 race results from 2009 through 2011,” NYRA quoted a sidebar to the main Times article. “The data are compiled by trained ‘chart callers,’ and used to compile results charts that bettors use to evaluate horses. The Times searched the data for terms indicating that a horse encountered a physical problem: broke down, vanned off, injured, lame, euthanized, died, collapsed, bleeding, or went wrong.”

Using chart callers’ descriptions of how a race was run to estimate how often horses are injured is “unreliable and potentially deceptive,” NYRA contends.

“Chart callers are trained to describe the manner in which a race is run, not to assess how often horses break down or get injured,’" NYRA asserted. “Chart callers do not follow up with trainers or veterinarians to determine whether or not a horse has suffered an injury during a race.

“Horses may be vanned off for many reasons that have nothing to do with an injury,” NYRA continued. “For example, a jockey may pull up a horse if he or she believes the horse has taken a bad step. In cases like this, the horse is often vanned off as a precaution. This is a common scenario and often the horse is not found to have any physical problems.”

Citing numbers for the Saratoga Race Course from 2009 through 2011 as an example of using chart information as a basis for determining injury incident rates, NYRA said its analysis reveals that of the horses that were vanned off at the upstate track, 19 came back to race, making a total of 149 starts through the end of March 2012.

“NYRA concludes, therefore, that there is plausible cause to regard the Times’ incident rate metric as faulty and to consider that its purported goal of assessing ‘how often horses break down or get injured’ leads to misleading and incorrect results,” the NYRA release said.

NYRA went on to outline steps the racing entity has taken individually and in concert with other organizations toward equine safety.

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