An increase in the number of fatal racing injuries in May led Kentucky regulatory veterinarians to devise ways to better identify at-risk horses.
According to statistics compiled by Kentucky Horse Racing Commission equine medical director Dr. Mary Scollay, there were six catastrophic breakdowns at Churchill Downs in May. There were only three from January through April at Turfway Park and Keeneland.
The vets had a meeting to strategize and now “provide deeper scrutiny” of horses when they are entered, including studying past performances, Scollay said. Since the protocol was established in early June, there have been no fatal breakdowns, she said.
Overall, Kentucky has seen a decrease in catastrophic breakdowns in racing since 2007, where there were 40, according to KHRC statistics. There were 36 in 2008, 33 in 2009, 26 in 2010, and 27 in 2011.
Over a five-year period (2007-2011) November had the highest number of fatal breakdowns in racing with 20, according to the stats. Over six years (2007-12), May was next at 19, though that figure is skewed by the high number this year. Over five years December was next at 18, but that includes an unusually high number of eight breakdowns that month in 2008 at Turfway.
Churchill has dirt and turf surfaces. Keeneland has Polytrack and turf, while Turfway has only Polytrack.