Officials that crunch the numbers for the Equine Injury Database believe there is now a 65% predictability model when it comes to fatal injuries on the racetrack.
The percentage can increase, however, with additional information—but that will require cooperation from the Thoroughbred racing industry, according to Dr. Tim Parkin of the University of Glasgow in Scotland.
Parkin, during the July 8 Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit at Keeneland, provided an update on the EID, which was launched in 2008 and now contains information from 2009-14. The EID, which is housed by The Jockey Club, now accounts for 94% of all starts in North America with information on 2.2 million starts and 150,000 horses.
Parkin reviewed previously released data that showed consistency in the overall rate of catastrophic injuries in races and what he called a "significant difference" among dirt, turf, and synthetic surfaces. The fatal injury rate for all three surfaces over six years has been between 1.88 and 2.00 per 1,000 starts; for dirt it is 2.07, for turf 1.65, and for synthetic 1.22.
"There is significant difference between the three surface types, but very little change in the overall incidence of fatal injury across all surfaces," Parkin said of the six-year numbers.
Parkin said analysis of the EID employs 20-25 risk factors from which models of predictability are developed. The risk factors include previous injuries reported to the EID, time spent on the vet's list, length of time with one trainer, distance and surfaces of races, a horse's race history, drops in claiming price, and age of a horse's first race.
Parkin said that for every previous injury, a racehorse's risk of fatal injury increases 30% based only on information submitted to the EID. The challenge, he said, is to get more information on each horse such as vet records, medical history, and training records.
"Are we topping out at the 65% predictability model?" Parkin said. "We're never going to get to 100%, but I'm sure we can improve on this (percentage) with additional information. We believe this is critical."
Parkin after his presentation said information from pre-race veterinary examinations "plays a minimal part in predicting risk" of fatal injuries because a horse spends 1% of its time racing and 99% in training.
"It's more important to get a hold of information on what a horse does every day and what it's treatment has been," Parkin said. "We're talking more about access to complete medical records, but that's something that's not going to happen in another three or four years."
Parkin said he is involved in the "Thoroughbred Health Network" by which trainers, veterinarians, and owners in the United Kingdom get together and voluntarily share information on their racehorses. Parkin said easy-to-read papers will be prepared offering tips on how to keep horses healthy and to avoid injury.
"We will measure how many people take this on," Parkin said. "Gaining the trust of these individuals is the difficult part."
During his presentation Parkin again noted that the risk of fatal injury for horses making their first start is higher as they get older. The rate is lowest when horses are 2-year-olds.
"It really is critical to start exercising horses as 2-year-olds," Parkin said.