Project to Identify At-Risk Horses Announced

The Jockey Club plans to develop the statistics-based system.

The Jockey Club June 13 announced plans to develop a statistics-based system that would notify track officials and regulatory veterinarians when a horse that has been entered in a race is facing a heightened risk of injury.

Dr. Tim Parkin, a noted epidemiologist from the University of Glasgow who has conducted research and studies on Thoroughbreds in the United Kingdom and Hong Kong, is currently developing the protocols, which are based on The Jockey Club’s Equine Injury Database. The project is expected to be complete in August 2012.

“This project provides us with an exciting opportunity to identify the top risk profiles and focus our interventions on the horses that fit those profiles,” said Dr. Parkin, who made a presentation on the potential of such a system at The Jockey Club’s Round Table Conference on Matters Pertaining to Racing in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., in August 2011.

That presentation centered on a complex analysis of data that included more than 1.5 million race starts to identify risk factors for injury. For example, a horse that had made numerous starts in a period between one and six months, while also meeting other similar criteria, would fit the highest risk profile.

“With this system in place, we can identify the population of horses at markedly increased risk—and potentially implement measures to mitigate that risk,” Dr. Parkin said.

Using data from the Equine Injury Database, racing officials and regulatory veterinarians would receive automatic notifications from racing office software tools provided by InCompass Solutions Inc. The alerts would indicate, based on statistical analysis of patterns in past performances, when a horse presented a heightened risk of injury and needed a closer inspection. Those notices would be sent to regulatory veterinarians and racing office personnel at the racetrack.

“This development has the potential to be among the most significant advances in the safety of our equine and human athletes,” said James L. Gagliano, president and chief operating officer of The Jockey Club, in a statement. “It is only possible because of the excellent participation by racetracks in the Equine Injury Database, which now contains approximately 37,000 injury reports from 86 tracks, representing more than 92 percent of North American racing days.”

Gagliano noted that The Jockey Club, through InCompass, would provide these tools to racetrack and regulatory officials for no additional fee, and that The Jockey Club will be collaborating with the American Association of Equine Practitioner to develop the examination protocols that would be used to assist regulatory veterinarians dealing with horses deemed to be at-risk.

“The AAEP routinely and actively participates in a wide variety of programs designed to maintain and improve the health and welfare of the horse,” said Dr. John Mitchell, president of AAEP, in a release. “Our veterinarians and staff will proudly share their expertise with Dr. Parkin and his team as they create the examination protocols that will benefit the Thoroughbred industry.”