Data Reveal Three-Year Fatality Rates

Race-related fatal injury rate was 1.91 per 1,000 starts during the period.

An analysis of data collected by The Jockey Club over a three-year period shows the fatal injury rate in Thoroughbred races was 1.91 per 1,000 starts, down from 1.98 per 1,000 starts in 2009 to 1.88 each of the last two years.

The information from the Equine Injury Database also showed synthetic surfaces had the fewest reported fatal breakdowns—1.09 per 1,000 starts—followed by turf at 1.53 and dirt surfaces at 2.07. The analysis was based on data from 1,160,045 starts collected through the EID from Jan. 1, 2009-Dec. 31, 2011.

Matt Iuliano, executive vice president and executive director of The Jockey Club, said March 22 there are two changes in the reporting of the national benchmark statistics. They now reflect data collected for a calendar year, and only injuries that result in fatality within 72 hours of the date of the race are included.

“Originally, Equine Injury Database reports were generated from Nov. 1 through Oct. 31 of the following year to coincide with the first full year of data from a significant number of participating tracks,” Iuliano said. “The Equine Injury Database has grown large enough that, with 93% of race days represented in the statistics, reporting was changed to a calendar-year basis to match other statistical reporting by The Jockey Club.”

Previous statistical summaries included race-related injuries that resulted in fatality regardless of when the fatality occurred after the date of the race. Under reporting parameters used in previous years, which included injuries that resulted in a fatality more than 72 hours from the date of race, the prevalence of fatality per 1,000 starts would have been 2.05 in 2011.

“Continued growth of the database has shown variations among jurisdictions in follow-up reporting during the days and weeks after an injury, creating variation in the results,” Iuliano said. “We realize there are situations in which the outcome is not determined until much later than 72 hours after an incident, but our confidence level in reporting an accurate benchmark statistic is greatest when we utilize information available within 72 hours.”

The statistical analysis was performed by Dr. Tim Parkin, a veterinarian and epidemiologist from the University of Glasgow who serves as a consultant on the EID. He said the addition of more than 370,000 starts allowed researches to track more trends in the data.

The Jockey Club said 93% of race days are represented in the EID, with half the participating racetracks also reporting injuries during training hours.

In early March, The Jockey Club unveiled website that enables racetracks to make public their data in a standard, summary fashion. Summaries of fatality statistics for a participating track include the year, number of race days, number of starts, age, and sex of the horse, distance of the race and the surface on which the incident occurred.