Tim Parkin discusses the Equine Injury Database at a Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit at Keeneland

Tim Parkin discusses the Equine Injury Database at a Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit at Keeneland

Anne M. Eberhardt/Blood-Horse, contact for all uses other than editorial

Reduced Equine Injury Rate Holds Steady in 2017

Last year's rate of equine fatalities is down 20% from 2009.

For three straight years the rate of equine fatalities in racing has held fairly steady, down about 20% from the first year fatal equine injuries were tracked in 2009.

According to analysis of data from the Equine Injury Database, there was a modest, statistically insignificant increase in the rate of such injuries in 2017, up to 1.61 per 1,000 starts; compared with the record low of 2016, 1.54 per 1,000 starts. The rates per 1,000 starts for the past three years, 1.62, 1.54, and 1.61, are all at least 19% lower than in 2009: down 19% in 2015, 23% in 2016, and 20% in 2017.

Dr. Tim Parkin, veterinarian and epidemiologist from the University of Glasgow and consultant to the EID, again performed the analysis. 

The fatality rates associated with each racing surface were as follows:

  • On turf surfaces, there were 1.36 fatalities per 1,000 starts in 2017, compared with 1.09 in 2016.
  • On dirt surfaces, there were 1.74 fatalities per 1,000 starts in 2017, compared with 1.7 in 2016.
  • On synthetic surfaces, the rate of fatal injuries remained stable at 1.1 fatalities per 1,000 starts.

Since the EID began collecting data in 2009, there has been a 20% drop in the risk of fatal injury across all surfaces, a 17% drop in risk of fatal injury on dirt, and a 30% drop in risk of fatal injury on turf. 

An analysis of 2017 race distance statistics shows that shorter races (less than six furlongs) were again associated with higher injury rates versus middle distance races (six furlongs to one mile) and long races (more than a mile). This has been consistent over the nine-year span.

In addition, 2-year-olds again had the lowest rate of catastrophic injuries compared with 3-year-olds and older horses, which is another trend seen during the past nine years.

"Although fatality rates increased this year from last year, the increase in rates is not statistically significant," Parkin said. "However, the overall decline in the rate in fatalities since the creation of the EID is statistically significant and reflects a continuously improving safety record for North American racing." 

"The North American racing industry has made significant strides to decrease fatal equine injuries, and the results should serve to further motivate us to continue that trend," said Kentucky equine medical director and EID consultant Dr. Mary Scollay. 

Statistical Summary 2009-17

Thoroughbred Only

Calendar Year

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

Rate

2.00

1.88

1.88

1.92

1.90

1.89

1.62

1.54

1.61

The EID statistics are based on injuries that resulted in fatalities within 72 hours from the date of the race. The statistics are for official Thoroughbred races only and exclude steeplechase races. Summary statistics for the EID are subject to change due to a number of considerations, including reporting timeliness.

Since March 2012, racetracks have been able to voluntarily publish their statistics from the EID in the Safety Initiatives section of The Jockey Club website. There are 25 tracks that self-reported during 2017 and their aggregate rate was 1.46. That rate is 9% lower than the overall rate.

The list of racetracks participating in the Equine Injury Database and detailed statistics from those tracks that voluntarily publish their results

A graph depicting all updated statistical data pertaining to surface, distance, and age.

Throughout the course of 2018, racetracks accounting for approximately 97% of flat racing days are expected to contribute data to the EID.

The Equine Injury Database, conceived at the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation's first Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit, was launched by The Jockey Club in July 2008 and seeks to identify the frequencies, types, and outcomes of racing injuries using a standardized format that generates valid statistics, identifies markers for horses at increased risk of injury, and serves as a data source for research directed at improving safety and preventing injuries.