This week The Jockey Club released the ninth annual statistical summary from the Equine Injury Database (EID) of the rate of fatal injuries in flat Thoroughbred racing. As we enter the 10th full year of data collection and statistical analysis, it is a good time to look back on the history of the EID and the beneficial effect of the research it has generated.
One of the key recommendations from the 2006 Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit was the development of a national injury reporting and surveillance system to identify the frequency, type, and outcome of racing injuries. The goal was to develop a standardized format that would generate valid composite statistics to identify markers for horses at increased risk of injury.
The Equine Injury Database (EID) is the upshot of that recommendation.
The launch of the EID in July 2008 followed a pilot project designed by Dr. Mary Scollay, then a Florida regulatory veterinarian and now the equine medical director for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and consultant for the EID. The pilot ran from June 1, 2007, to July 12, 2008. The project included more than 50 racetracks, and more than 3,000 injury reports were received and recorded.
The pilot project enabled regulatory veterinarians and racetracks around the U.S. and Canada to provide expertise and feedback for the development of the software modules for recording injuries and for reporting the information in myriad formats.
The EID is funded entirely by The Jockey Club, through its commercial subsidiaries InCompass Solutions and The Jockey Club Technology Services. It uses The Jockey Club's central database and pedigree data, and Equibase race result data. The software module that enables racetracks, racing organizations, and training centers to participate in the program is provided free of charge through the InCompass Race Track Operations (RTO) system, which is installed at every racetrack in North America.
EID statistics are based on injuries that resulted in fatalities within 72 hours from the date of the race. The statistics are for Thoroughbreds only and in 2017, represent 98% of race days for flat racing. Steeplechase races are excluded. All data entered into the EID goes through a multilevel quality control process to ensure the data is completely and accurately reported.
Unfortunately, generating data from training injuries is more difficult. First, not all tracks have a regulatory veterinarian at the track during workouts and there are many training centers with no regulatory presence at all. Second, quality control of workout data would be difficult because there is no way to tell if the data is complete, unlike for live races for which we have charts. And third, there is no common denominator. For races, the common denominator is the annual number of starts, but the number of workouts annually cannot be calculated. Also, works are not published if they are not completed, which unfortunately is the case if a horse breaks down.
The 2017 EID results show a slight, albeit statistically insignificant, increase in the injury rate over 2016. Since 2009 there has been a statistically significant reduction (20%) in the risk of fatal injury.
To ensure complete and accurate reporting, the database is private. However, some tracks make their summary statistics available to the public. In 2017, 25 tracks did so. Once again, tracks that self-report their EID for public viewing reported lower injuries per 1,000 starts—1.46 for the self-reporters versus the national average of 1.61.
The ultimate goal of the EID is to have the database serve as a source for research directed at improving safety and preventing injuries, which is already happening. Dr. Scott Palmer, the equine medical director in New York, is using the data to identify horses at risk in order to lower the incidence of catastrophic injuries.
Also, the California Horse Racing Board and Del Mar are using the injury data and InCompass' software to identify horses with potential issues that might require closer attention prior to starting.
The racing industry has been working diligently for many years to improve the safety and welfare of Thoroughbred racehorses. The 20% decrease in fatalities is an indicator that significant progress has been made to improve safety and prevent injuries. Through initiatives such as the Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit, the Thoroughbred Safety Committee, the Equine Injury Database, and a number of aftercare initiatives, The Jockey Club will continue to lend its leadership and support to initiatives that strive to improve the health and safety of Thoroughbreds and their riders.
Kristin Werner Leshney is senior counsel for The Jockey Club. She plays a major role in many of The Jockey Club's initiatives, especially the Thoroughbred Incentive Program and the Equine Injury Database.