Why Are American Thoroughbreds Racing Less Frequently?

Panelists discussed scenarios, ranging from whether the 21st century horse is too fragile, the possible effects of medications on whether horses start less now, and even possible economic decisions that have resulted in horses racing less.
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A panel discussion during the first day of the Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit on the current state of the Thoroughbred and possible reasons for declines in average starts per horse and average field sizes over the past five decades yielded no consensus.

Comprised of three veterinary professionals involved in regulation, a prominent equine surgeon, and racing's all-time leading money-winning trainer, the panel at the July 8 summit at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Kentucky, discussed a wide array of scenarios, ranging from whether the 21st century Thoroughbred is too fragile, the possible effects of medications on whether horses start less now, and even possible economic decisions that have resulted in horses not racing as much as in the past.

To begin the discussion on "Today's Thoroughbred—What Animal Are We Dealing With?" moderator Ed Bowen noted that average annual starts per horse have declined from 12 in 1960 to just 6.2 in 2013 and average field size has fallen from nine to just under eight horses per race during the same period.

He also said there are 31 mega-stables that in 2013 each had more than 150 individual horses start, representing 7.5% of all U.S. starts

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Ron Mitchell is Online Managing Editor for The Blood-Horse magazine. A Lexington native, Mitchell joined The Blood-Horse after serving in editorial capacities with The Thoroughbred Record and Thoroughbred Times, specializing in business and auction aspects of the industry, and was editor-in-chief of the award-winning Horsemen’s Journal. As online managing editor, Mitchell works closely with The Blood-Horse news editor and other departments to make sure the website content is the most thorough and accurate source for all Thoroughbred news, results, videos, and data.

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