The fatal injury rate on turf was 1.36 fatalities per 1,000 starts in 2017, compared to 1.09 in 2016. | Photo: iStock

Equine Injury Database (EID) statistics revealed a modest increase in the rate of fatal injury to Thoroughbred racehorses in 2017 (1.61 per 1,000 starts) compared to 2016 (1.54 per 1,000 starts), The Jockey Club announced March 19.

Tim Parkin, BSc, BVSc, PhD, DECVPH, MRCVS, a veterinarian and epidemiologist from the University of Glasgow, in Scotland, and EID consultant, once again performed the analysis.

The fatality rates associated with each racing surface were:

  • On turf, 1.36 fatalities per 1,000 starts in 2017, compared to 1.09 in 2016;
  • On dirt, 1.74 fatalities per 1,000 starts in 2017, compared to 1.7 in 2016; and
  • The rate of fatal injuries on synthetic surfaces remained stable at 1.1 fatalities per 1,000 starts.

Since the EID began collecting data in 2009, the risk of fatal injury across all surfaces has dropped 20%; on dirt the risk has dropped 17%; and its dropped 30% on turf.

An analysis of 2017 race distance statistics showed that shorter races (less than 6 furlongs) were again associated with higher injury rates versus middle distance races (6 to 8 furlongs) and long races (more than 8 furlongs). This has been consistent over the nine-year span.

In addition, 2-year-olds again had the lowest rate of catastrophic injuries compared to 3-year-olds and older horses, another trend over the nine years.

“Although fatality rates increased this year from last year, the increase in rates is not statistically significant,” said Parkin. “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.”

Mary Scollay, DVM, Kentucky’s equine medical director and am EID consultant, added, “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.”

Statistical Summary from 2009 to 2017 (Thoroughbred Only)

Calendar Year 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Injury Rate 2.0 1.88 1.88 1.92 1.9 1.89 1.62 1.54 1.61
Source: Equine Injury Database

What is the EID?

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.

The list of racetracks participating in the EID and detailed statistics from tracks that voluntarily publish information is available at jockeyclub.com/default.asp?section=Advocacy&area=11.

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