While the rate of fatal equine injuries remains 20% lower than the rate in 2009, an analysis of data from The Jockey Club’s Equine Injury Database (EID) has shown a modest increase in the figures for 2017 (1.61 per 1,000 starts) compared to 2016 (1.54 per 1,000 starts). The analysis, which was performed by Professor Tim Parkin, veterinarian and epidemiologist from the University of Georgia, also confirmed a 17% drop in risk of fatal injury on dirt and a 30% drop in risk of fatal injury on turf when compared to 2009, when the EID began collecting data.
“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.”
In 2017, the fatality rates associated with each racing surface were: 1.36 fatalities per 1,000 starts on turf surfaces in 2017, compared to 1.09 in 2016; 1.74 fatalities per 1,000 starts on dirt surfaces in 2017, compared to 1.70 in 2016; and a stable rate of 1.10 fatalities per 1,000 starts on synthetic surfaces. As has been the case over the study’s nine-year span, the data showed that shorter races (less than six furlongs) were again associated with higher injury rates versus middle distance races (six to eight furlongs) and long races (greater than eight furlongs).
2-year-olds showed the lowest rate of catastrophic injuries compared to 3-year-olds and older horses, another trend that has remained consistent since 2009.
“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 Dr. Mary Scollay, the equine medical director for the Commonwealth of Kentucky and a consultant to the EID.
The EID statistics are based on injuries that resulted in fatalities within 72 hours from the date of competition. The statistics include all non-steeplechase Thoroughbred races among the tracks participating in the Equine Injury Database. Throughout the course of 2018, racetracks accounting for approximately 97% of flat racing days are expected to contribute data to the EID.