By Bill Finley
The rate of fatal injuries in 2022 was 1.25 horses per 1,000 starts, a 10.1% decrease from 2021 when there were 1.39 fatalities per 1,000 starts according to figures compiled by the Equine Injury Database (EID) and released Monday by The Jockey Club (TJC). It was the lowest number since the EID began covering the fatality rate in 2009, when the figure was 2.00 horses per 1,000 starts.
“The data shows that since 2009, the risk of fatal injury during racing has declined by 37.5%, which is statistically significant,” said professor Tim Parkin of the University of Glasgow, who has consulted on the EID since its inception. “The overall downward trends are testament to the benefits of an evidence-based approach to safety, which is only possible thanks to the EID.”
Since 2018, the rate of fatal injury has dropped from 1.68 to 1.25, a decline of 25.6%. The 2022 numbers marked the fourth straight year that the risk of fatal injury has fallen.
“We can say with confidence that the risk of fatal injury is heading in a sustained downward direction both overall and in many specific areas,” Parkin said. “The six-month period from July 1, 2022 to December 31, 2022 was the safest six-month period on record since the inception of the EID in 2009. This evidence of positive progress is very encouraging and should be applauded by everyone in North American racing.”
There were just 12 fatalities in races run over synthetic surfaces in 2021, which worked out to a rate of 0.41 fatalities per 1,000 starters, making it, easily, the safest surface. Turf races were next at 0.99, followed by dirt races at 1.44. Races run at more than 8 furlongs were the safest at 0.86. Races run at 6 to 8 furlongs were next at 1.31, followed by races run at less than 6 furlongs at 1.38. Races for 2-year-olds were the safest in the age group at a rate of 0.98. Three-year-old races were next at 1.13, followed by races for 4-year-olds and upward at 1.34. The 3-year-old figure was notable as it showed a 25.7% decline from 2021 and that the figure was as high as 2.08 in 2014.
Since March 2012, racetracks have been able to voluntarily publish their statistics from the EID on The Jockey Club website. The racetracks that publish their EID statistics reported racing fatalities per 1,000 starts of 0.99 as compared to 1.42 for those that do not publish.
Some of the most notable gains have come at the Southern California tracks. At Santa Anita, the figure for 2022 was 0.63, down from 1.45 in 2021. Even more significantly, the rate of breakdowns has dropped considerably since 2019 when the number was 3.01, an alarmingly high rate that led to outcries from animal rights activists and politicians. At Del Mar in 2022, there were 0.56 fatalities per 1,000 starts. In 2016, the number was 3.01.
The trend at Keeneland was also a positive one, at 0.33. In 2019, the figure at Keeneland was 3.21.