Thoroughbred Racehorse Fatal Injury Rate Steady in 2012

Thoroughbred Racehorse Fatal Injury Rate Steady in 2012

Fatal injuries in North American Thoroughbred races stayed about the same in 2012 at just under two per 1,000 starts.

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

According to a March 8 Jockey Club release based on information collected in the Equine Injury Database (EID), fatal injuries in North American Thoroughbred races stayed about the same in 2012 at just under two per 1,000 starts.

Based on an analysis of 1,532,418 starts collected during the four-year period Jan. 1, 2009 through Dec. 31, 2012, the prevalence of race-related fatal injury was 1.92 per 1,000 starts. For individual years, the prevalence of fatal injury per 1,000 starts was 2.00 for 2009, 1.88 for 2010, 1.88 for 2011, and 1.92 for 2012.

The updated North American fatality rate for Thoroughbreds includes four years' worth of data collected in the EID, the North American database for racing injuries. The available information should provide the opportunity for meaningful study and comparison.

"The causes of racing injuries are often very complex and involve multiple factors interacting together over time," said Tim Parkin, BSc, BVSc, PhD, DECVPH, MRCVS, a veterinarian and epidemiologist from the University of Glasgow who serves as a consultant on the EID and performed the analysis.

"While the fatality rate has remained fairly static over the course of the past four years, the real significance today is that, with 1.5 million starts in the database, we have now established a baseline and we can begin to analyze the relationships between each of the individual factors. In the future, we will be able to design interventions based on these data and recommend actions that will reduce injuries and fatalities."

Only injuries that result in fatality within 72 hours of the race date are included in the figures. It should also be noted that statistics from previous years are sometimes updated due to the addition of tracks or corrections in the EID fatality data originally submitted by participating racetracks. Tables of overall numbers from the study are available online

Parkin's analysis found that:

  • There continues to be a reduction in the risk of fatality on synthetic surfaces;
  • The risk of fatality on synthetic surfaces was significantly lower than the risk of fatality on turf surfaces, which was significantly lower than the risk of fatality on dirt surfaces;
  • Female horses were at no greater risk of fatality when racing against males than they are when racing against other females;
  • Two-year-old horses were at significantly reduced risk of fatality compared to older horses when racing on dirt; and
  • Moving a race off the turf onto dirt or synthetic surfaces does not increase the risk of fatality.

A list of racetracks that have signed up to participate in the Equine Injury Database, including those who are now reporting their statistics publicly, is available online

The Jockey Club, through two of its for-profit subsidiary companies--InCompass and The Jockey Club Technology Services Inc.--has underwritten the cost to develop and operate the EID as a service to the industry. By agreement with the participating racetracks, from time to time The Jockey Club can publish certain summary statistics from the EID, but will not provide statistics that identify specific participants, including racetracks, horses, or persons.

Originally published on

About the Author

The Blood-Horse Staff

The Blood-Horse is the leading weekly publication devoted to international Thoroughbred racing and breeding. Since 1916, the staff of The Blood-Horse has served the Thoroughbred community with the highest standards of journalistic excellence to provide comprehensive and timely editorial coverage and analysis.

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