Horse Racing Study Looks at Number of 'DNFs' by Surface

A study performed by Equibase at the request of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (TOBA) indicates the percentage of "career-ending did-not-finish" (CEDNF) incidents was about twice as high on dirt than synthetic surfaces in 2009.

The study is based on a review of official racing charts. The "CEDNF" statistics, as they are called, are for horses that didn't finish their last races in 2009 and didn’t yet return to work out or start in 2010.

Last year, 0.39% of CEDNFs came on dirt (percentage per starter), 0.19% on synthetics, and 0.26% on turf. Overall, the percentage of CEDNFs in 2009 was 0.35% (or 35 starters per 1,000), the same as it was in 2008, according to the report.

The report also looks at categories such as racehorse age, surface condition, and individual tracks.

The report, which hasn't been officially released by TOBA, was leaked to The Paulick Report that published a story about it in advance of the June 28-29 Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit, held at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Ky. During the summit, The Jockey Club released more details of an analysis of catastrophic injuries in Thoroughbreds based on one year of data from its Equine Injury Database.

Equibase is a subsidiary of The Jockey Club.

Not surprisingly given the timing of the leak, the findings in the TOBA report contradict those from the EID report, though they are based on much different data. The EID report, which stemmed from injury reports submitted by racetracks that account for 86% of total flat racing starts in North America, shows there was no statistically significant difference in the percentage of fatal injuries on dirt, synthetics, or grass in a one-year period from November 2008 to November 2009.

During the summit, those that compile the EID and analyze it said it's far too early to make any judgment on racing surfaces and their relationship to fatal injuries given limited variables in the initial analysis. The process of studying the data was called "lifelong."

The Blood-Horse obtained a copy of the report June 29. TOBA president Dan Metzger said he hadn't examined the entire report and therefore couldn’t comment on it yet. TOBA hasn't taken a position on the report.

The statistics are the latest involving a divisive issue thus far based more on politics than fact--whether manufactured racing surfaces are safer than traditional dirt. During the summit, officials said even if the EID analysis showed a much higher breakdown rate on dirt than synthetics, a sound judgment couldn't be made at this time.

(Originally posted on

About the Author

Tom LaMarra

Tom LaMarra, a native of New Jersey and graduate of Rutgers University, has been news editor at The Blood-Horse since 1998. After graduation he worked at newspapers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania as an editor and reporter with a focus on municipal government and politics. He also worked at Daily Racing Form and Thoroughbred Times before joining The Blood-Horse. LaMarra, who has lived in Lexington since 1994, has won various writing awards and was recognized with the Old Hilltop Award for outstanding coverage of the horse racing industry. He likes to spend some of his spare time handicapping races.

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