During an update on the Equine Injury Database at the third Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit held at Keeneland on Monday, evidence was presented that showed no statistically significant difference in the risk of fatalities in racehorses across different surfaces.
During a presentation from University of Glasgow epidemiologist Tim Parkin, a one year report of information from the database from November 1, 2008 to October 31, 2009 on Thoroughbred flat racing from 73 tracks came up with an overall fatality rate of 2.04 per 1,000 starts. That rate of fatalities on dirt tracks came in at 2.14 while both turf and synthetic tracks had a fatality rate of 1.78.
Included in the data are horses that suffered a fatal injury during a race and immediately after a race, and those that succumbed to a race-related injury subsequent to race day.
One area where the study found a significant difference was when evaluating the data by gender. The study found that female racehorses are half as likely to make a start that results in fatal injury than in tact (non gelded) males.
The rate of fatalities for fillies and mares was 1.79 per 1,000 starts compared to 3.37 for in tact males. There was also no significant data suggesting females are more at risk for fatal injury when racing against males.
“This preliminary analysis just scratches the surface,” said Parkin, who serves as a consultant on the Equine Injury Database. “As the number of starts recorded in the database continues to grow, more complex statistical analyses can focus upon multiple variables studied in concert to better understand the myriad of factors which may contribute to fatal and non-fatal injuries. In addition, differences that may not have achieved statistical significance after one year of data collection may do so with additional observations recorded in the database.”
Juvenile horses were also found to be 30 percent less likely to suffer a fatal injury than 3-year-old or older horses.
“The work presented today represents a starting point, not a destination,” said Dr. Mary Scollay, equine medical director for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and a consultant on the Equine Injury Database. “This begins to answer the question of what is happening. The ‘how’ and ‘why’ remain to be determined.”
The Equine Database was launched in July 2008 and currently has 86 tracks representing 86 percent of the flat racing days in North America participating.