The rate of fatal injury of Thoroughbred racehorses increased slightly in 2017, according to an analysis of Equine Injury Database (EID) statistics.

The rate increased from 1.54 per 1,000 starts in 2016 to 1.61 per 1,000 starts in 2017, according to the analysis performed by Tim Parkin, a veterinarian and epidemiologist from the University of Glasgow and EID consultant.

Although the fatality rate experienced a modest increase, the overall risk has decreased over the past 9 years. There has been a 20% drop in the risk of fatal injury across all surfaces, a 17% decrease on dirt, as well as a 30% decrease on turf.

“Although fatality rates increased this year from last year, the increase in rates is not statistically significant,” Parkin says. “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.”

The largest increase in the fatality rate occurred on turf surfaces with 1.36 per 1,000 starts in 2017, compared with 1.09 in 2016. Dirt surfaces maintain the highest rate of fatalities with 1.74 per 1,000 starts in 2017; however, it increased just 0.03 from 2016. Synthetic surfaces remained at 1.1 fatalities per 1,000 starts.

Shorter race distances (less than 6 furlongs) once again had higher injury rates (1.66) compared with medium distances of 6 to 8 furlongs (1.64) and long distances of more than 8 furlongs (1.47). This trend has remained consistent since the EID began collecting data in 2009.