An analysis of data from the Equine Injury Database (EID), comparing 2018 statistics with figures from 2017, has shown an insignificant increase in the frequency of fatal injury, as announced Friday, March 22, 2019, by The Jockey Club.

Across all surfaces, ages and distances, the fatality rate rose from 1.61 per 1,000 starts in 2017 to 1.68 per 1,000 starts in 2018. The overall fatality rate of 1.68 is still in the lower half of percentages of data collected since the EID began publishing annual statistics in 2009.

Dr. Tim Parkin, a veterinarian and epidemiologist from the University of Glasgow, who serves as a consultant on the EID, once again performed the analysis. He did not find the less than 5% increase statistically significant.

“Analysis of the EID has demonstrated that there are a multitude of factors that contribute to the risk of fatal injuries in Thoroughbred racehorses,” says Parkin. “Moving forward, we should focus on the medications present in horses during racing and training, transparency of veterinary records for all starters and the collection of injury data from morning training hours.”

The 2018 study demonstrated that 2-yer-olds were associated with a statistically significant lower rate (1.28 per 1,000 starts) compared to older horses (1.72 per 1,000 starts). 

The fatality rates associated with each racing surface were as follows:

  • On turf surfaces, there were 1.20 fatalities per 1,000 starts in 2018, compared to 1.36 in 2017.
  • On dirt surfaces, there were 1.86 fatalities per 1,000 starts in 2018, compared to 1.74 in 2017.
  • On synthetic surfaces, there were 1.23 fatalities per 1,000 starts in 2018, compared to 1.10 in 2017.

A graph depicting all updated statistical data pertaining to surface, distance, and age is available here.

Since the EID began collecting data in 2009, there has been a 16% drop in the rate across all surfaces, which lends to the insignificance of the slight increase. There was an 11% drop on dirt, a 38% drop on turf and a 17% drop on synthetic surfaces since 2009. 

There has been a slight change in fatality rates over distance compared to previous years. In 2018, injury rates were higher in middle distance races (6 to 8 furlongs) compared to shorter races (less than 6 furlongs) which statistically saw higher injury rates than middle and long distances (more than 8 furlongs). This is the first time in the 10 years of recording that middle-distance races have displayed higher instances of injury than races of other lengths. 

The statistics are based on injuries that resulted in fatalities within 72 hours from the date of the race. Summary statistics are subject to change due to a number of considerations, including reporting timeliness.

During 2018, there were 25 self-reporting tracks included in the analysis of 109 that have given data. Those that self-report have a combined rate of 1.51. On average, the lowest average rate (1.45) was seen among tracks that disclose their fatality rates and are accredited by the National Thoroughbred Racing Assn.’s Safety and Integrity Alliance. 

In 2019, tracks accounting for approximately 98% of flat racing days are expected to contribute to the EID.  

The EID was conceived at the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation’s first Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit and was launched by The Jockey Club in July 2008. It seeks to identify the frequencies, types and outcomes of racing injuries using a standardized format that generates valid statistics, identifies markers for horses at increased risk of injury and serves as a data source for research directed at improving safety and preventing injuries.