Slight decrease in fatal injury among racing Thoroughbreds during 2021

Injury rates among flat racers have fallen for three consecutive years, according to data gathered by The Jockey Club

An analysis of data from the 13th year of reporting to the Equine Injury Database (EID) shows a decrease in the rate of fatal injury in 2021 (1.39 per 1,000 starts) compared to 2020 (1.41 per 1,000 starts), The Jockey Club announced today. This is the third year in a row that the number has decreased, and the 2021 rate of fatal injury is the lowest number since the EID started collecting data in 2009. The risk of fatal injury in 2021 declined 1.4% from 2020 and 30.5% overall since 2009.


Statistical Summary from 2009 to 2021
(Thoroughbred Flat Racing Only)

Calendar
Year
2009201020112012201320142015201620172018201920202021
Rate2.001.881.881.921.901.891.621.541.611.681.531.411.39

Based on the 2021 data, 99.86% of flat racing starts at the racetracks participating in the EID were completed without a fatality.

Key statistics from the 2021 analysis are as follows (figures represent the incidence of racing fatality per 1,000 starts):

  • By age
    • 2-year-old:        0.98
    • 3-year-old:        1.52
    • 4+-year-old:      1.38
  • By race distance
    • <6 furlongs:      1.35
    • 6 – 8 furlongs:  1.46
    • >8 furlongs:      1.19
  • By track surface
    • Dirt:                  1.51
    • Turf:                 1.25
    • Synthetic:         0.73

For trends of the EID since 2009, please visit jockeyclub.com/pdfs/eid_13_year_tables.pdf.

After spiking in 2020 to lead all age groups, 2-year-olds returned to having the lowest incidence of racing fatality among the age groups. The 0.98 per 1,000 starts is the lowest on record by age and the first time the fatality rate for 2-year-olds has dropped below 1.0 per 1,000.

A group of racehorses in the home stretch
Since March 2012, racetracks have been able to voluntarily publish their statistics from the EID on The Jockey Club website.

“The trends we discovered in the 2020 data show evidence that interrupting a 2-year-old’s prep year may have a detrimental effect, but it does not carry over to the 3-year-old year,” said Dr. Tim Parkin, the veterinary epidemiologist who has consulted on the EID since its inception. “We will continue to investigate the data to further help prevent injuries and make the sport safer.”

There has been a statistically significant drop overall since 2009 in the risk of fatal injury across all surfaces: dirt (28.1%), turf (35.6%), and synthetic (51%). The rate on synthetic (0.73) dropped below 1.0 for the second time and is the lowest since 2009.

Also for the second time, the middle-distance races (1.46) were higher overall than the shorter (1.35) and longer (1.19) distances. The shorter and longer distance fatality rates were the lowest for the respective categories since 2009.

“We provided this database as a service to the industry, and we are pleased that it is proving to be an invaluable asset in learning more about keeping our athletes safe,” said James L. Gagliano, president and chief operating officer of The Jockey Club. “The downward trends in the EID data are very encouraging, and I’d like to thank the participating racetracks and official veterinarians for working with us and making this critical data available.”

Since March 2012, racetracks have been able to voluntarily publish their statistics from the EID on The Jockey Club website. The racetracks that publish their EID statistics reported racing fatalities per 1,000 starts of 1.15 as compared to 1.54 for those that do not publish.

The 22 racetracks accredited by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association Safety and Integrity Alliance reported 1.24 racing fatalities per 1,000 starts versus 1.50 for the 58 non-accredited tracks that raced in 2021 and reported to the EID.

The EID statistics are based on injuries that resulted in fatalities within 72 hours from the date of the race. The statistics are for official Thoroughbred races only and exclude steeplechase races. Summary statistics for the EID are subject to change due to a number of considerations, including reporting timeliness. All data entered into the EID goes through a multilevel quality control process to ensure the data is completely and accurately reported.

The list of racetracks participating in the EID and detailed statistics from those tracks that voluntarily publish their results can be found at jockeyclub.com/default.asp?section=Advocacy&area=11.

Throughout the course of 2021, approximately 99% of all Thoroughbred starts were included in the EID.

The Equine Injury Database, conceived at the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation’s first Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit, was launched by The Jockey Club in July 2008 and 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.