Death rate for American Thoroughbreds fell slightly in 2021, database figures show

Image by Clarence Alford

The death rate among thoroughbred racehorses in the United States continues to drop, according to the latest statistics.

The United States Jockey Club has released Equine Injury Database data for 2021 – the 13th year of reporting fatalities under the database system.

It shows a fatal injury rate in 2021 of 1.39 per 1000 starts, down slightly from the 2020 result of 1.41 fatalities per 1000 starts.

This is the third consecutive year that the number has decreased. The 2021 rate is the lowest since the database began collecting information in 2009. The figure represents a drop of 1.4% from 2020 and 30.5% overall since 2009.

Based on 2021 data, 99.86% of flat race starts at racetracks participating in the database were fatally free.

The figures showed the risk varied by age, with 2-year-olds being least at risk, with 0.98 deaths per 1,000 starts. Three-year-olds had a death rate of 1.52 per 1,000 departures, while those aged four or older had a death rate of 1.38.

After peaking in 2020 to dominate all age groups, 2-year-olds have regained the lowest incidence of running deaths among age groups. The 0.98 per 1000 starts is the lowest ever by age and the first time the mortality rate for 2-year-olds has fallen below 1 per 1000 starts.

“The trends we discovered in the 2020 data show that interrupting a 2-year-old’s prep year can have a detrimental effect, but it doesn’t carry over to the 3-year-old” , said Dr. Tim Parkin, veterinarian. epidemiologist who has consulted the database since its inception.

“We will continue to study the data to further help prevent injuries and make the sport safer.”

The risk also varied by distance, with races under six furlongs having a fatality rate of 1.35. Races of 6 to 8 furlongs had a fatality rate of 1.46, while those over 8 furrows had a rate of 1.19.

Short- and long-range fatality rates were the lowest for the respective categories since 2009.

Synthetic track surfaces had the lowest overall fatality rate at 0.73, followed by grass at 1.25 and dirt at 1.51 per 1,000 starts. The rate on synthetic fell below 1 for only the second time since the database was created and is the lowest since 2009.

There has been an overall statistically significant decline since 2009 in the risk of fatal injury on all surfaces: the risk on dirt has decreased by 28.1%, while on grass it has decreased by 35.6%. The risk of death on synthetic surfaces since 2009 has decreased by 51%.

The Jockey Club’s President and Chief Operating Officer, James Gagliano, said the database was provided as a service to the industry, and the club is delighted that it is proving to be an invaluable asset to find out. more about horse safety.

“The declining trends in data from the Equine Injury Database are very encouraging, and I want to thank 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 database on the Jockey Club website.

Racetracks that publish their statistics through the database reported race deaths per 1,000 starts at 1.15, 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 deaths per 1,000 starts compared to 1.50 for the 58 unaccredited tracks that raced in 2021 and reported to the database.

Database statistics are based on injuries that resulted in death within 72 hours of the race date. Statistics are for official Thoroughbred races only and exclude steeplechase races.

EID summary statistics are subject to change due to various considerations, including timeliness of notification. All data entered into the database goes through a multi-level quality control process to ensure data is reported completely and accurately.

The list of racetracks participating in the database and detailed statistics of circuits that voluntarily publish their results are available here.

Throughout 2021, approximately 99% of all Thoroughbred starts have been included in the database, which was designed at the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation’s inaugural Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit.

The database was launched by the Jockey Club in July 2008 with the aim of identifying the frequencies, types and outcomes of racing injuries using a standardized format that generates valid statistics. It also identifies factors for horses at increased risk of injury and serves as a source for research aimed at improving safety and preventing injury.