Equine Injury Database: Looking Forward
Kristin Werner Leshney
Kristin Werner Leshney - Legal Associate, The Jockey Club

Kristin Werner Leshney:
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Like many problems in the Thoroughbred industry, the Equine Injury Database has its own abbreviation, we like to call it the EID. From its inception in the Welfare and Safety of the Race Horse Summit in 2006, the EID was designed with three goals in mind. One was to identify certain factors in a horse's past performances that may indicate a horse's risk of injury. These factors are a result of a special branch of study referred to as epidemiology, which provides complex statistical analysis applied to large databases. The results of such studies are increasingly becoming a part of how we make our daily decisions. When you decide to take the stairs instead of the elevator, to quit smoking, or to eat more vegetables you're likely being influenced by assessments of risks that were based on epidemiology. Analysis of racing injury among the nearly 2.5 million starts in the EID is beginning to yield insight into factors associated with racing injury.

So let's review some of the more compelling results that have emerged from the multi‑year analysis of the EID and by Dr.†Tim Parkin at the University of Glasgow and his Ph.D. students.

A vetís list is used by association and regulatory veterinarians to provide horses with illness, injury or soundness issues a brief respite from racing.

Once placed on the list, horses are only allowed to reenter competition after satisfactorily demonstrating fitness to race, typically after an observed workout and a veterinarian inspection. So in theory, the vets list provides a safe harbor for horses with medical issues. After a spell on the vets list, the risk of injury should return to levels normal to the general population. The data from the EID says otherwise. Horses returning to competition after spending time on the vetís list demonstrated an elevated risk of racing injury when compared with horses that have never appeared on a vets list.

In this example, horse A goes on the vetís list, and for any race he competes in for the next six months, noting that at any time in that six months he may have come off the vetís list, the risk of fatal injury is more than doubled. After that six-month period, the risk drops but does not return to baseline.

Horse B is put on the vetís list, and his risk increases as with horse A. After six months, the risk drops to about 60% greater than baseline. This horse then goes on the vetís list again, and his risk goes back up more than twofold for another six months. These results would indicate that current rules governing the vetís list may be allowing horses to prematurely return to competition.

To address this issue, we are working closely with regulatory and association veterinarians to create a single, multi-jurisdictional standard for the vetís list. The standard would include enhanced veterinarian inspections, drug testing using post-race standards and an unyielding commitment to reciprocal enforcement among all jurisdictions.

Since 1994, the total number of Thoroughbred races in the U.S. has declined 36% from 63,900 to 41,120 in 2014. However, the proportion of races contested at 5 1/2 furlongs or less has grown from 15% to now 25% of the total number of races, and the proportion of races contested at a distance greater than a mile has declined from 22% to just 17% of total races.

Each year we publish a summary on jockeyclub.com of certain benchmark statistics from the EID by distance, racing surface and age. The risk of racing fatality has been 20% higher than in races of 6 furlongs as compared to longer instances, with the lowest incidence of racing fatality recorded for races that were a mile or longer.

We have started to drill into this data further and we were surprised to see a fairly linear relationship. For each additional furlong added to the distance of a race, regardless if it's 5 furlongs to 6, or 9 furlongs to 10, the risk of racing fatality decreases by approximately 10%.

So the results from the EID as we see it are conclusive. Longer races are safer races, regardless of when, where, or on what racing surface the race occurs. Yet the trend in racing offices in this country seems to tilt in writing shorter races in the condition book. It's interesting to note that the Thoroughbred Breedersí Association, which is the association that represents breeders in Great Britain and Europe, recently announced an ambitious effort to protect a vital part of their heritage by promoting the scheduling of longer races.

One final area of interest is the continuing study of a relationship between purse, claiming price, and the incidence of fatal injury.

Cash infusions from non‑pari‑mutuel sources have resulted in steep increases in purse levels over the past several years. In 2012, a New York task force concluded that the value of the purse should not exceed 1.6 times the claiming price. The AAEP recently announced a similar recommendation about purses not exceeding the claiming price by more than 50%. Both of these recommendations were validated with data from the EID.

So you can imagine our surprise at the recent announcement of purses in claiming races approaching 3.5 times the tag in a meet scheduled to open later this month.

So where do we go from here with the EID?

Our ultimate goal is to incorporate the risk factors identified through continued epidemiology study through software systems and surfaces that can assist racetracks, owners, trainers and veterinarians in identifying horses that may require a closer look before racing.

The past and future success of the EID would not be possible without the enthusiastic cooperation of racetracks and regulatory veterinarians around the country. I'm also grateful to Dr.†Mary Scollay and Dr.†Rick Arthur who were so instrumental in the creation, design, and implementation of the database.

On behalf of The Jockey Club and Equine Injury Database, I'd like to thank all of those who share our goal of enhancing the safety of our equine athletes. It is now my pleasure to introduce Rick Bailey, the registrar of The Jockey Club. Rick is going to share some information with you on microchips. Thank you very much.

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