02/07/2014 2:28PM

Equine fatalities down 24 percent in California, board reports


ARCADIA, Calif. – Equine fatalities at California tracks dropped 24 percent in the 2012-13 fiscal year to its lowest number in more than two decades, according to the California Horse Racing Board’s annual report, published earlier this month.

From July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013, 209 horses of all breeds died within enclosures under the jurisdiction of the racing board throughout the state. By comparison, there were 278 fatalities in the 2011-2012 fiscal year, and 265 in the 2010-2011 fiscal year. The figure reached 325 in the 2007-08 fiscal year.

“That’s a substantial drop,” said California equine medical director Dr. Rick Arthur.

For the 2012-13 fiscal year, the racing board listed 90 fatalities during racing, 56 fatalities during training and 63 other deaths from such causes as heart attacks, diseases including colic, colitis and enteritis, and respiratory and neurological causes.

Although the commission did not release fatalities by breed, Arthur said there were fewer Thoroughbred fatalities during the last fiscal year than any year since 1991, when the commission began keeping track of equine deaths.

For the preceding fiscal year, there were 96 racing fatalities, 111 during training, and 71 other causes of fatalities.

Arthur cited several policies enacted by the racing board as contributing factors in the reduction of equine fatalities.

“It was a good year,” Arthur said. “All the efforts we’ve undertaken – lowering the threshold of bute, voiding claims [for unsound horses], more attention to pre-race exams, and what we can learn from necropsy reports – I think it’s paid off. It’s a multi-factorial issue.”

Data for the current fiscal year are comparable to 2012-13, he said.

“We’re on track for the same kind of year this year,” Arthur said, without detailing statistics.

Los Alamitos, which runs lower-level Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses on a dirt track on a year-round basis, had the highest number of racing fatalities at 36 in fiscal 2012-13, down one from 2011-12. By comparison, there were 10 on the dirt track at Santa Anita. On racetracks with synthetic surfaces, there were nine fatalities during racing at Golden Gate Fields, seven at Hollywood Park, and five at Del Mar.

During the 2012-13 fiscal year, there were 21 fatalities on the dirt track at Santa Anita during training, and one at Los Alamitos. On synthetic surfaces, there were 15 fatalities during training at Hollywood Park, 11 at Golden Gate Fields, and four at Del Mar.

The number of starters at the state’s racetracks fell 3.8 percent, from 48,691 in fiscal 2011-12 to 46,908 in 2012-13. The number of starters in synthetic-track races declined less than 1 percent, while the number of starters in turf races increased 2.8 percent. The number of starters on dirt fell from 28,675 in 2011-12 to 26,778, a decline of 6.6 percent.

Wagering rose from $2,888,835,972 in 2011-12 to $3,039,604,194 in 2012-13, a gain of 5.2 percent. The figure was $2,903,905,682 in 2010-2011 and as high as $4.38 billion in the 2007-08 fiscal year, according to previous annual reports.

Purses in 2012-13 totaled $146,464,577, a gain of 5.8 percent over distribution of $138,382,643 in 2011-12.