03/23/2010 12:00AM

Jockey Club issues fatality findings

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Thoroughbred racehorses suffer fatal breakdowns at a rate of 2.04 horses per 1,000 starts, the Jockey Club said Tuesday after analyzing data collected from 73 racetracks over a one-year period ending last November.

The rate is expected to be used as a guidepost when determining the industry's progress - or lack thereof - in reducing the number of catastrophic breakdowns that occur in the sport. The Jockey Club launched a program to collect data from racetracks in 2008, and so far nearly every major track in the country is participating in the voluntary project.

The rate was gleaned from 378,864 total starts that were recorded from Nov. 1, 2008, to Nov. 1, 2009. The data was analyzed by Dr. Tim Parkin, a veterinarian and epidemiologist at the University of Glasgow who is serving as a consultant on the project.

The Jockey Club did not release data that provided catastrophic breakdown rates for horses running on dirt, turf, or artificial surfaces, or the rates associated with other variables. According to Matt Iuliano, the executive vice president and executive director of the Jockey Club, the data has not yet been sufficiently analyzed to provide accurate rates for a number of categories that would be of interest to racetracks and horsemen, but that analysis is ongoing.

"When you look at the variables that may have an effect on fatalities, they are myriad," said Iuliano. "The rates can differ by gender, by distance of the race, by age, by the number of turns in a race, or the conditions of a race itself. These are very complicated analyses, and we've been very careful to approach this scientifically."

Parkin will present a more detailed analysis of the data during the June 28-29 Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit at Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington, according to Iuliano.