Updated on 03/06/2012 4:26PM

Jockey Club to make injury data available on website


Fifteen racetracks have agreed to allow the Jockey Club to publish data about catastrophic injuries suffered by horses at their tracks, the Jockey Club announced Monday.

The data will be made available at a website created and maintained by the Jockey Club. The racetracks that have agreed to allow their data to be made public are Aqueduct, Belmont, Del Mar, Golden Gate, Gulfstream Park, Keeneland, Laurel Park, Lone Star Park, Pimlico, Portland Meadows, Remington Park, Santa Anita, Saratoga, Turfway Park, and Woodbine, the Jockey Club said.

The publication of the data is the latest step in an effort by the Jockey Club and the larger racing industry to respond to concerns about the welfare of the sport’s animals. Those concerns have intensified over the past decade due to several high-profile breakdowns and the ever-growing influence of the animal-welfare movement in the U.S.

The new website is an outgrowth of a project called the Equine Injury Database, which was launched more than 3 1/2 years ago. Since the launch of the project, the Jockey Club has collected more than 30,000 records of injuries at racetracks that represent approximately 93 percent of the race days in North America, the Jockey Club said.

The project was designed to gather data on the injuries in order to identify trends or causes that underlie catastrophic breakdowns, which remain among the most troubling animal-welfare issues in the sport, alongside the slaughter of retired racehorses. Racetracks that participate in the project were told at the outset that any public release of the data would not identify the racetrack where the injury occurred without the racetrack’s consent.

Some racetracks – including Keeneland, Woodbine, and the tracks in California – already publish their injury data. With the exception of Santa Anita, all of those tracks have artificial surfaces. Santa Anita replaced its synthetic surface with a dirt surface late in 2010 because of ongoing drainage problems with two types of artificial tracks.

“The new website is designed to encourage other racetracks to follow their lead and make public their data in a standard, summary fashion,” said James Gagliano, the president of the Jockey Club.

Publication of the data could open a racetrack up for criticism if its rates for catastrophic injuries do not compare well with other tracks. Late in 2010, an epidemiologist studying the data concluded that horses suffer 1.55 catastrophic breakdowns per 1,000 starts on artificial surfaces compared to 2.14 breakdowns per 1,000 starts on dirt surfaces. The overall rate was 2 breakdowns per 1,000 starts.

According to Bob Curran, a spokesperson for the Jockey Club, the results of a third epidemiological review of the data is expected to be released within the next month.

According to the Jockey Club, the data that will be provided through the website will be in summary form, providing the date for the injury, the track’s number of racedays, the number of starts for the horse that was injured, and the horse’s age and sex. The distance of the race and the type of surface will also be included.

Notable by their absence among the tracks that have agreed to have the data published are the four tracks owned by Churchill Downs Inc., which hosts the most high-profile race in the country, the Kentucky Derby. Churchill’s four tracks have all provided data to the Equine Injury Database.

John Asher, a spokesperson for Churchill, said in a statement that the company will continue to provide injury reports to the data base. However, he said the company has elected so far not to allow the data to be published and said the data for Churchill Downs in Kentucky is provided to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. "Anyone wishing to review the information we disclose can easily obtain it from the KHRC,” Asher said.