07/21/2008 11:00PM

Jockey Club starts injury database


LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Jockey Club has launched horse racing's first nationwide database logging racing injuries, the organization announced Tuesday.

According to the Jockey Club's announcement, the database's objectives are to identify the frequency, types, and outcome of racing injuries using a standardized format that will generate valid statistics; identify markers for horses at increased risk of injury; and serve as a data source for research directed at improving safety and preventing injuries.

The database stems from discussions at the Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit, hosted by the Jockey Club in Lexington two years ago. Public attention to racehorse injuries had been heightened that year by Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro's breakdown in the Preakness Stakes; he was euthanized in January 2007 due to complications from his injuries. This year, racing found itself under increased public scrutiny again after Kentucky Derby runner-up Eight Belles fatally broke both ankles while galloping out after the Derby. Those deaths and the public backlash prompted a Congressional inquiry into horse injuries, steroid use, and other racing-related issues.

The Jockey Club tested a pilot program of the equine injury database from June 1, 2007, to July 12, 2008, logging more than 3,000 reports of horse injuries. Dr. Mary Scollay and Dr. Rick Arthur assisted the Jockey Club with the pilot program and system testing, and regulatory veterinarians around the country also provided information.

The database will be provided to participating racetracks and racing organizations free of charge.

"The racetracks' information will be available to them at any time," Jockey Club spokesman Bob Curran said, "and when we have what we feel is a statistically significant data set, then that would be made public."

Injured horses and their pedigrees will remain anonymous, as will specific racetracks' injury rates, in any information that is released to the public, Curran said.

About 70 racetracks so far have expressed interest in participating in the data collection, Curran said.

Bidders uninterested in owner information

The Fasig-Tipton July yearling sale last week marked the debut of the voluntary ownership information repository, and a committee designated to oversee that and other new sales-transparency efforts reports participation was light.

According to the Sales Integrity Task Force's Monitoring Committee, of 498 horses that went through the ring at the two-day auction, 82 had their ownership disclosed in the repository. Sixty-one of those horses were animals cataloged to the sale with no ownership listed openly in the catalog, so their inclusion in the repository would have presented new information to potential bidders.

That is, if any bidders had asked for the information. Monitoring Committee chairman D. G. Van Clief Jr., who also is chairman of Fasig-Tipton, said Tuesday that there were no requests for access to the ownership repository. Van Clief called that "the most interesting statistic of all."

Ownership disclosure has been an important issue for some buyers, most notably Stonestreet Stables owner Jess Jackson. Some buyers maintain that hidden ownership in sales horses can constitute a conflict of interest when an undisclosed owner bids on a horse in order to inflate its auction-ring value - and, by extension, raise the reported sales average for the horse's sire or covering sire.

The ownership repository is open only to registered buyers and their agents, who must present personal identification before entering and sign a confidentiality agreement before leaving in order to prevent the information from becoming public.

Van Clief acknowledged that the ownership repository - whose existence was listed in Fasig-Tipton's conditions of sale as the 20th condition, "Transparency in Ownership," as well as announcement from the auctioneer's stand - might not have been obvious to buyers.

"It was in the cashier's office next to the walking ring," he said. "There was an individual sitting at the counter who was responsible for providing that information. . . . That's something we have thought of, as a remediation move in the future, to make it a little clearer."

Van Clief also said there have been no complaints of agents' misconduct under the code of ethics now set out in the conditions of sale. And 22 requested post-sale steroid tests turned up no positives.

"Obviously, it's preliminary information, and it probably gives some hints as to what we'll be seeing throughout the year," Van Clief said of the information from the July auction.

Committee members expect more feedback from the Keeneland September sale, which will likely catalog more than 5,000 yearlings.

Van Clief said the committee is "very keen" to hire a consulting firm after the Keeneland November sale to survey buyers and sellers for information on how the market is responding to the task force's policies. Those policies also have resulted in other changes to the conditions of sale, including the prohibition of behind-the-knee blistering and shockwave therapy to alter conformation and soundness issues; testing for exogenous anabolic steroids; and sanctions against agents found to have violated the code of conduct.

Trippi relocating to South Africa

Ocala Stud Farm stallion Trippi, a Grade 1 winner, will relocate from Florida to South Africa next week.

Ocala Stud announced that the 11-year-old End Sweep horse has been sold and will stand at Johann and Gaynor Rupert's L'Ormarins Stud north of Cape Town. Trippi previously was owned by Ocala Stud owner Mike O'Farrell, Harold Plumley, Vernon Heath, and Joyce Robsham.

The sire of such stakes winners as Miss Macy Sue, Trippi's Storm, Green Vegas, and A Sea Trippi, Trippi led Florida's sire standings in 2007.