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Equine Injury Inquiry
Shirley King | Avenida Primavera


Racing Surface Keeneland. Google Images.
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Equine Injury Statistics for Thoroughbreds from 2009 to 2013.
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The Jockey Club on March 31st released statistics from its equine injury database showing that synthetic racetracks were far safer than dirt or turf. Dr. Tim Parkin, a veterinarian and epidemiologist from the University of Glasgow, who serves as a consultant on the Equine Injury Database and performed the analysis stated that synthetic racing surfaces continued to be associated with significantly fewer fatal injuries than dirt and turf. Then why is the 22nd DAA proposing on its April 8th agenda to replace its polytrack with 13.5-inches of dirt despite its record-setting year in 2013 - its lowest year in fatalities - 0.69 per 1,000 starts.

The 22nd DAA states its reason to convert is to create safer racing conditions for horses and riders as it would result in a uniformity of racing surfaces with other Southern California racetracks. In 2005 the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) the governmental body responsible for regulating horse racing in the State of California required that all California racetracks convert their dirt surfaces to a synthetic material. The intent was to provide horses with a consistent racing surface. But CHRB did not insist on a specific type of uniform surface materials amongst the tracks. CHRB rescinded in 2010 the regulation requiring synthetic surfaces. Immediately Santa Anita reverted back to dirt, but Del Mar and Hollywood Park (permanently closed as of December 2013) retained their synthetic surfaces.

The safest racetrack in the nation is Keeneland, in Lexington, Kentucky with 0.33 fatalities per 1,000 starts in 2013. In lockstep the 22nd DAA is following Keeneland whose April 2nd Press Release announced the upcoming conversion from synthetic to dirt this summer with a statement from its president and chief executive, Bill Thompson “Owners and trainers, especially those who compete at the highest level of the sport, overwhelmingly prefer dirt tracks.” (But what do the horses prefer?) It is well known that Del Mar and Keeneland are vying for the Breeders’ Cup, which Santa Anita and its dirt track have hosted three years in a row. On the Santa Anita synthetic surface before 2010, horses were injured at a rate of 0.90 per 1,000 starts. Their rate on dirt was 3.45 per 1,000 in 2010; 2.94 per 1,000 in 2011; 2.89 per 1,000 in 2012 and 2.19 per 1,000 in 2013 – three times Del Mar and seven times Keeneland. Now who is really the winner in the Breeders’ Cup. Certainly not the horses!



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