State Now Tracking Thoroughbred Injuries

Associated Press Writer
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Just over a year after Kentucky Derby
winner Barbaro shattered his leg in the Preakness, 30 racetracks
across the country are set to launch a program to record on-track
injuries to horses.
Under the new system, veterinarians at each track will fill out
a standardized form to compile detailed reports of the injuries.
The pilot program begins Friday at tracks from California to
Florida, including three in Kentucky: Churchill Downs, Keeneland
and Turfway Park.
Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, where Barbaro suffered his
ultimately fatal injury last May, hasn't yet signed on.
The monitoring system, one of the suggestions generated last
October at an industry summit on horse welfare and safety in
Lexington, will give tracks better information about not just how
many injuries there are but also what causes them.
While most tracks have been keeping records of injuries -
particularly catastrophic ones - the data was almost useless when
comparing one to another because of different definitions used by
the onsite veterinarians. For example, one track might consider
racetrack fatalities only to be horses euthanized that day, whereas
others could include horses such as Barbaro that died several
months later.
"It is not going to be an absolute panacea to eliminate
injuries," said Mary Scollay, association veterinarian at Calder
Race Course and Gulfstream Park, who developed the system. "It is
going to be a tool racetracks can use."
Scollay is compiling a computerized database, which will
determine not just what percentage of horses are injured on a given
race course but also the types of injuries, the location on the
track where they happened and details about the horse - including
breeding history and any medications they may have been using.
The results will be kept confidential, released only to the
reporting veterinarians, who will share them with the tracks.
"It is not my intention to allow this database to be used to
point fingers and say, 'Your track is bad, your track is good, your
track is worse than someone else,"' Scollay said. "That's not
Although the horse community was examining racetrack safety well
before Barbaro's ill-fated run, officials acknowledged the public
outcry over that incident expedited things.
"When that happened, the industry was at a loss to be able to
answer the question, 'How frequent are injuries?"' said Ed Bowen,
president of the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation. "A lot
of people took it as kind of an embarrassment that this industry
can't answer that simple question."
There are many proposed solutions to making tracks safer - from
synthetic surfaces to improved guard rails - but track officials
are hoping to use this information to determine which would be most
Lisa Underwood, executive director of the Kentucky Horse Racing
Authority, said the new reporting form is similar to the one that
has been used in her state. But, she said there are huge advantages
to centralizing the information.
"We were compiling the data, but we didn't have the manpower to
then go forward and do the studies," Underwood said.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)