Nearly 400 thoroughbreds suffered fatal injuries while racing in 2021

The numbers for 2021 fatalities reflect only a slight improvement in horse safety.
The numbers for 2021 fatalities reflect only a slight improvement in horse safety.(WRDW)
Published: Mar. 29, 2022 at 4:24 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Hundreds of thoroughbreds died last year because of racing injuries, according to the Jockey Club’s Equine Injury Database (EID).

The numbers for 2021 fatalities reflect only a slight improvement in horse safety.

“I sort of look at 2021 as, I don’t want to say, an aberration,” Dr. Mary Scollay, Executive Director of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium said. “But, I don’t know if it is representative of what would have happened had we not experienced a global pandemic.”

In 2021, 366 thoroughbreds suffered fatal injuries while racing, 33 more than in 2020.

Overall, however, the national rate of fatal injuries was slightly better with 1.39 fatalities per 1000 starts, compared to 1.41 in 2020.

Scollay said the fatality numbers will get better as more tracks hire more people to provide medical oversight.

”We need qualified people to be available and willing,” Scollay said, “to be track side in the morning watching courses train, doing barn visits, examining horses in between races.”

Churchill Downs has a full-time medical director monitoring horse medical records and performance. And as the new national numbers come out, the track claims to be ahead of the curve in preventing racing fatalities.

”We’re approximately 25 percent better than the national average,” Dr. Will Farmer, Churchill Downs Equine Medical Director said.

“Last year I would like to say we had one of the safest dirt surfaces in the country,” Farmer added. “We had exceptional safety on our dirt track last year and we’re really proud of that.”

Of the 366 fatalities in 2021, 285 suffered fatal injuries racing on dirt tracks.

Churchill Downs fatalities are included in the collected national numbers published by the Jockey Club, but the number of horses that suffered fatal injuries at the track last year were not disclosed.

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WAVE — Louisville and Southern Indiana's NBC affiliate. Follow us on Twitter & Instagram @wave3news.(WAVE)

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