Horse racing oversight board reports equine fatality rate at tracks it regulates


Horse racing’s federal oversight body says racetracks under its jurisdiction experienced 1.23 racing-related equine fatalities per 1,000 starts in 2023, a much lower rate than at tracks outside its watch.

The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority report, released Tuesday, also stated that its fatality rate was lower than the Jockey Club’s national rate of 1.25 for 2022 and the 1.32 rate reported on Tuesday in its 2023 Equine Injury Database. The HISA release stated that methodologies and criteria for reporting rates are identical to the Jockey Club, but noted that the Jockey Club’s rates for the past two years include data from U.S. thoroughbred tracks operating outside of HISA’s jurisdiction.

Those tracks have a significantly higher rate of 1.63 per 1,000 starts, the release added.

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HISA’s fatality rate report was the first for tracks under its watch since a safety program was enacted in July 2022. An anti-doping and medication control program took effect last May.

Kentucky Derby

Mage, jockeyed by Javier Castellano, wins the 149th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, on May 6, 2023. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

HISA CEO Lisa Lazarus said the organization was pleased to see the rate “trending in the right direction,” while adding that significant work remains in making the sport safer.

“HISA’s most important goal is driving down equine fatalities,” Lazarus said in the release. “The reduction in the rate of equine fatalities at tracks under our jurisdiction demonstrates that setting high standards for racetrack safety and anti-doping and medication control across the country makes Thoroughbred racing safer.”

HISA’s findings followed a year in which Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby, and Saratoga Race Course in upstate New York experienced a spate of horse deaths last spring and summer from practice or race-related injuries.

Twelve horses died at Churchill Downs from late April to late May — including seven in the run-up to last May’s 149th Derby with two fatalities on the undercard. HISA convened an emergency summit with the track and Kentucky racing officials, and the historic track shifted the June portion of its spring meet to Ellis Park in Henderson, Kentucky, to review surface and safety protocols.

A HISA report released Monday found no definitive cause in 13 racing or training deaths at Saratoga during the 2023 season — another horse died in a barn stall accident — but added that rainfall “could not be overlooked” as a factor.

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The 150th Derby is May 4 at Churchill Downs. Saratoga will host the third leg of the Triple Crown in June in the first of consecutive years.



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