Risk factors for race-day fatality in flat racing Thoroughbreds in Great Britain (2000 to 2013)

Rosanowski, S M and Chang, Y M and Stirk, A J and Verheyen, K L P (2018) Risk factors for race-day fatality in flat racing Thoroughbreds in Great Britain (2000 to 2013). PLoS One, 13 (3). e0194299.

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Abstract

A key focus of the racing industry is to reduce the number of race-day events where horses die suddenly or are euthanased due to catastrophic injury. The objective of this study was therefore to determine risk factors for race-day fatalities in Thoroughbred racehorses, using a cohort of all horses participating in flat racing in Great Britain between 2000 and 2013. Horse-, race- and course-level data were collected and combined with all race-day fatalities, recorded by racecourse veterinarians in a central database. Associations between exposure variables and fatality were assessed using logistic regression analyses for (1) all starts in the dataset and (2) starts made on turf surfaces only. There were 806,764 starts in total, of which 548,571 were on turf surfaces. A total of 610 fatalities were recorded; 377 (61.8%) on turf. In both regression models, increased firmness of the going, increasing racing distance, increasing average horse performance, first year of racing and wearing eye cover for the first time all increased the odds of fatality. Generally, the odds of fatality also increased with increasing horse age whereas increasing number of previous starts reduced fatality odds. In the ‘all starts’ model, horses racing in an auction race were at 1.46 (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.06–2.01) times the odds of fatality compared with horses not racing in this race type. In the turf starts model, horses racing in Group 1 races were at 3.19 (95% CI 1.71–5.93) times the odds of fatality compared with horses not racing in this race type. Identification of novel risk factors including wearing eye cover and race type will help to inform strategies to further reduce the rate of fatality in flat racing horses, enhancing horse and jockey welfare and safety.

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