http://www.thestar.com/sports/horseraci ... roughbreds
Survey shows Woodbine racing surface is safer for thoroughbreds
Published On Thu Mar 25 2010
By Chris Zelkovich Sports Media Columnist
A study of American and Canadian racetracks shows the death rate of thoroughbred horses is twice as high as in any other country.
But the U.S.-based Jockey Club's first comprehensive analysis of thoroughbred injury data in the United States and Canada, which shows racehorse deaths happen at a rate of 2.04 per 1,000 starts, doesn't appear to apply here.
The death rate at Woodbine Racetrack is more in line with other tracks around the world.
Jamie Martin, Woodbine Entertainment Group's senior vice-president of racing, said Wednesday that 12 horses were euthanized at the Rexdale track last year, a rate of 0.95 per 1,000 starts. Most suffered catastrophic injuries, such as broken legs, during races.
"One is too many, so although we're quite a bit less than the North American average, it's still not acceptable to us," Martin said.
The analysis is part of a study that will focus mainly on whether synthetic tracks are safer than dirt tracks and whether medications play a role in thoroughbred deaths.
Last fall, data from the California Horse Racing Board showed that the number of fatal injuries in the state had fallen by 40 per cent since thoroughbred tracks switched from dirt to synthetic surfaces.
Martin believes Woodbine's experience, which is in line with European death rates, is due to a variety of factors.
"We have had a synthetic surface since 2006, which we believe is better," he said, adding that death rates have been stable for some time. "But there are other factors."
Martin said Ontario Racing Commission veterinarians inspect all horses before they race, ensuring that injured animals don't run.
"Our medication rules are more stringent here than they are in the U.S.," he added.
They are even more stringent in other countries, where horses race less often and usually on turf.
The fatality rate in England is 0.8 to 0.9.
"I give some credit to the Jockey Club for undertaking this," Martin said. "It's good that they're doing this and hopefully gaining knowledge to help reduce (deaths)."
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