The Jockey Club’s Death Database is a Joke

Last week, The Jockey Club gleefully boasted of progress on the “breakdown” front: “An analysis of data from the Equine Injury Database…has shown a 14 percent decrease in the frequency of fatal injury…from 1.89 per 1,000 starts in 2014 to 1.62 per 1,000 starts in 2015…the lowest since the EID started publishing…in 2009.”

Well – time to deconstruct the oft-cited, much ballyhooed “Equine Injury Database”…

To start, the wording is (intentionally, I have to believe) misleading: Presented as deaths per 1,000 starts, it reads, at least to the untrained eye, deaths per 1,000 horses. But the typical racehorse logs many starts (up to 25) each year, making the death rate per 1,000 horses much higher – certainly not one they’d want to publicize.

The database is completely voluntary: While many tracks participate, some do not. Besides that, no third party – not the JC, not a government agency, no one – verifies the submitted data. At the risk of stating the obvious, dead horses are bad for business. So, not only is there no compelling reason for tracks (trainers, owners, etc.) to give a complete reckoning, there is a vested interest to not. Self-reporting – an honor system – the casualties that they are directly responsible for? Please.

The database is anonymous: No names, no dates, (mostly) no locations. Not only does this make it impossible for someone like me to cross-confirm, it keeps the names and faces of the dead safely secreted away. Messy carcasses converted to sterile ratios.

The database has acknowledged restrictions: Only those who perish “as a direct result of injuries sustained participating in a race” are counted. In other words, the 3-year-old (an adolescent, by the way) who keels and dies of what is commonly dismissed as a “cardiac event” is excluded, not to mention all training deaths, which are at least as common as those occurring in-race. And, the death must come “within 72 hours of [the] race,” leaving the many who are euthanized back at the farm, post unsuccessful surgery, or after being acquired by a rescue unaccounted for. More hidden carnage.

In the end, The Jockey Club is American Thoroughbred racing, impossible to separate from the other interested parties. How can anything it says regarding the more unseemly aspects (dead horses) of its own industry be taken seriously? Truth is, the “Equine Injury Database” is but a marketing tool, created in the wake of Eight Belles and all the bad press that ensued, existing solely to quell an increasingly unsettled public with an empty promise of “we’re on this, we care.” They’re not and they don’t.

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19 Comments

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  1. Thank you, Patrick. When I saw that headline of death rate dropping; I knew you would dig to the truth. And I am so grateful. Yours is the ONLY voice speaking the gruesome truth. Sharing!

  2. Another thing: you can rest assured you have found the soft spot of this monster. Your slings and arrows of the real time abuse and killing of the racng equines are hitting their mark.

  3. This is an excellent analysis. Spot-on. The Jockey CLub has a vested interest in lying about the true numbers of horses killed as a direct result of racing.

  4. Applauding your work from the UK where we have the horror of all horse races – the Grand National pending in just over a weeks time.

  5. I posted the Jockey Club death toll on my Facebook page, “Carolyn Hyatt – A Citizen Against Doping or Mistreatment of Race Horses” on Marth 24th. I was hoping that Patrick would see this article somewhere. I had a hard time believing the numbers myself. Thank you Patrick for explaining how they came about collecting the numbers obviously missing more than half of the fallen victims.

  6. This is a comment I made on another post. When a horse breaks down or is pulled up due to injury in a race, they will at all means transport the horse off the track, and put it down in the barn area. By doing this they don’t have to report the death of said horse as a racing death. This makes the statistics look better, while covering up the truth. And it also done as not to upset the fans on the apron. (Because it does-greatly) The horseman regulate and oversee themselves. This leads to abuse of the horses, the workers, anyone with a voice, and countless revenue of taxes owed to Federal and State that are not being collected do to fraud by not reporting cash. (That another story.) The protection and slap on the wrists for trainers of racing drug violations. The fox is definitely minding the henhouse.

  7. Patrick, you mentioned the database being voluntary and therefore needing to rely on truthful self-reporting of injuries by owners/trainers – PLEASE, is right. Ron Ellis admitted trainers won’t be truthful in disclosing joint injections/treatments to the new owner of his claimed horse! (http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/98417/chrb-trainers-argue-over-drug-disclosures) …what makes anyone think those same trainers are going to report their dead horses? Ridiculous.

    The following is off topic from this post, but the Paulick Report provided another healthy dose of self-incrimination a few days ago and I’m always pleased to share that here. Just some snippets for y’all;

    -regarding the vet’s/steward’s list and reciprocity between states, “one study by California officials estimated that some 1,600 starts have been made out-of-state by California runners on the [vet’s or steward’s] list.” They simply take their injured horses and run them elsewhere.

    -concerning the disclosure of joint injections, necropsies revealed 74% of racehorse deaths “were due to fractures, [and] 80% of those fractures were in a joint.” Repeated corticosteroid injections weaken bone.

    -further, those necropsies also indicated that “13% of deaths were due to a cardiopulmonary problem, which seems high, considering that heart problems aren’t considered common in horses.” Must be all of those drugs!

    -with some jurisdictions requiring “cushion crops”, there are those who don’t follow those rules and use lookalikes instead. Those lookalikes don’t have the padding [like those required] and “could cause damage to horses”…“if a quick pop hurts your hand on contact, it’s a fake.” It’s a no-brainer that whips hurt horses – but the apologists are desperate for folks to believe otherwise.

    (http://www.paulickreport.com/news/ray-s-paddock/voss-eight-things-learned-years-rci-convention/)

    • Thanks for sharing, Joy and you are spot on as always. It was an excellent article by Voss and the very recent study of 165 New York deaths revealed some of what these horses are enduring. And the whips, so glad that they were raised and that particular comment that ensued.

  8. A HUGE SHOUT OUT to you Patrick! Thanks for the correct analysis of the recent pro-horse racing study recently released.
    Thank you Joy – you are a Joy just like your name.
    Thanks you to the 20 year+ industry insider comment. I haven’t seen you comment before, but your comment was right on.
    This industry is a cruelty circus and a death camp as far as I’m concerned. This is allowed to continue because 1. the industry manages itself 2. they play the job card 3. they lobby and financially contribute (heavily) to politicians 4. there is billions in unreported income while the taxpayers or casinos water them off when they come to the troughs for more 5. they operate with virtual impunity 6. pro-horse racing people maintain the Code of Silence which is always necessary when it comes to animal or human atrocities in the history of our planet. 7. like any other industry that exploits animals for profit, they can always rely on the silence of the animals whom they exploit.
    Over the weekend I was at a party. There were some ex-racetrack people there. We were all drinking wine and some loose lips began to chat, and then the bomb dropped. It was like the movie Erin Brockovich during the scene where she’s sitting in the bar and this dude reveals the truth about the chemical ponds, and that he has the evidence.
    Well, during the party one of the ex-exercise riders for a major Canadian Owner/Breeder who is still very active in the business, told me a story that was very hard to forget. I believe every word she told me. You can make your own choices. Here it goes:
    She was an exercise rider at their private farm which many of the big operations have. They have their own private training centers including training tracks. She was galloping one of their top 3 year olds who had already won some stake races. She said the filly was constantly sore which is why they had her on the private farm away from the prying eyes of racetrack personnel. She was constantly being medicated to keep her going. Their vet was playing a “catch me if you can” with the withdrawal times. Very common practice with private vets on large private farms whom, just like the horses, are expected to perform.
    She said she hated exercising her in the morning because she could feel how sore she was, and that they were aware of it. She requested to be taken off the mount, but that request was not met. She felt so sorry for her, but did her job.
    You must realize that the girl I’m talking about was a strong supporter of the industry like our poster called Debra. She now admits that she was in total denial like many of us who left.
    They vanned the filly into Woodbine for a final work prior to a stake race. She broke down during the work, but the vet pumped her with enough dope, and casted her so she could walk back to the van, loaded her, and brought her back to the farm when really she should have been euthanized on the track to put her out of her suffering. She said that she had never seen a horse suffer so much as she opted to ride in the back of the van with her and tried to comfort her to no avail.
    It was determined that she had shattered her sesamoids, but they kept her alive for 3 days, suffering immensely to ensure that the insurance policy would be paid out. Once they had confirmation they euthanized her.
    She said: “that experience did it for me.” I left right then and there, and I have never returned nor will I ever. That was 5 years ago.
    She claims this is the first time I have ever talked about it out of fear of repercussions, and requiring a reference for future off-track employment. She had pics on her iPhone that she showed me. They were HORRENDOUS!
    She refused to share them. I had to respect that. She said they would destroy her current job situation, and judging by what they have done to me? I wouldn’t doubt that.
    I’m sure this is one example of many. Once any animal (racehorse, orca, elephant) is the property of their abusers there is little or no oversight. Even when these industries are caught abusing animals very little is done. Let’s face it the majority of racing commissions are a joke. They are nothing more than a cover-up for what goes on.
    I thank all animal rights and advocacy groups whose tireless efforts have come to some fruition recently. I shake my head thinking about the horrific plight of animals used and abused for profit via entertainment or wagering.
    These are antiquated business models that have no place in the 21st century.

  9. Gina reading your ‘friends story’ is ‘my story’. Right now I have tears in my eyes. I have seen so much, survived so much. I somehow found this sight, where I can somehow express myself. To be in racing for so long, and to leave with such heartache. Knowing what speaking out will do, knowing that it will never stop for these horses. There are people like me and your friend in the industry, that it takes that one time, that one incident, to open your eyes to a life and career of ‘many, many, incident’s. For I was one ‘of those’…excuse makers, touting the old worn out phrase..these horse’s are treated like royalty!! My demeaner was, how dare people talk against racing. Having to face the truth about my own acquired injuries, how they came to be. And finally separating the Thoroughbred’s love of running, to their abuse because of it. I had been in this sport a long time, I will never question the love these athletes have for running. But I will say, and argue to the end, they do NOT…do NOT…want to run sore, or are impartial to the whip.(Yes, the whip hurts. Many horses return with welts from their riders whip). These horses you see refusing to load in the gate, freezing up on the track, flipping in the paddock, it is their way, and only way, to try to stop it. The horses training in the morning with ponies, trained by swimming, because they are to sore to bear weight to train. But are buted or worse, and run anyway. Someday with trust, I would like to open up, to the right person, (I have been thinking for a long time on this).

    • You are a hero. Speak up. As I tell my former jockey friend (who still holds on tight), if you care about the horses you can’t support the industry (I refuse to call it a sport).

  10. To 20+ Insider. Thx so much for coming out and commenting. I totally understand your experiences, and concern about speaking out on it.
    As you know, racehorses speak with their bodies. Many are speaking loud and clear. The examples you cite such as: flipping in the paddock, refusing to load, etc. Another example is refusing to eat. I know this is their way of saying “I don’t want to do this.”
    Another obvious sign is racehorses who either 1. no longer perform 2. never did perform.
    The horses in category 1 can have back class which is the predominate precursor to extensive abuse in the claiming ranks. We see this time and time again as they are running frequently (some every week), being on a drug cocktail for ongoing performance, some with DNF’s, finishing last by 15+ lengths, and still being allowed to enter and run. Absolute abuse. No other way to look at it. None. Category 2. The racehorses that have made under $5000 dollars in their lifetime starts are immediately dropped into the claiming hell hole after they don’t perform in Maiden Allowance. Simply put, these racehorses have no business being on the track other than to fill races. Further, from an economical standpoint, it costs a minimum of $2000 per month to keep a horse in training. Yet, these racehorses are training almost year round picking up under $5000 per year hardly enough to buy a bucket of oats. They are running for a “ham sandwich” as we say in the industry. I know that you have heard that one time and again.
    The racing commissions are doing little or nothing to protect these objects of abuse. For one thing, they could ban them from entering and running based on their PP’s. Most, if not all, catastrophic breakdowns are pre-empted with a recipe for disaster PP.
    I know for a fact that there are MANY people who have left this industry, or are thinking about leaving it, but are too afraid to speak out!
    They have created this culture of fear in racetrackers either ex-racetrackers or current ones thinking about leaving.
    I don’t want to get into how they have wrecked havoc in my personal life because most of you would not believe it. It’s a carefully constructed plan it seems, but the repeated cracked windshields (a common occurrence that I wake up to frequently), large screws/nails in my tires, breaking-off car handles, following me constantly, GPS locators repeatedly found on my car, identity theft that ruined my credit so I can’t even loan $5, repeated unsubstantiated complaints at any job I get prompting them to “let me go” not because they want to, but because they don’t want to deal with the repeated complaints. This all coincides with me speaking out about the industry, and they are masters at doing this stopping short of me ever acquiring the necessary evidence to hold up in court. Most of the property damage is conducted in the evening.
    Recently, Wolfie (my ex-racehorse) was found with a gigantic cut on his leg with no source for the cut since he’s been in the same stall for over 1 year. A hooded stranger was seen on the barn camera with no explaination as to why he was there after hours. Unfortunately, I don’t have a camera directly on his stall. Now I have the vet coming out to dispense propalactic antibiotics, and all the associated care for such a swollen, and sore leg. I have no proof, but I wouldn’t put it past them to hurt my horse.
    I must go to the barn now.
    Can you tell me where (country or state) or in what capacity you have been involved with the industry?

    • Gina, if my memory serves me right, they did certain things to harm Wolfie at the track just before you left. It appears that they’ve done it again. Can you lodge a formal complaint to the Police, no doubt you’ve diarised all these incidents that you’re being subjected to and with this latest incident with Wolfie, even the footage of the unidentified person on the property (perhaps get a statement from the owners of the property, it’s their footage) might persuade the Police to look into it. If it were me, I’d be be lodging a formal complaint to the Police and get evidence that it has gone on their records and I’d also be lodging the complaint to the most senior Police Commissioner/Department in the State where you reside, tell them the reasons why you’re in fear of your life and that of your horse, and request that they acknowledge your complaint in writing. Don’t know what it’s like over there but here, once they get such a complaint it all has to go on record and they also have act on it.

      Thanks for sharing your information about the trackwork rider. And not an uncommon story either.

  11. Carolyn, the owner of the boarding farm ordered me off the property because she was in fear of her children’s lives. She was aware of my horse racing past. She didn’t want to deal with it. She didn’t want to cooperate.
    Just prior to this somebody tore down all the win pics I had nailed to the outside of his stall. She was very disturbed by it which prompted the barn camera. She said that nobody boarding there would ever tear down pics.
    So 2 days before the end of the month I was scrambling for an acceptable boarding arrangement, trailer person, and had to load Wolfie with a sore leg that I wouldn’t move otherwise.
    Long story short, an acquaintance stepped up to the plate so Wolfie is in a very good situation now even better than before. Moreover, the owner of the farm despises this industry, lives attached to the barn, has a very long lane way with CC cameras. The only way to get to her barn and property is via the tree lined lane way.
    She has 6 OTTB’s on her farm that she rescued on the way to slaughter, and she’s ready, willing, and able to take them on. She also has 2 huge guard dogs on the property at all times. They are trained to notify her any time somebody comes close to the property. They are trained to attack when ordered, and attack they will.
    The equine vet came out, he was treated, and I continue with ongoing leg therapy. Thank goodness it was not fractured. The vet has also been notified of the situation.
    I feel very comfortable now, and will not let this industry upset me. I had enough of their BS over the years, and Wolfie paid the price for the deep rooted corruption going on in North American horse racing. He had the talent of a Grade I racehorse, but he was repeatedly weighed down, and his Lasix needle, I allege, was laced. There’s no doubt in my mind. We submitted hairs to an advanced U.S. lab and it came back with an unidentified substance. Moreover, after he was given Lasix at Woodbine he was not the same horse. I had that horse since he was a baby. I know him from the inside out. He was drugged-up.
    If he made it through that, then they would either hold him back in the gate (Keeneland 2003) or the jockey would hold him back. They knew the horse was talented, but they couldn’t deny him the Puss N Boots Stake Race (black type at the time) with a 14 horse field. I took extensive security measures 3 days prior to the race, I ensured that he wouldn’t be weighted down via the one jockey I trusted Tyler Gaskin, and he blew them all away. Many U.S. shippers that day, but Wolfie was able to show his true talent. They can all kiss my a**.
    Yes, all my incidents are recorded.
    So I submit my comments and opinions about this despicable industry while hoping that insiders will lend their voice.
    Thanks for your response.
    I will sleep well tonight. I haven’t slept in 3 days, but I now know that Wolfie is okay.

  12. Just for the record, I was speaking out about this industry on other forums so this blog is just one of many public forums that I have been active on.
    The industry was harassing me long before I left the industry and began speaking out publicly.
    As I have mentioned before, when you submit complaints via the racing commissions it’s like filing a police harassment report. The police are the ones investigating themselves.
    Get what I’m saying?

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