Joe Drape in Sunday’s New York Times reported on racing fatality statistics provided to Congress by the Association of Racing Commissioners International. My post yesterday focused on the more dismaying elements of racing as a result of Jeffrey McMurray’s AP report published in the Washington Post; Drape’s piece presents a more measured view, and thanks to Alan at Left at the Gate who sent a link in an e-mail.
Ed Martin, president of the R.C.I., breaks it down: “ ‘When you look at the numbers, what they show is that 99.875 percent of the time when a horse starts a race, they (sic) walk off safely afterwards.’” Regarding medication infractions, Martin says, “ ‘Of 1,897 individual medication violations during the past five years, slightly more than two-thirds — 67.6 percent — were violations for surpassing allowable levels for therapeutic medications.’” Does this mean that the violations are relatively minor? Or that the “therapeutic medications” are allowing unsound horses to race without, or with less, pain? I suppose that it’s hard to generalize when one is talking about nearly two thousand violations, but I’ll be interested to hear how, on Thursday, witnesses put these statistics into context.
Drape reports that:
New York State Racing and Wagering Board broke down the 637 horse deaths on its
harness and thoroughbred tracks over the five-year period: 388 occurred on the
track, 60 occurred in training and 189 were nonracing-related deaths that
occurred in the backstretch.
“The 388 deaths that occurred while racing are out of a total of 521,703 starters (.07 percent),” it reported.
388 racing deaths aren’t good, and leaving out racing-related (i.e., training/backstretch) deaths does seem to artificially lower the percentage to .07%. But unlike other jurisdictions cited in the AP report, New York apparently keeps thorough records of what happens to its horses.
It’s a shame that it takes a Congressional hearing for this information to be made available to the public; I can imagine, fearful of a PR nightmare, that state racing officials might be wary of making available weekly injury reports, but it’s got to be better than the speculation and mistrust that currently exist.
Frank at That’s Amore Stable wrote on these issues yesterday, putting forth his own suggestions about next steps; as usual, he offers a reasoned, thoughtful, informed perspective.