Waiting for the report from the Aqueduct injury task force

“Very soon.”

That is when, according to the State Racing and Wagering Board, the report from the task force investigating the breakdowns at Aqueduct this past winter will be released.

The task force began its work in March, and when I spoke with task force chair Dr. Scott Palmer in April, he indicated that the report would be released within 30 days.

The target has been repeatedly pushed back: first to mid- to late May, then to early July, and now to… “very soon.”

The inclination is, of course, to mock. The inability of a government-overseen committee to get its work done on time is an easy target, particularly now, when the relationship between the state government and the racing industry is, shall we say, strained.

But I’m not so sure that the delay in the release of the report is such a bad thing. I don’t know why the task force hasn’t finished its work; no reasons were provided. But at the very least, it might suggest that uncovering the reasons behind equine injury isn’t quite so easy, and that maybe 30 days was an optimistic target to begin with.

In 2010, Dr. Tim Parkin and Dr. Mary Scollay (who also serves on the NY task force) of the Jockey Club’s Equine Injury Database released tentative conclusions based on a year of injury information that they had received from participating tracks. Said Parkin at the time, “It’s dangerous to draw conclusions after only one year [of data].”  It took 10 years of data in similar studies in the United Kingdom to draw what he labeled “valid assumptions” that led to intervention strategies.  “You don’t,” he said, “want to start too early to design strategies that might not be effective.”

In investigating the causes of equine data, he emphasized that there are “no quick answers.” “It takes time and requires quality data,” he said.

Scollay and Parkin also stressed the multi-variable nature of equine injury, another factor that would suggest that a quick gathering and analysis of data would be unwise.

So: call me naïve. Call me idealistic. But for the moment, in the absence of anything would indicate otherwise, I’m going to consider the delay in the release of the report a good thing, hoping that when it is released, it goes beyond superficial observations and quick-fix solutions, that it contains the sort of detailed, thoughtful information and analysis that will help to explain what happened at Aqueduct last winter, and to prevent it from happening again.

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