New Zealand thoroughbred flat racing has a lower risk profile than foreign jurisdictions, new research findings show.
Massey University researchers examined race-level incident reports during the 2015/16 and 2016/17 seasons.
Michaela Gibson and her fellow researchers analyzed stewards’ reports of race day events over the two seasons.
Primary injuries and reporting outcomes were analyzed to assess horse-related and race-level risk factors associated with the occurrence of incident and non-incident reporting.
A total of 2,683 races were run in the 2015/2016 season and 2,460 races in the 2016/2017 season. Over the two seasons, 6,953 horses entered a race, with 5,120 horses entering at least one race in the 2015/2016 season and 4,815 horses entering at least one race in the 2016/2017 season.
Just under half of the racing population were mares and fillies (49.0%), followed by geldings (47.6%), then stallions and colts (3.3%).
In total, there were 54,690 race starts at 49 race tracks.
In total, 1020 stewards’ reports were generated for horses participating in a race, of which 179 were coded as incident and 841 as non-incident.
Incident reports involved major events that occurred before, during, or after the race, while non-incident reports typically involved examinations requested due to poor performance or other non-event concerns, often as part of the integrity assessment. routine run.
Most delegate reports fell into the non-incident category, resulting from routine evaluation or poor performance.
The incidence of musculoskeletal injuries (there were 31 in total) was estimated at 1.3 per 1,000 runs, and fractures occurred at a rate of 0.6 per 1,000 runs. These findings were low by international standards and were similar to previous reports from New Zealand.
There were four reports of heart failure, which amounted to 0.07 per 1,000 runs.
There was a low incidence of nosebleeds, 0.8 cases per 1,000 races, possibly because trainers screened susceptible horses before entering them due to the regulatory consequences of nosebleeds during a race.
Horses running in open class races had more incidents than horses in lower ranking classes, probably due to the intensity of the race.
Looking at the incident reports alone, there were 3.3 per 1,000 starts. A variety of reasons for requesting them were listed, including horses that were thrown up or fell. However, most did not have an event descriptor, or were simply reported as “others” (64.8%).
The most common clinical finding from an incident report was “no observable abnormalities detected” (38.55%), followed by laceration/abrasion (21.23%).
Musculoskeletal fractures were reported in 5.59% of the incident reports and heart failure was reported in 1.68% of them.
Non-incident reports occurred 15.4 times per 1,000 starts. More than two-thirds were for routine post-race evaluation of horses, or for health problems unrelated to an “event”, for example, the evaluation of horses that performed below expectations.
Stewards were responsible for requesting the most poor performance reports (85.3%). They were 2.7 times more likely to request a non-incident report for poor performance than for any other reason. The largest category for the clinical outcome of a poor performance exam was no observable abnormalities detected (59.4%). Poor recovery was noted in 6.0% of reports, arrhythmia/cardiovascular in 8.0%, respiratory problems in 5.5%, musculoskeletal injuries in 5.3%, and lacerations/abrasions in 3. 7% of reports.
The largest category of findings across all non-incident reports was no observable abnormalities detected (46.7%). The main clinical findings were laceration/abrasion (46.7%), followed by lameness (7.5%) and musculoskeletal problems other than fractures (6.3%). Musculoskeletal fractures were reported in 2.5% of all non-incident reports.
The study team said the lower reported incidence of deaths and injuries compared to overseas racing indicates a lower risk profile for New Zealand thoroughbred flat racing.
They said the main issues associated with the social license to operate in all horse racing disciplines tend to center around the concept of injury and risk of injury to equine participants.
Data from delegate reports can provide metrics for industry performance. “The level of stewards reporting in New Zealand Thoroughbred flat racing indicates that this data is representative of the industry and provides strong metrics of industry performance.”
They said the low incidence of significant clinical findings from the high level of screening and reporting by stewards indicates that New Zealand Thoroughbred flat racing is doing its duty of care to horses. It also provides support in terms of the industry’s social license to operate.
The studio team consisted of Gibson, Charlotte Bolwell, Erica Gee, Kylie Legg, and Chris Rogers.
Gibson, M.J.; Bolwell, CF; Wow, EK; Legg, K.A.; Rogers, CW Race-level incident reports over two seasons (2015/16 to 2016/17) from Thoroughbred Flat Racing in New Zealand. Animals 2022, 12, 1033. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani12081033
The study, published under a Creative Commons Licensecan be read here.