Horse Racing

McKinsey, Parkin See the paths to building improved safety

Armed with a wealth of data and a path to more valuable information in the coming years, presenters at the Racehorse Welfare and Safety Summit expressed optimism that racing Horses in North America can make significant strides in improving equine safety even further.

Jamie Haydon, president of the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, opened the 11th Summit by noting that many of the ideas floated over the years at the event became reality when he welcomes regulators, track operators, veterinarians, researchers and other industries. June 25 participants arrived at the conference in a room at the University of Kentucky football stadium. The summit, also live-streamed to a wider audience, is presented by the Grayson-Jockey Club and the Jockey Club.

The optimism stems from data accumulated over 15 years of statistics collected through the Jockey Club’s Equine Injury Database as well as the ability of the Horseracing Safety and Integrity Authority to contribute detailed, consistent data for years to come.

EID’s current model is one of the ideas that originated at the first Summit in 2006, said Tim Parkin, head of EID. The information it provides from millions of startups is used. used to examine the 300 possible risk factors included in the model. veterinary school at England’s University of Bristol, who on Tuesday provided an update on the EID.

“There is so much statistical power here that we can now actually (analyze risk factors and the effectiveness of measures),” said Parkin, who has been consulting on EID since 2009. safe) quite effectively”. exceed 25 statistically significant risk factors among them.”

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That information helped the industry make manual changes, leading to a statistically significant reduction in equine deaths in North American racing over the past 15 years. The two most recent numbers are the lowest over that period, and the rate of 1.23 per 1,000 starts in 2023 is down 34% from 2009. In 2023, 99.87% of race starts were equal to Flats at participating EID racetracks were completed without any deaths.

Racing statistics, information collected by the Racing Surface Testing Laboratory and data being collected by HISA, which was fully launched last year to monitor anti-doping and drug control as well like the safety of this sport. This cooperation has the United States racing to look forward to further improvements in the coming years. McKinsey & Company partners Dan Singer and Ben Vonwiller outlined these opportunities from a comprehensive report for The Jockey Club.

“There really has been a significant decrease,” Vonwiller said. “That said, there is still a significant gap between the North American average and what we call the international standard (basically Australia, UK, Hong Kong, Japan and New Zealand) . That gap represents greater opportunity.”

(Vonwiller says that McKinsey isn’t too concerned about small differences in how these statistics are collected in these countries, because those differences don’t affect the comparison in any statistically meaningful way any.)

McKinsey has identified several opportunities to improve horse safety in the United States and close the gap with these major international jurisdictions. These include moving every U.S. racetrack to top-level post-entry screening, further research and use of wearable technologies to monitor horse health, further protecting horses during competitions. racing requires, an improved approach to surface management, converting some tracks to all tracks. -weather surface and add transparency into the safety performance of trainers and breeders.

In terms of pre-race tests, McKinsey would like to see more tracks in the Triple A category, which it defines as tracks with the most veterinarians, tests, and time spent examining horses after entry and before the race. McKinsey found that these efforts are delivering safer performance as these tracks have 30%-45% fewer incidents. (For consistency, this study compared soil stains with other soil stains.)

But only 15% of tracks in North America are triple A — a group of tracks that have four or five governing bodies ready to oversee them; compared to double A, which has three or four veterinarians in regulation and covers 25% of the tracks; and single A, which has two or three prescribed veterinarians and covers 60% of the tracks.

Those triple-A tracks also see governing bodies meet to review reviews. Because McKinsey also considers cost analysis in its report, it notes that such tables can be conducted for a group of routes—providing some streamlining features.

Parkin notes that one of the strengths of this information is the ability to see what is working and making an impact. McKinsey has seen a real impact in the highest level of veterinary surveillance before races.

“The advantage has grown even more in the last three years for AAA tracks,” Singer said. “Interests are growing.”

Along with this, McKinsey calls for more pre-race information to confirm a horse’s previous performance and ability to race for use in pre-race assessment.

In the area of ​​wearable technology being used to help identify any changes in horses that could lead to unhealthy conditions, McKinsey notes the potential but calls for further scientific research. Numbers were presented where the technology was providing useful information but other cases were lacking information. But the potential is there.

“They can play a meaningful role in reducing failure rates,” Vonwiller said.

In the field of track maintenance, McKinsey has presented data showing that dirt tracks can perform well. It found nine of the 17 safest racing surfaces in North America from 2020-2022 were dirt. One-third of these top-performing songs met international standards.

While advances in track surface research are welcome—research shows that improved track maintenance is linked to lower fatality rates—McKinsey notes the move toward more technology in this area could bring about further improvement. This technology will provide more frequent measurement updates—reviewing the track surface every half hour instead of once or twice a day—which will assist track managers in their decision making .

McKinsey calls for expanded use of all-weather surfaces instead of dirt. The best candidates for this change would be racing surfaces that run in hot and cold temperatures and are heavily used for racing and training purposes, the report said. McKinsey says that converting six dirt tracks of this type to all-weather would result in an 8%-12% reduction in overall mortality.

Read more: Top priority, racing team’s efforts to improve safety

Surface-related changes — whether switching to all-weather use or improving maintenance — could bring about significant change, as the 17 least safe tracks in North America account for 39% of accidents. horse mortality.

Although EID does not identify individual horsemen, McKinsey applauds states such as New York and California for disclosing horse mortality rates for trainers competing in those states. It called for such transparency at a national level and suggested HISA’s readiness to provide such information. Singer notes that such information could create opportunities for safety trainers to introduce best practices and would create more accountability.

“The same thing happened in New York and California, the death data was released,” Singer said. You can go right to the website and search to your heart’s content and calculate the statistics on the frequency of deaths.” “Our belief is, and this is based on a lot of interviews at the tracks that have this, is that when you take responsibility for fatalities, you start to build a culture of safety everywhere people work together to end or avoid deaths.

“There’s more awareness, there’s more teamwork. The attending veterinarians can work together to help trainers make the right decisions for the health of the horse.”

Improvement in this area could also bear fruit as McKinsey found that the 50 trainers at the lowest end of the safety record accounted for 13% of deaths in just 5.7% of total occurrences. broadcast.

McKinsey also called for more information on breeders and livestock, noting that the 50 producers at the bottom of the safety scale accounted for 8.4% of all deaths from just 4.2%. total starts.

Some areas of concern previously identified by the EID study include that races of six furlongs or shorter have a higher risk than longer races, geldings have a slightly higher level of risk, the age of the horse’s first start (the younger the better) and any stops on the vet’s list. In his opening Summit presentation, Parkin noted that the EID now provides deeper information on many of these issues.

For example, a trip to the vet list will increase the risk to the horse during racing but that risk is most severe in the first 30 days of that stay and decreases as time goes on. more passing (although it never returned to the same level as a race). horse without a single trip to the vet list). The EID can also now assess the severity of the reasons why a horse is on the vet’s list with more significant problems posing an increased risk.

Coaching changes were previously identified as a risk factor but the current model now goes deeper to note when that risk is most severe (first start is highest and four first start are all high). It also shows a potential risk factor for horses that regularly raced with previous trainers and are now racing less often with new trainers.

While it has been well documented that regulatory veterinarians can use these risk factors to determine which horses need to be looked at more closely during pre-race examinations, Parkin notes Note that others should also use this information. For example, if a new trainer is aware of increased risk in a horse’s first four starts, he or she may monitor those horses more closely.

“It’s not just for regulation. There are many uses for this data. It can help owners and trainers understand the level of risk their horses are exposed to,” Parkin said. “Each horse has a different profile, which will contribute to the risk that horse faces. Its risk profile will change as it goes through its racing career. At some point There, the owner or trainer may find that the risk profile has reached too high a level and may then make the decision to retire the horse.”

After retirement, risk profiles can also indicate to riders whose horses may need closer monitoring before running or racing or become candidates for wearable technology to monitor any any small changes.

That’s the type of approach in today’s industry that has invested heavily in gathering information, determining what that information means, and putting it to use to improve equine safety.


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