Dr. Mary Scollay
- Equine Medical Director, Kentucky Horse Racing Commission
Dr. Mary Scollay: Thank you, David. Good morning, everyone.
Following Barbaro's injury in the 2006 Preakness Stakes, veterinarians and racing industry personnel across the country were asked numerous questions about the type, frequency and outcome of horse racing injuries.
The answers, or lack thereof, starkly identified the industry's inability to account for its equine athletes.
Local or regional racing data existed, but was not amenable to compilation on a national scale. Differences in terminology and recordkeeping criteria rendered the data both venue- and time-specific.
At The Jockey Club's Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit at Keeneland in October 2006, I proposed the establishment of a national racing injury reporting program.
In December 2006, at the AAEP/RMTC racing regulatory veterinarians' annual meeting, a single page standardized reporting form, amenable for use in all Thoroughbred racing jurisdictions, was provided to regulatory veterinarians to implement and evaluate.
The reporting criteria were defined as horse(s) whose condition required intervention by the regulatory veterinarian, and these conditions ranged from mild and spontaneously resolving to fatal.
Critical factors in soliciting disclosure from reporting veterinarians were then, and remain, the confidentiality and responsible use of the information submitted.
To that end, the database will not be accessible to the public. No racetrack's data will be singled out, and there will be no public comparisons of injury rates at specific racetracks. Injury information will not be published in such a way that a given horse, trainer or racetrack could be identified.
The value of the information now being collected, in a word, is priceless.
The industry has never had an opportunity like this before.
The utility of this database is limited not by its contents, but by our ability to see what questions can be asked of it.
Injury information pre-dating the existence of this database cannot be recaptured with the scope and accuracy of the current system. So while that information is lost, the establishment of this database now ensures a solid, scientific foundation from which to monitor the health status of the racehorse.
A commonly heard assertion that racehorses are sustaining injury more frequently and severely than in the past can be neither proved nor disproved because the data simply does not exist. Over time, and with the compilation of a volume of data, the ability to replace opinion and conjecture with fact will benefit industry stakeholders at all levels. It will facilitate informed decision making.
Improvement in equine health and racing safety requires three steps:
- determination of risk aversion;
- identification of risk factors;
- implementation of strategies to mitigate risk.
Each step is dependent upon its predecessor.
Risk aversion has been determined; there is a universal mandate to reduce the incidence of racing injuries.
The Equine Injury Database will be a critical tool in the identification of risk factors, information upon which risk mitigation is dependent. Simply put, if you don't know why something happens, you'd be hard pressed to prevent it.
The system is being provided and maintained by InCompass and The Jockey Club, at no cost to the participating racetracks and as a service to the industry. As David just mentioned, expansion into areas of non-race related injuries, other breeds and disciplines is already underway.
I'd like to acknowledge with gratitude my regulatory veterinarian colleagues. They've given generously of their time and energy to support and promote this program from its inception, and they are to be credited in no small part with its success to date.
The Equine Injury Database is a win-win situation if there ever was one. It is good for the horses; it is good for the industry.
When we have collected a statistically significant amount of data, composite national statistics will be published. It is anticipated that the first set of statistics will be made available in 2009.
This is, by design, intended to be a standing program; there is no projected endpoint for data collection.
I strongly urge any racetrack that hasn't yet signed up to participate in this endeavor to do so. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain.
The Equine Injury Database is a giant step forward for this industry and improving the health and safety of our racehorses.
Ogden Mills Phipps: Thank you, Jim, Matt, David and Dr. Scollay. We appreciate those efforts on our behalf.