Equine fatality rate declines at Maryland tracks

by | Mar 21, 2018 | Breaking, Business, Maryland, MD Business, Top Stories

Pimlico did not experience a single fatality in 2017. Photo by The Racing Biz.

by Frank Vespe

The rate of equine fatalities declined at the major Maryland tracks in 2017, according to the recently released Equine Injury Database figures.

While the region’s other tracks do participate in the database, among Midlantic tracks only those two tracks, along with Delaware Park and Presque Isle Downs, allow their data to be made available to the public. Click here for the full list of participating tracks, including those which make the data public.

Pimlico did not experience a single fatality during its truncated, 12-day 2017 meet. That was the first time since the Database began collecting and sharing numbers that Old Hilltop had a spotless ledger, although it was also the first time that the track ran fewer than 20 days.

The zero also drove Pimlico’s three-year rolling average down to 1.7 fatalities per 1,000 starts. That’s the second lowest three-year average Pimlico has recorded since 2009 and also marked the second consecutive year in which the three-year average had declined.


At Laurel Park, the fatality rate dipped from 1.79 per 1,000 starts to 1.59, the track’s third lowest since the EID began. Overall, Laurel saw 18 fatalities – the same as in 2016 – from 11,328 starters.

It also marked the third consecutive decline in Laurel’s three-year rolling average. The track’s three-year fatality rate following 2014 was 2.46 per 1,000 starters. Since then it has dropped to 1.48 – a 40 percent dip.

Combined, the two tracks had a 2017 fatality rate of 1.47 per 1,000 starters. On turf the rate was 1.05 per 1,000 starters, while on dirt it was 1.65.

Their three-year rolling average has also dropped sharply. While it hit 2.3 per 1,000 starters in 2014, it had declined to 1.52 by the end of 2017.

That follows a number of steps tracks and regulators took, including the adoption of void-claim rules, stepped-up pre-race vet exams, and implementation of the national uniform medication program.

It also comes as the tracks have gradually shifted more and more racing to the turf, a friendlier surface to horses. In 2009 a little less than 17 percent of all starts in Maryland came on the turf. By 2013, that had grown to almost 22 percent, and in 2017, grass runners comprised 31 percent of all starters in Maryland.

Nationally, the rate of fatal injury was 1.61 deaths per 1,000 starters. On dirt, the national rate was 1.74 per 1,000 starts, while on turf it was 1.36. Synthetic surfaces were the safest, with 1.1 fatalities per 1,000 starters.