Phoenix-based Turf Paradise, Arizona's largest horse racing track, saw racing-related equine fatalities fall by nearly 40% during the season that ended May 3, according to a press release from the Rose, Moser, Allyn public relations firm.
During the 2017-'18 meet there were 7,452 starts and 23 Thoroughbred racing related equine fatalities. During the 2018-'19 meet there were 7,050 starts and 14 Thoroughbred fatalities. That's 1.99 per 1,000 starts, which is dramatically down from 3.09 per 1,000 starts in 2017-'18. The national average is 1.68, according to the Equine Injury Database.
The sharp decline followed the implementation of a series of protocols including pre-race veterinarian inspection of all horses on every live race day. Those exams began in February and continued through the end of the season.
In the 2017-'18 race meet there were there were five fatalities in February, seven in March and two in April. For the 2018-'19 meet there was one fatality in February, zero in March and 1 in April.
Other measures taken include:
- Trainer review of necropsy report following a fatality.
- Track veterinarian review of horses while in the paddock, during warm-ups, gate loading and post-race exams.
- Twice monthly testing of sand to dirt ratio balance on the main track.
A panel of experts also carefully reviewed safety protocols. The Equine Wellness Committee composed of the Director of the Division of Racing, track and state veterinarians, the Arizona HBPA and the general managers of the state's three race tracks met monthly to review data and make recommendations. Academic and private sector statisticians also reviewed horse injury statistics to spot any trends. That review is ongoing.
Turf Paradise general manager Vincent Francia said, “The protocols we initiated this season were a collaborative effort of Turf, the Arizona Division of Racing and the Arizona Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association. We are encouraged by the results, to have reduced fatalities by almost 40%. However, the goal is zero fatalities. The Committee is reviewing additional protocols.”
Turf Paradise opened its doors in in 1956 and has been at 19th Ave. and Bell Road ever since making it Arizona's first sports franchise.
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