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Old 6th March 2019, 10:57 AM   #1
Molinaro
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Horse Racing deaths

According to this story on Bleacher Report the Santa Anita Racetrack has indefinitely suspended racing due to the number of horse deaths this season.

Since Dec 26 of 2018 a total of 21 horses have died due to injuries. They are concerned about this rate since in all of 2017 only 20 horses died due to injuries.

Uhh.... I knew horses sometimes died from injuries in this sport, but is 20 a year, at 1 track, really an acceptable rate?

I'm not exactly an animal rights activist or anything but these numbers seem absolutely insane.
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Old 6th March 2019, 10:58 AM   #2
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It's a Dick Francis mystery.
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Old 6th March 2019, 11:00 AM   #3
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Should race cows instead. Then the deaths wouldn't matter so much.
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Old 6th March 2019, 11:05 AM   #4
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Not enough information in the OP article to try to solve this from an armchair. For example, we aren't informed if all injuries occurred on the track, or if some happened in stalls or trailers or whatever.
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Old 6th March 2019, 11:18 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Molinaro View Post
Uhh.... I knew horses sometimes died from injuries in this sport, but is 20 a year, at 1 track, really an acceptable rate?

I'm not exactly an animal rights activist or anything but these numbers seem absolutely insane.
That feels like too many to be acceptable. From my armchair, I would say that they had a very serious problem in 2017 which has gotten worse.

Still we are missing information like the historic distribution of deaths over the year and the historic total number of horses at the track over the year, historic record of type of injury, etc.
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Old 6th March 2019, 11:28 AM   #6
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I would also like to know how it compares with other tracks around the nation. Then again, I could not even ballpark a guess at how many tracks there are in total. This article has certainly opened my eyes to a lot that I don't know anything about.
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Old 6th March 2019, 11:56 AM   #7
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Racehorses have but three natural enemies: panthers, NASCAR rivals, and animal rights activists. I believe we'll soon see evidence that these mysterious deaths were brought about by a panther.
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Old 6th March 2019, 12:03 PM   #8
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I know the horse deaths at tracks are kept discreet. They aren't exactly posted in the Racing Form. But they do happen consistently.
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Old 6th March 2019, 12:31 PM   #9
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I know racing has been starting the horses younger and younger, at ages when it would formerly have been considered unsafe to ride them because it would cause permanent bone damage.

This probably has a lot to do with what they euphemistically call "breakdowns".
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Old 6th March 2019, 01:20 PM   #10
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They are re-examining the dirt racing surface. Fatal injuries have occurred there on both dirt and turf racing surfaces. Here are some figures...

Originally Posted by Daily Mail
In 2017, 20 deaths occurred among a total of 8,463 starts over a span of 122 racing days at Santa Anita, according to the most recent figures compiled by The Jockey Club. That's a rate of 2.36 deaths per 1,000 starts.

There were 1.61 deaths per 1,000 starts in the U.S. in 2017, according to the most recent figures from the Equine Injury Database, compiled by The Jockey Club. That was a slight increase in the rate of fatal injury compared with 2016, when there were 1.54 deaths per 1,000 starts.

The deaths were more frequent on dirt surfaces (1.74 per 1,000 starts) than on turf (1.36)...

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/ap...-December.html
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Old 6th March 2019, 01:33 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by TragicMonkey View Post
It's a Dick Francis mystery.
Haha! Or his ghost.
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Old 6th March 2019, 01:45 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Distracted1 View Post
Should race cows instead. Then the deaths wouldn't matter so much.
Nominated.
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Old 6th March 2019, 02:27 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by TragicMonkey View Post
Racehorses have but three natural enemies: panthers, NASCAR rivals, and animal rights activists. I believe we'll soon see evidence that these mysterious deaths were brought about by a panther.

Don't forget rampant drug use by the owner.*


*Usually on the horse!
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Old 6th March 2019, 02:49 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Distracted1 View Post
Should race cows instead. Then the deaths wouldn't matter so much.
You can stock your burger van with the losers
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Old 6th March 2019, 05:40 PM   #15
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You can do that with the horses, too. After all, if they're good enough for man's best friend, why not us?
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Old 6th March 2019, 06:01 PM   #16
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It's one of horse racing's dirty little secrets. I mean, it's not a secret really, just something that most casual fans probably aren't aware of, and although there may be a recent spike, horse deaths have been happening at a high rate ever since the sport was invented. Also, I think, but don't have time to look it up right now, that horses bred as race horses seem to be more suseptable to life-ending injuries than, say, other kinds of horses or wild horses.
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Old 6th March 2019, 07:56 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by deadrose View Post
I know racing has been starting the horses younger and younger, at ages when it would formerly have been considered unsafe to ride them because it would cause permanent bone damage.

This probably has a lot to do with what they euphemistically call "breakdowns".
Breeding is creating horses that are like a car with a six cylinder engine in it upgraded with a V8 engine but not an upgraded suspension to match.
It could also be that this race track is cutting costs on track maintenance. It costs a bit to keep them in good shape.
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Old 6th March 2019, 08:01 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by a_unique_person View Post
Breeding is creating horses that are like a car with a six cylinder engine in it upgraded with a V8 engine but not an upgraded suspension to match.
I just had a flashback to putting a V8 in a Chevy Vega.


Quote:
It could also be that this race track is cutting costs on track maintenance. It costs a bit to keep them in good shape.
The Daily Mail article says that the track has been deeply examined and it is being examined again.
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Old 6th March 2019, 08:16 PM   #19
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When random events are distributed randomly, there will inevitably be some "clusters" here and there where the frequency for a finite period is higher than normal. This is called "noise" and is just a feature of random distributions.

I don't know if that's what's happening here, but it is the null hypothesis.
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Old 6th March 2019, 08:48 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by Manger Douse View Post
You can stock your burger van with the losers
What do you think they serve at the Turf Terrace? Many a time while dining there I have turned my steak over and saw marks on it consistent with a jockey's whip.
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Old 6th March 2019, 11:40 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by Puppycow View Post
When random events are distributed randomly, there will inevitably be some "clusters" here and there where the frequency for a finite period is higher than normal. This is called "noise" and is just a feature of random distributions.

I don't know if that's what's happening here, but it is the null hypothesis.
I get that. But what really struck me with the story is that normal is when a horse dies on average every 2 or 3 weeks (~18 days) at 1 track.
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Old 7th March 2019, 01:33 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by Puppycow View Post
When random events are distributed randomly, there will inevitably be some "clusters" here and there where the frequency for a finite period is higher than normal. This is called "noise" and is just a feature of random distributions.

I don't know if that's what's happening here, but it is the null hypothesis.
this.
without cause of death your in the dark. race horses are big,powerful and high strung. a kick from one can be fatal or leave a horse in a state where it must be put down. we need a lot more info.
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Old 7th March 2019, 07:24 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by Molinaro View Post
I get that. But what really struck me with the story is that normal is when a horse dies on average every 2 or 3 weeks (~18 days) at 1 track.
I think your math is faulty, they don't race year round. The season at Del Mar is only 3-4 months. Use the numbers form up-thrtead.
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Old 7th March 2019, 07:51 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by Molinaro View Post
I get that. But what really struck me with the story is that normal is when a horse dies on average every 2 or 3 weeks (~18 days) at 1 track.
Yeah, people tend to be shocked when they first learn how common this is in horse racing. I read about it a few years ago, not in connection to this particular racetrack. I knew sometimes horses die, I just didn't realize how common it was. I'm the sort who maybe notices once a year if there's a horse with a chance to win the triple crown. There's only 3 horse races per year as far as I'm concerned. The big three. But in reality there's horse races happening almost every day all over the country. Something like 500 horse races on an average day in America. 100 race tracks (that's only 2 per state if you think about it), averaging maybe 5 races per day each. How many horses per race? Maybe 8? So 4000 horses racing on a given day.
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Old 7th March 2019, 08:47 AM   #25
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It's also interesting that Santa Anita used to have an artificial track surface and went back to dirt. The incidence of injury skyrocketed when they did. I also wonder if the change from drought to heavy rains in California this year might have had some effect, though they did examine the track and declared it 100% okay.
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Old 7th March 2019, 09:15 AM   #26
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Originally Posted by deadrose View Post
It's also interesting that Santa Anita used to have an artificial track surface and went back to dirt. The incidence of injury skyrocketed when they did.
Then how could they not recognize that that is the cause?

How can you see this obvious cause from your armchair and yet they don't?
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Old 7th March 2019, 11:48 AM   #27
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Perhaps because it was the owners and trainers complaining about the artificial surface that made them go back to dirt? Perhaps none of them there now have memories of the old track from all of 5 years ago? I have no idea. The figures came from a Guardian article.
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Old 7th March 2019, 12:24 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by deadrose View Post
Perhaps because it was the owners and trainers complaining about the artificial surface that made them go back to dirt? Perhaps none of them there now have memories of the old track from all of 5 years ago? I have no idea. The figures came from a Guardian article.
Seems easy for you to call or write to Santa Anita telling them that if they switch back to artificial then the deaths will drastically decrease. If it matters to you.
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Old 7th March 2019, 01:53 PM   #29
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All right, as much as the crowd appreciates it, it's clear some adjustments are needed for Giant Miniature Golf Obstacle Horse Racing to pay off in the long term. We'll ditch the loop-the-loop for now, put some nets over the worst of the water hazards, and slow down the windmill blades.
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Old 7th March 2019, 07:01 PM   #30
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I re-read the OP, 21 horses died in two months, 42 days of racing. (4 days/week) But some happened during practice, including that last one. The timeline started Dec 26 because they are closed for 7-8 weeks prior. https://www.santaanita.com/horse-racing/race-calendar/

Their schedule shows a stand-down for this week/end, races scheduled from the 14th on. Maybe?

But with a finite number of occurrences, it is possible to see a cause for each. The track may not be the only cause. Heart attacks, collisions, stress fractures of the "coffin bone"... who knows.
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Old 10th March 2019, 05:37 PM   #31
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Originally Posted by deadrose View Post
I know racing has been starting the horses younger and younger...
Sorry, but you don't "know" that, because it's utter nonsense. Horses have set parameters for racing and the age divisions are exactly the same as they've always been.

Starting an underage horse - even if it were possible - would be counter-productive, because they'd be less mature & slower than their older counterparts. That's why 2 year olds aren't allowed to race older horses until they're nearly three.
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Old 13th March 2019, 12:42 PM   #32
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The situation is apparently far worse in Arizona; horses are dying at double the national-average rate there. https://www.azcentral.com/story/news...te/2585283002/
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Old 13th March 2019, 05:41 PM   #33
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First Hypothesis:

Breeding practices are the culprit. In nature, the horses would breed as they do in nature documentaries. A dominant stallion in a herd would probably sire most foals for as long as he can maintain domination of the herd. But breeding decisions for race horses are made by breeders with a single focus: they want horses who will win races, so those horses are bred while others are not. Over generations this has led to health problems that arise from a insufficient genetic diversity and artificial selection aimed at something other than general fitness of the horse.

Second Hypothesis:

A new kind of performance-enhancing drug is being used on the horses, and a side effect of the drug is that it increases the likelihood of serious injuries to the horse.

Third Hypothesis:

The null hypothesis I described in post #19 above.
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Old 14th March 2019, 06:37 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by Puppycow View Post
First Hypothesis:

Breeding practices are the culprit. In nature, the horses would breed as they do in nature documentaries. A dominant stallion in a herd would probably sire most foals for as long as he can maintain domination of the herd. But breeding decisions for race horses are made by breeders with a single focus: they want horses who will win races, so those horses are bred while others are not. Over generations this has led to health problems that arise from a insufficient genetic diversity and artificial selection aimed at something other than general fitness of the horse.

Second Hypothesis:

A new kind of performance-enhancing drug is being used on the horses, and a side effect of the drug is that it increases the likelihood of serious injuries to the horse.

Third Hypothesis:

The null hypothesis I described in post #19 above.
IIRC, they race "quarter horses", which means something like the horses have to be 1/4 Arabian. And that all the QHs in America can trace their lineage back to a very small number of Arabian stallions- 7? 9? So yeah, inbreeding.
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Old 14th March 2019, 06:48 AM   #35
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Well, at least they died for a good cause.
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Old 14th March 2019, 07:24 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by casebro View Post
IIRC, they race "quarter horses", which means something like the horses have to be 1/4 Arabian. And that all the QHs in America can trace their lineage back to a very small number of Arabian stallions- 7? 9? So yeah, inbreeding.
Santa Anita runs Thoroughbreds.
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Old 14th March 2019, 10:04 AM   #37
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Originally Posted by jhunter1163 View Post
The situation is apparently far worse in Arizona; horses are dying at double the national-average rate there.
Being Arizona, has it been confirmed that some of them aren't suicide?

Originally Posted by Puppycow View Post
First Hypothesis:

Breeding practices are the culprit.
That's a possibility, because we are talking about a population of horses that can all trace their lineage back to one of three stallions, so it's a closed population.

That's been under investigation for several years now, because genetic and other problems have started to show up as breeding refines traits and more line-breeding is evident with limited numbers of commercial sires and more importantly, sire lines.

Another point to add into the mix, which I haven't seen anywhere in all of the literature I've read on the subject is that up until ~1980, non-studbook horses were allowed to race and breed. They had to have one fully documented thoroughbred parent, but the other could be a cart horse or show pony and as long as it could run, it could race. Since then, the gene pool is fixed and it's pretty well established that lack of diversity equals physical problems. Dog breeds and the British Royal Family are tow superb examples.

Originally Posted by Puppycow View Post
Second Hypothesis:

A new kind of performance-enhancing drug is being used on the horses, and a side effect of the drug is that it increases the likelihood of serious injuries to the horse.
Highly unlikely. Horses are tested consistently and very carefully, given the billions of dollars at stake. The spread across multiple trainers would mean that the practice would have to be very widespread.

Null is a bit yes/no/maybe. Santa Anita might be a cluster, but it's a cluster in a statistic that has been trending upwards for some time, and right across the world.
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I do find it a little amusing that people are having panic attacks over a couple of dozen dead horses in the face of an industry that supplies tens of thousands of horse carcasses to the petfood industry every year. And some of them are only widdle babies when they go to the Diamond Pet Food factory. Poor running action? Bang! Hoof capsule distortion? Bang!

Only 20% of racehorses born even make a racetrack*. A good tip here is that the other 80% don't go on to be some little girl's pony - thoroughbreds don't generally have the temperate and are far too quick for amateurs. If they have good temperament, a fair number go to show jumping and pony clubs. The rest? Bang!

*A further 80% of that number never make their cost back but as they've taken to training, most of them will find a home alive.
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Old 14th March 2019, 11:44 AM   #38
Gilbert Syndrome
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Originally Posted by Distracted1 View Post
Should race cows instead. Then the deaths wouldn't matter so much.
Meh, we unknowingly ate horse meat for years here in the UK. Neigh harm done.

It is a cruel sport, though, IMO. I'm not a fan. I'd rather see tiny Irish men punch crap out of each other in a ring than ride horses to their dooms for the benefit of rich owners and silly drunk women in even sillier hats.
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Old 14th March 2019, 03:37 PM   #39
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Originally Posted by Gilbert Syndrome View Post
Meh, we unknowingly ate horse meat for years here in the UK. Neigh harm done.
Nice! (and very good point)

Originally Posted by Gilbert Syndrome View Post
It is a cruel sport, though, IMO. I'm not a fan.
I don't see anything in the way of cruelty involved in the sport. For starters, the horse weighs roughly 10 times as much as the jockey, so if it wants to, it can throw him/her off and kick them to death. They're also a lot smarter than people give them credit for and love the competition. (well, the good ones do, anyway)

Racing worldwide has very strict rules about being hit with the whip, or jigger use, and 101 other things that might happen under the umbrella of cruelty.

Compared to farming of any kind, horse racing is pretty mild. Sure, there are bad eggs, but there are bad eggs everywhere. Horse people generally have an extreme love of horses and would rather cut their arm off than hurt one.

Originally Posted by Gilbert Syndrome View Post
I'd rather see tiny Irish men punch crap out of each other in a ring than ride horses to their dooms for the benefit of rich owners and silly drunk women in even sillier hats.
Each to their own.

I imagine the death rate is higher among jockeys, because if you get hit by a 500 kg horse, it's going to do a more damage than even Foreman, but I don't see many punch-drunk jockeys.

That's cruel - condemning a person to a life of brain damage sanctioned by the sport. (As you know, I love boxing as you do, but I wouldn't call it "better" than racing.)
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Old 14th March 2019, 05:04 PM   #40
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New York Times has a headline saying that Santa Anita will be banning drugs and whips. I haven't read the article.
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