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Dicing and slicing the Times data reveals East Coast is safer

The lengthy New York Times article from March 25 about breakdowns/injuries and the state of the racing industry contained some valuable and interesting data from its analysis of more than 150,000 races from 2009 to 2011. Most revealing was its publication of US tracks listed by the number of “rates of incidence” per 1000 starts. According to the article, the rate of incidence per 1000 starts was 5.2 for the years covered in the US, with Ruidoso Downs at Billy the Kid Casino topping the list with 13.9 rates of incidence per 1000.

Not included in this list—because it’s in Canada—but mentioned in the body of the piece was Woodbine’s low rate. The article noted, “By contrast, Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, which year after year has one of the lowest breakdown rates in North America, had an incident rate of only 1.4, according to the Times analysis.”

Even lower on the scale than Woodbine was Presque Isle Downs and Casino, with 1.3, and just above Presque Isle and Woodbine was Keeneland with 1.6.

Woodbine (1.4), Presque Isle (1.3), and Keeneland (1.6) have synthetic surfaces, and Woodbine and Keeneland also card a large number of turf races, so make of that what you want.

But what’s blatantly evident from the Times data are the higher rates in the West, and the overall lower rates heading east. New Mexico has the highest numbers, with Ruidoso (13.9) just ahead of Sunland (12.8) and Zia (12.6). Next, Arizona has Turf Paradise (11.3). And California has Los Alamitos (10.8). Many of these tracks race quarter horses and mostly card sprints for TBs and are well-known for being sun-baked and hard, not ideal without throwing in the drugs and “lax oversight” mentioned in the article.

The synthetic surfaces at the major California TB tracks of Santa Anita (7.4), Hollywood (7.9), Del Mar (6.7), and Golden Gate Fields (5.5) have not had the same effects as their eastern counterparts, with the synthetic surfaces of Arlington (4.2) and Turfway (3.3) rating better in the Midwest, too, but it’s striking that even cheaper dirt tracks in the East have lower overall rates than most anything out West, with Finger Lakes (2.5), Suffolk Downs (2.3), Colonial Downs (2.5), and Tampa Bay Downs (2.8) leading the way. And these last-named four tracks card quite a few cheap races.

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5 thoughts on “Dicing and slicing the Times data reveals East Coast is safer

  1. Greg says:

    One issue is that many of those NM and western tracks do a lot of 2 year old QH racing, which I cut my teeth on and love. Watching those horses fly down a straight track can really get your blood pumping and my experience is that they’re great horses to be around. But one of the reasons we moved to running TBs is that you didn’t have to race babies at 2 (or even 18 months in some cases), you don’t have the full-out crazed break from the starting gates, etc. Since they’re only going 250-440 yards, they aren’t always as fit as a TB would need to be. It’s just a different game—almost apples and oranges. And, I’m sure, this contributes siginficantly to skewing the results at many of those tracks.

  2. Pingback: Jessica Chapel / Railbird - Odds and Ends

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