State University, Statisticians Step Up To Study Injury Spike At Turf Paradise
Track Seeking Answers, Solutions Following Increase In Horse Injuries
Northern Arizona University’s Alliance Bank Economic Policy Institute and two private sector analytics firms have reached out to Turf Paradise after the Phoenix-based racetrack issued a public call for assistance to study and address a recent increase in equine injuries and deaths.
While a team of experts made up of horse trainers and owners, jockeys, veterinarians, and track officials has been diligently studying the unexplained increase for many months, Turf Paradise believes a fresh set of eyes may be needed to look at statistical factors and patterns that may not be evident to those within the racing industry.
Turf Paradise General Manager Vince Francia is now compiling statistics to be reviewed. “Safety is and has always been our top priority. It is my hope that a statistician may see a hidden trend in the numbers,” said Francia.
These experts will look at everything from the number of starts on a given day to post times and jockey silk colors. Francia added, “Horseracing is an industry that thrives on statistics in terms of odds-making and handicapping the past performances of horses. It’s time to use those numbers to help us to improve the odds when it comes to horse safety.”
Turf Paradise takes equine deaths very seriously and is proposing a long list of reforms in addition to assistance from statistical experts.
Turf Paradise wants to expand the current system of 15 pre-race exams of horses which are selected by the stewards on a live racing day to all horses racing that day. This would require an additional veterinarian.
Turf Paradise would also like to form a new committee to look at the horse injury rate that would include statisticians, veterinarians, and university instructors and researchers.
Flat Track motorcycle racing, which had been taking place after the season concludes, will no longer be held at the racetrack.
As recently as the 2015/2016 season the fatality rate was within industry norms. Turf Paradise has some of the strictest drug testing polices in the nation and has a number of longstanding policies and projects in place specifically for equine safety.
Turf Paradise is one of four of the 82 race tracks in the country that provides an Equine Therapy Swimming Pool that provides a complete cardio vascular workout for the horse without subjecting it to the stress on to its legs associated with regular training and workouts.
The track recently purchased two brand new harrows that groom the one mile main dirt track. The dirt track also undergoes weekly renovation every Thursday during the race meet. The Turf Course (grass track) has separate protocols which are followed to determine if the surface is race-able or not.
At the conclusion of the race meet, the sand and dirt are removed from the main track. At the start of the new meet, fresh sand and dirt are used. The Turf Course is maintained via an automated watering system, periodic re-seedings, fertilization and aeration. The moisture content of the Turf Course is constantly monitored. At the end of the season old grass is removed and taken down to the earth base, and re-seeded for the next season.
In the event of rain or any unusual circumstances, the dirt and turf tracks are inspected for safety by horsemen, jockeys, and track officials.
A Safety Review Committee meets once a month and is composed of the General Managers of Turf Paradise, Rillito Park (Tucson) and Arizona Downs (Prescott Valley), the Director of the Division of Racing, the Enforcement Officer of the Division, a representative of the Arizona Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (AzHBPA), and three veterinarians.
For each horse that suffers a fatal breakdown a necropsy is performed by Midwestern University College of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Health Institute. Following the issuing of the report the Safety Review Committee gets together with the trainer of the horse to go over all facets of the report.
Turf Paradise General Manager Vince Francia said, “Turf Paradise has been entertaining fans in Arizona for more than six decades. We have stayed in business this long by solving problems. We are confident we will solve this latest challenge and we are grateful for those who have stepped forward to assist us.”