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A new report shows efforts to make horse racing safer still have yet to make strides

horse racing
Julio Cortez/AP
FILE - John Velazquez atop Medina Spirit competes during the 146th Preakness Stakes horse race at Pimlico Race Course, Saturday, May 15, 2021, in Baltimore. A necropsy on 2021 Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit showed no definitive cause of death. The California Horse Racing Board on Friday, Feb. 11, 2022, released the results of the examination done after the colt collapsed and died after a workout on Dec. 6 at Santa Anita. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

The push to reduce horseracing deaths still have a long run ahead of them, but there are some positive trends. That's according to the latest numbers on thoroughbred fatalities tracked by the Jockey Club's Equine Injury Database.

While the Jockey Club's report shows a slight decrease nationally in the overall rate of fatal injuries — 1.39 per 1,000 starts in 2021 as compared to 1.41 in 2020 — the number of thoroughbreds who suffered fatal injuries while racing went up by 33.

That raised the total number of reported thoroughbred racing deaths to 366, at a time when there's greater scrutiny on safety.

Kristin Werner, senior counsel and administrator of the equine injury database, said the overall rate of fatalities per starts is still a good sign, but more areas "require closer study." She says the recording of more data through systems tracking treatment records and surfaces will give regulators, racetracks, and researchers a "better understanding of horse health and racetrack safety."

The horseracing industry has faced renewed pressure to reform after the deaths of nearly two-dozen horses at California's Santa Anita Park in 2019 put a spotlight on the issue.

The Horseracing Safety and Integrity Act, meant to standardize medication and safety rules nationwide, was passed in 2020.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.