A UC Davis study of horse deaths at California tracks has documented for the first time that thoroughbreds suffer a higher number of fatal hind rear injuries on race tracks with synthetic surfaces compared to dirt.
In statistics compiled from 2008, nine thoroughbred deaths resulted from left rear injuries and 10 from right rear injuries on synthetic tracks. There was only one death on dirt from a hind rear injury, according to the study.
But the study was inconclusive about whether more fatal front leg injuries occurred on dirt or synthetic surfaces.
The largest number of fatal fractures were front limbs, with 36 horses suffering right-front injuries on synthetic tracks compared to 22 on dirt; 38 had left-front injuries on synthetic surfaces compared to 37 on dirt tracks, according to the study.
The research was revealed Thursday during a meeting of the California Horse Racing Board at Del Mar.
The CHRB has mandated that any horse that dies at a race track be sent to UC Davis for a postmortem.
Hailu Kinde, interim director for the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System, said there were 351 horses submitted in 2008 for postmortems.
Kinde declined to say whether synthetic or dirt tracks were safer.
"The data is not yet analyzed," he said.