Voided Claim Rules Aid Equine Safety Measures

Written By Kimberly French on July 9, 2020

Jurisdictions that have added voided claim rules are providing further protection for racehorses, according to data from the Jockey Club Equine Injury Database.

The equine injury database, which tracks catastrophic injuries in horses for nearly every race in the United States, suggests, from a number of data points in the past 18 months, that voided claims rules may be having a significant positive effect.

What Does it Mean?

Professor of veterinary epidemiology at the University of Glasgow, Tim Parkin, has studied EID numbers since the database launched in 2009. He outlined his latest findings during a June 9 webinar — part of a series of discussions presented by Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, which served as a substitute for the 2020 Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit (canceled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic).

The webinar also included executive director and COO of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium Mary Scollay as well as Kristin Werner, senior counsel for the Jockey Club.

Parkin shared numbers during his presentation that suggest voided claim rules are reducing catastrophic injuries. Varying from state to state, the voided claim rules involve added requirements before a claim goes through.

Claims may be voided should a horse suffer a catastrophic injury during the race, or suffer an injury significant enough to be placed on the vet’s injury list.

How Does it Help?

Parkin also presented data that showed voided claim rules, no matter how they are structured, are improving safety, but that more stringent rules are providing further protection.

Specifically, rules that require a horse to not be placed on the vet’s list post-race for the claim to go through provide more protection than rules that require only that the horse not suffer catastrophic injury during the race.

“It’s clear to me that it’s a really significant regulatory intervention,” said Parkin. “Clearly it cannot do harm. I would encourage more tracks and jurisdictions to introduce voided claim rules as they see fit. … They are that second check on entering a horse that would be at greater risk if it did race.”

Scollay said voided claim rules are intended to cause the trainer of the horse being entered in the claiming race to “self-edit,” knowing that if the horse comes back unsound it’s going to come back to his barn without being sold. Scollay said the rule provides incentives to improve decision-making to protect horses.

Paying Dividends

Parkin focused his study on tracks which have instituted voided claim rules between the advent of the EID in 2009 and 2019.

“These data points simply look at the risk at those individual tracks prior to the VCR (voided claim rule) and post introduction of VCR in claiming races and maiden-claiming races,” Parkin said. “Certainly in claiming races there’s been a very significant drop in the risk of fatal injury post-introduction of the voided claim rule. … The drop in maiden-claiming races wasn’t statistically significant but was going in the right direction and there’s certainly no evidence that introduction of a void claim rule can cause any harm. It’s certainly not going in the wrong direction.”

Scollay added, in 2019, 99.847 % of horses safely returned to their barns following races.

“We have successfully and consistently reduced our injury occurrence,” Scollay said. “We’re heading in the right direction. We’ve been able to sustain the improvement. It’s hard to tag any one event as the tipping point because there have been so many safety initiatives implemented over that period of time. At the end of the day we’re doing something right and we’ve been able to sustain that. Our work is paying off.”

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Kimberly French

Kimberly French is an award winning freelance journalist specializing in horse racing and horse health living in Louisville, KY. Her work has appeared in more than 25 national and international publications. She is currently the editor of Hoof Beats magazine, the official publication of the U.S. Trotting Association and the special assistant to the president for the Association of Racing Commissioners International.

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