JC / Railbird

Research

2.04 per 1000

On first reading, I thought there was an error in the headline of the press release: “Equine Injury Database Statistic Released by The Jockey Club.” But no, the Jockey Club did release just one statistic, and it is a sobering figure:

Based upon a year’s worth of data beginning November 1, 2008, from 378,864 total starts in Thoroughbred flat races at 73 racetracks … 2.04 fatal injuries were recorded per 1,000 starts.

TJC did not report the actual number of deaths, but the Courier-Journal did the math, coming up with:

… about 773 horse deaths, or an average of nearly 15 fatal injuries a week.

For comparison, the New York Times offers:

In England, for example, the average risk of fatality ranges from 0.8 to 0.9 per 1,000 starts. In Victoria, Australia, studies reported the risk of fatality from 1989 to 2004 at 0.44 per 1,000 starts.

More detailed data, although not track-by-track stats, will be released at the Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit in June.

Miss Milfred’s Ambition

From the Saint Paul Daily Globe, August 10, 1892:

CHICAGO, ILL., Aug. 9. — Frances Milfred would like to be a jockey. She is from Missouri and knows how to handle a horse. Being fond of outdoor exercise and a lover of excitement, she is determined to do something besides play the typewriter or call “cash.” She is now visiting Chicago, and will not return to St. Joe unless she fails to secure a position with some owner of fast horses. It is her ambition to come down the stretch in a whipping finish and land her horse about two lengths ahead of Fox, Goodale, Overton, Penny and other slim-waisted young men who think they can ride.

Miss Milfred, after coming to Chicago a month ago, visited Washington Park and watched the flyers for several successive days. She lost $13.50 in cash ventures, but discovered a new sphere for women. The more she watched the races the more firmly she became convinced that she could learn to ride as well as any one else. Once she had been in the Kiralfy chorus and had made only $10 a week. When she heard that jockeys often made $100 for winning one race, that settled it.

Saturday evening the following “ad” appeared in one of the papers:

LADY aged twenty-five, from West, good rider, would like to learn to be a jockey. Address S. B. 84.

An encouraging letter addressed to S. B. 84 brought a reply that Miss Frances Milfred would be at home Monday at No. 17 Upton Street. There she was found, in the bottom flat, a brown-haired, slim young lady of pleasant features and a desire to explain her ambition.

“In the first place, my weight is all right,” said she. “With me it is a serious matter. I want to do something to make a living, and believe I would make a good jockey. Ever since I can remember I have been accustomed to handling horses. Four years ago I was counted the best rider in St. Joe, and once I won a race at a county fair. Do you see any reason why a young lady should not be a jockey? No. Neither do I. My folks would object, of course, but if I don’t succeed here I’m going East and try it.”

The original “jockette”?

Links for 2009-07-17

Crouching Jockeys, Faster Horses

According to research published in Science, the now-standard “monkey crouch,” popularized by jockey Tod Sloan in the late 1890s when he moved from the US to Britain, revolutionized racing by making horses run faster:

By, in effect, floating above his mount, the jockey saves the energy the horse would otherwise expend…. average times — almost 109 seconds per mile in the 1890s — fell dramatically and settled at less than 103 seconds for most of the 20th century.

The findings suggest an intriguing possibility:

Some researchers have hypothesized that a jockey could in effect “drive” the horse faster than it could go on its own. Pfau believes this might be possible if the jockey is moving the right way at precisely the right time. “But we haven’t cracked that yet,” he says.

Unproven, but such a conclusion seems intuitively correct. “A good jockey can improve a horse if he is a good fit for him,” trainer Bob Baffert tells Joe Drape. “That’s why we have speed riders and come-from-behind jockeys. The best stay cool and calm, and horses can feel it.”

After →