Racehorse deaths and injuries

At California racetracks in 2010-11, 186 horses died in racing and training accidents. Among the major thoroughbred tracks, Santa Anita had the highest death rates during racing. After drainage problems, Santa Anita switched from synthetic back to a dirt surface last season.

Racehorse deaths and injuries
Common injuries
Comparing synthetic and dirt tracks

Injuries by type of track

Musculoskeletal injuries by track type and horse limb, for 2010-11 season at California tracks:

Common injuries

Most common musculoskeletal injuries in thoroughbreds on all California track surfaces, 2010-11 season:

Comparing synthetic and dirt tracks

Excess water wreaks havoc on racetrack surfaces. Here’s a look at drainage problems Santa Anita Racetrack had with its synthetic track, and how the dirt track drains:


1. Silt and clay mixed into the synthetic surface layer eventually seeped downward, forming an inconsistent hard-pan layer that trapped water.

2. Spike aerators were used to help water drain, but rocks from lower layer came up through spike holes.


1. Before heavy rains, track surface is “sealed,” so rain can run off smoothed surface. Track is banked so water can flow to the inside.

2. Pipes below track picks up any excess water that percolates down from surface.