Writing and Data Wrangling by: Heather Clemenceau
Data reproduced with permission of Patrick Battuello – http://www.horseracingwrongs.com
Most of the followers of this blog are familiar with Patrick Battuello and his meticulous collection of stats on the deaths and injuries of racehorses across the United States via his blog HorseracingWrongs. I was recently sent his 2014 compilation of information on racing deaths for 2014, and immediately I knew that, as a visual person, I wanted to see it represented in pictures and graphs. So I took Patrick’s data line by line, recorded each horse’s age at death, the track info, plugged it all in an Excel spreadsheet, added state, city, and zip codes for each of the tracks, scrubbed and sorted the data, and then imported it all into Tableau for visualization. It’s so disturbing to see the number of deaths of 1 year-olds in training at various tracks, as well as horses of the “advanced” age of 10. The average age of nearly 1,000 dead race horses was only 3.9 years.
Deaths per state/track are also very revealing, the greatest number of deaths occurring at Charles Town (West Virginia), Gulfstream (Florida), and Turf (Arizona).
There are certainly more deaths than what is represented here. Patrick was limited in what he was given via FOIA requests, while other tracks maintained that they didn’t keep lists, didn’t recognize training deaths, didn’t provide complete information, claimed that they were prohibited by law from providing information, or simply denied requests. The information obtained does not even include deaths that occurred at private farms, training centers, or rescue facilities, nor does it include “non-racing” fatalities such as colic or laminitis. In turn, I was somewhat limited in my ability to determine whether tracks had been sold and changed names with or without the complication of bankruptcy, and where they were located in states/cities.The data certainly tells a story. But even if we estimate that the deaths are double the numbers captured, visualizations on graphs do not include all the other horses slaughtered in Canadian or Mexican plants last year, which is where many of them go when they lose one too many a race.
Raw Data below: