Keeping track

16 August 2021 Written by Michael Lynch

Imagine if there was some software that allowed racing authorities to know when, where and what a retired thoroughbred was doing in their new life as an Off-The-Track (OTT) sport horse? Well imagine no longer.

Equestrian Victoria headed up by CEO Matthew Brown, along with Racing Victoria and Racing Australia has done just that with its push to create an API (an Application Programming Interface) collating that very information.

The data includes the name of the horse’s sire, dam, the breeder, the total number of starts the horse had, their lifetime earnings and the date and place of their last start.

The information will also detail the galloper’s retirement date, microchip number, any brands and markings and date of birth.

This service, said Brown, is being designed to make it much easier to identify off-the-track horses when they are registering for events and eliminate manual checking, lessening the chance of human error.

As he explained: “We are trying to catch some meaningful data that hasn’t been possible previously, from Equestrian Victoria and reporting back not only to Racing Australia but also Racing Victoria and other stakeholder groups about the numbers of off-the-track thoroughbreds that are in our system and what they are doing.

“It gives the ability to follow the thoroughbred in their career after racing. There are so many terrific stories out there about great racehorses and others who have gone on to great careers in equestrian sport or sport horse pursuits.”

Brown said another driver for establishing the system was to celebrate the thoroughbred in all its guises, not just at the racetrack.

He acknowledges that last year’s ABC story on horses being inhumanely killed in a slaughterhouse in Queensland left a stain on the equestrian world and that is why all horse sports have to work to remind people that the overwhelming majority of horses are treated well and appreciated throughout their various careers.

Animal welfare is a massive part of what we do and we have been working on this for 18 months ... we want to celebrate the fact that there are great opportunities for retired thoroughbreds after racing. - Matthew Brown

 Equestrian Victoria works closely with Racing Victoria through the Off-the Track program, and it was the fact that they already worked together that made it easier to create the database.

“It made sense. There was an interaction there that told us a particular horse was an off-the-track thoroughbred, and we were able to report back and say ‘this is what they are competing in, this is where they are based now, and this is who their owners are’ if they needed that information.

“Increasingly, we are finding that owners and trainers are equally interested in knowing where their ex-racehorses are going.”

Brown said this is an initiative that shows how much those in the industry do care.

“We are able to tell the story of where these horses are, where they have been and what they are doing.

“It's an animal welfare good news story, it's about legitimising the industry and showing that they are not just firing off thoroughbreds to a short life post racing.

There is an opportunity for a second career after racing and the retraining of the thoroughbred is paramount in that. It shows that there is a much longer journey for the retired racehorse.”

Equestrian Victoria Chairman Carl Parkin agreed: “This arrangement between Equestrian Victoria and Racing Australia is incredibly important in the industry’s work towards improving horse traceability, and continues Equestrian Victoria’s commitment to equine welfare.”