The objective was to describe the incidence of failure to finish a race in flat-racing Thoroughbreds in New Zealand as these are summary indicators of falls, injuries and poor performance. Retrospective data on six complete flat racing seasons (n = 188,615 race starts) of all Thoroughbred flat race starts from 1 August 2005 to 31 July 2011 were obtained. The incidence of failure to finish events and binomial exact 95% confidence intervals were calculated per 1000 horse starts. The association between horse-, rider- and race-level variables with the outcomes failure to finish, pulled-up/fell and lost rider were examined with a mixed effects Poisson regression model. A total of 544 horses failed to finish in 188,615 race starts with an overall incidence of 2.88 per 1000 horse starts (95% CI 2.64–3.12). The incidence of failure to finish horses across each race year showed little variability. In the univariable analysis race distance, larger field size, season, and ratings bands showed association with failing to finish a race. The overall failure to finish outcome was associated with season, race distance and ratings bands (horse experience and success ranking criteria). In the multivariable analysis, race distance and ratings bands were associated with horses that pulled-up/fell; season, apprentice allowances and ratings bands were associated with the outcome lost rider. The failure to finish rate was lower than international figures for race day catastrophic injury. Racing and environmental variables were associated with failure to finish a race highlighting the multifactorial nature of race-day events. Further investigation of risk factors for failure to finish is required to better understand the reasons for a low failure to finish rate in Thoroughbred flat races in New Zealand.
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