Two horses died on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival to mar the jump season’s biggest race meet, with three days of action still left to run.
Six-year-old Irish gelding Mossback suffered a fractured front leg in the 16:50 National Hunt Steeple Chase Challenge Cup, and officials confirmed that the Gordon Elliot-trained horse had to be put down shortly afterwards.
Critics were unhappy that only six of the 16-horse field finished the race, and there were fears over the race winner, Rathvinden, when it looked unsteady on its feet and required a number of buckets of water to be thrown over it after failing to trot to the winners’ enclosure.
In the days final race in the 17:30 Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase, Report to Base, a six-year-old Gelding trained in Wales, was fatally injured in the two-and-a-half mile finale. Another horse, Le Rocher, was also involved in the fall, but was reported to be ok.
The deaths were condemned by Animal Aid, who are campaigning to the government for an independent regulatory body with horse welfare as its only interest.
“Yet again the demands of Cheltenham Racecourse have proved too much for many horses racing today,” said Animal Aid’s horse racing consultant Dene Stansall. “The Jockey Club owned racecourse and the BHA should hang their heads in shame at what was a sad spectacle where two young horses lost their lives. Questions need to be answered as to the role of the welfare regulator.”
The British Horseracing Authority have taken measures to reduce the risk posed to horses in recent years, having introduced a number of changes that included swapping the wooden frame inside the fences to a more forgiving material known as “plastic birch” along with shortening their height and also levelling off the landing ground at a number of race courses across the country.
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