Cheltenham Festival: Copper Gone West becomes first horse to die at 2020 event

Tim Vaughan-trained mare suffered a fatal injury during the second race of day three at Cheltenham

Jack de Menezes
Thursday 12 March 2020 16:18
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Drone shots of Cheltenham race course

Copper Gone West has become the first horse to die at the Cheltenham Festival, casting a shadow over the third day of racing.

The seven-year-old mare trained by Tim Vaughan was ridden by Alan Johns in the 2:10pm Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle, but was pulled up shortly before the end of the race.

However, it was confirmed by Cheltenham officials that Copper Gone West had to be put down after suffering a fatal injury during the race.

“Devastated to have lost Copper Gone West at Cheltenham today,” said Vaughan via his Twitter account. “A wonderful horse, she will be greatly missed by all of us at Pant Wilkin and by her adoring owners Paul and Louise.

The race was eventually won by Sire Du Berlais, who clinched back-to-back wins in the Pertemps following a tight battle with stablemate The Storyteller, though the victory was soured by the tragic news.

The first two days of racing passed without any fatalities at Cheltenham, though the death of Copper Gone West renewed calls for action to be taken against the British Horseracing Authority over the welfare of race horses.

Animal rights group Animal Aid said in a statement: “Despite the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) review of Cheltenham in 2018 – due to an appalling record of deaths – their recommendations have failed horses yet again at the Prestbury Park course.

“The excessive number of 24 runners in the race was clearly the cause of Copper Gone West’s death. On the final turn she took a heavy bump to her shoulder from another horse which resulted in a fatal injury. She was destroyed on the Cheltenham course just minutes later.

“Whilst Animal Aid does not support horse racing, a positive step for race horses’ safety would be to replace the BHA with an independent horse welfare body.”

However, animal rights group Peta called for the immediate suspension of the Festival as the death of Copper Gone West continues on from last year’s events, when three horses died during the week.

“When you consider that three horse died at the Cheltenham Festival last year, the death of Copper Gone West today wasn't only tragic – it was predictable,” said Peta director Elisa Allen. “No one would be raising a glass or placing bets if cats or dogs were the ones being whipped, being forced to jump dangerous obstacles, shattering their ankles, breaking their necks, and being shot in the head right on the track – and horses deserve no less sympathy.

“This is a stain on the UK's reputation as a nation that cares about animals, and Peta is calling for an immediate end to this year's festival to prevent any more senseless cruelty to animals.”

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