Grand National 2017: Aintree meet passes by without a single fatality but Peta won't jump for joy any time soon

All three days passed by without an equine fatality with the Grand National reaching a fifth year without a horse dying from a fall

Jack de Menezes
Sunday 09 April 2017 13:17
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Politologue, jockeyed by Sam Twiston-Davies, suffered a nasty fall during the Grand National but escaped unhurt
Politologue, jockeyed by Sam Twiston-Davies, suffered a nasty fall during the Grand National but escaped unhurt

By all accounts, Saturday’s Grand National was an almighty success, and not just for those affiliated with One For Arthur following his home-stretch dash for victory.

The fairy tale triumph for jockey Derek Fox, one month after breaking his wrist and collarbone in a fall at Carlisle, along with the added bonus of only the second ever Scottish-trained victor and a fourth female winning-owner in Lucinda Russell.

But the heart-warming stat that was released shortly after the conclusion of the blue-ribbon event is that not one horse fatality was recorded over the course of the three day meet at Aintree, with all 40 Grand National runners and riders coming back unhurt to add further weight to the fact that the changes made by the British Horseracing Authority to the National course is having a positive influence on safety.

Only three horses fell during the National in Vicente, Cocktails At Dawn and The Young Master, with all of them able to continue once getting back up, and while a number of jockeys were unseated, the BHA confirmed that none of those fallers suffered any serious injuries.

It means that the Grand National has now stretched to its fifth year without an equine fatality being recorded in the main event, although last year’s Aintree Festival was overshadowed by the death of six horses in the support races over the three-day meet.

Following a string of equine deaths – the most high-profile of which being the AP McCoy-ridden Synchronised in 2012 in which he had to be euthanised after falling once he had unseated McCoy just weeks after winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup – the BHA introduced a number of changes that included changes 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, while the start was moved further away from the cheering punters and closer to the first fence to reduce the speed at which the 40-horse field hits the first obstacle.

But do the changes to the sport’s grand event lessen the fact that the horses’ lives are on the line each time they leave the parade ring? No, according to Elisa Allen, the director of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals [Peta] in the United Kingdom.

"The mere fact that it's a cause for celebration because no horse died during the race says everything that anyone should need to know about the Grand National and the horse-racing industry generally,” Allen said when contacted by The Independent.

“Hundreds of horses are killed on British racetracks every year – and for nothing more than a bet. Countless others endure catastrophic breakdowns, fractured bones and broken spines, and thousands are slaughtered for dog food once they're no longer considered profitable, including the foals bred for racing who don't make the grade. Never mind the finish line – this deadly industry is all about the bottom line, and the horses are viewed as ‘replaceable’ commodities, in the words of racing's favourite son, jockey Ruby Walsh.”

Synchronised was put down after suffering a fall when it unseated AP McCoy and continued before falling again

Racing will always have its opposition and the argument against it will never go away, no matter how far officials go to make it as safe as possible. Yet after five years without a fatality in this, one of the most dangerous races in the world, at least the BHA can say they are moving in the right direction.

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