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Grand National – “Change Vital if the Race is to Survive” – Conservative Animal Welfare

April 15th 2012

Changes to the design and management of the Grand National are essential if the National Hunt race is to survive, says the President of Conservative Animal Welfare, Sir Roger Gale, MP (North Thanet).
Speaking in the aftermath of the equine deaths at Aintree during this week`s meeting, the MP has said:
“Aintree in general and the Grand National in particular, are internationally recognised for their importance in  the horseracing calendar.
Over the years significant changes have been made to the design of the course and the fences but it is quite clear that further changes will have to be made to protect runners and riders if the meeting and the race are continue to benefit from the public support and approval that any such event requires.
The deaths, yesterday, of According to Pete and of the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Synchronised, both at Becher`s Brook, have once again thrown into harsh light the very real damage that can be inflicted upon the animals during the course of the Grand National spectacle.  The officers of Conservative Animal Welfare do not doubt that owners, trainers and jockeys all care about the welfare of their horses and we know that they will be sharing in the pain and the horror of the death of two magnificent animals in such a way.
(The suggestion from one trainer, in the immediate aftermath of the race, to the effect that the public should “grow up” was insensitive and crass and we do not doubt that he will be regretting his words today).
The fact remains that starting a field of forty horses, in a manner akin to starting a Formula One race with no grid, is bound to lead to congestion, collision and probable injury to horses and riders. Conservative Animal Welfare believes that The HRA needs to look closely at tightening the entry qualifications in order to further limit the number of starters.
It cannot be right, either, to expect a horse to take a fence like Becher`s and to anticipate a drop on the landing side of the obstacle and those responsible must take another look at this and to yet again re-design the fence.
The bottom line is, of course, that while men and women taking part in an extreme sport – and National Hunt racing is exactly that – do so at their own risk.   The horses that they ride have no choice and the Horse Racing Association must recognise that either greater care still is taken to protect the participating horses or that in the eyes of the viewing public the reputation of their business will be irreparably damaged and that the clamour to ban the Grand National completely will increase until it becomes irresistible.” 

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