Racehorse deaths spark outrage after the Grand National steeplechase

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SteeplechaseTwo horses died during the Grand National race last weekend and another was fatally injured at an earlier race in the three-day Grand National meeting.

Many are outraged at the deaths and the racing community’s unwillingness to make real changes to address the problem. The deaths are par for the course in the Grand National meeting, with a total of 33 equine deaths since 2000. In that time period, 2004 was the only year in which no horses died during or as a result of injuries sustained during Grand National races.

The Grand National is the main event during the three-day meeting at Aintree Racecourse near Liverpool, England. The historic steeplechase dates back to the 1830s and remains a highly popular social event despite controversy. The race consists of 30 fences ranging from 4’6″ to 5’3″ over 4 ½ miles. Forty horses started in this year’s Grand National, but only 19 finished.

The first fatality in this year’s race was Ornais, a nine-year-old gelding. He broke his neck after falling at the fourth fence, the lowest fence on the course at 4 feet. The second was Dooney’s Gate, an Irish-bred gelding who broke his back at Becher’s Brook. Becher’s Brook is a notoriously difficult obstacle that is 4’10” from the front but has a 6’9″ drop on the other side.

In response to criticism, Aintree Racecourse has improved the on-site veterinary services over the past several years, and a few jumps have been modified to reduce the risk of pileups. The persistently high fatality rate still plagues the Grand National, and animal welfare activists continually call for its end. The high jumps, grueling pace and distance, and large number of horses jumping at the same time are cited as reasons for the high fatality rate.

Irish Jockey Peter Toole was seriously injured in a pre-Grand National race and was being kept in a medically-induced coma through Monday night. There is only one recorded rider death in the Grand National’s history.

This year’s race was won by Billabriggs with jockey Jason Maguire for owner Trevor Hemmings. Billabriggs is trained by Donald McCain.

21 COMMENTS

  1. The winning horse was so dehydrated that he couldn’t make it into the winners circle. Thats just wrong. Many are calling for an end to the race. But if it was discontinued as of today what would happen to all of those horses? Some would go to slaughter, others to rescues, some would just “dissappear”. It wouldn’t just be horses in the UK either, it would affect all steeplechasers all over the world that train for that race. Not to mention the many people who work in the industry and do care for the horses. Steps need to be taken to make the race as safe as possible, and if it’s proven that it cannot be made safer, then yes maybe it shoul be ended.

  2. This is uncalled for!!! They need to just stop all of this stupid crap they only think of their self not the horses to them it’s just something else to get rid of I hate this stuff it’s just WRONG!!

  3. The social community should couldn’t be that stupid, as to actually enjoy seeing the abuse that is going on. Improvement of Vet services is proof that fatalities and injuries are of utmost importance in this event. Discontinueing this event is not the answer, making it safer for both horses and riders is though. Reducing the amount of horses starting out would be advisable. Make it harder to get into this brutal event.

  4. well…….i agree the grand national is to long and the jumps are way to big (each jump is over 5 feet!!!) but steeplechase itself is not a bad sport the horses love it! and its exciting!! they just need to make the races shorter and the jumps lower (and lessen the amount of horses in each race), does any one agree with me?

  5. That is horrible! And the worse thing is, if steeplechase was banned, these horses would still face death in slaughterhouses. At least this way they are doing what they love!

  6. I think there should be a thorough and rigourous test over fences for both horses and riders before they can enter and fewer horses should run at once. The horses and riders all go a bit crazy with the adrenaline that comes from competing in a large pack. Lots of misjudgement.

  7. Aw this is sad. Maybe they should have fewer horses and riders, and where there have been the most deaths and or injuries in the jumps they should change them up a bit to not be soo dangerous.

  8. my boyfriend was watching it on the internet and i couldnt believe it i told him i couldnt watch because i knew something bad would happen.I told him that it wasnt right and it should be banned.Those poor beautiful horses all at the hands of humans.WHAT A DISGRACE IT MAKE ME SICK.

  9. iv said it once iv said it a million times its not cruelty horses love it more then any one knows! i agree the jumps in the national are to high and dangerous and they should really do something about it! but steeplchase is a beautiful sport and i would love to see more of it! but they just need to make it safer.does anyone agree? horse world dont destroy steeplchase. MAKE IT SAFER.

  10. When i heard that more horses had died because of the lack of care we humans stow upon these magnificent, gorgeous animals, i nearly threw up! how dare we humans take something so perfect and beautiful and kill it just for our own pleasure and to raise a few extra bucks and turn a few heads. showing is important, but making horses jump over forty jumps for more than four miles is outrageous! Could we do that? NO!!!!! The slaughtering must stop…..if anyone lives near this area, please contact me through email. We NEED TO START A REVOLUTION!!!!! WE NEED TO BE HEARD!!!FOR THE HORSES!!!!!

  11. Yes this a complete outrage! Making these inoccent animals run on a suicide misson so some humans can make big money! This needs to be stopped!

  12. guys…..please the horses love this sport more then any of you know! yes i agree the grand national is way to dangerous, but steeplechase it self is not a bad sport! in america the jumps are shorter races are less long and there are less horses enter”d in each race DONT DESTROY STEEPLECHASE!!!does anyone agree:(:(:( and R.I.P. you sweet horses that lost there lives. Aintree should pay for what they do to you! shorten the jumps you fools!!

  13. and you guys like eventing its just as dangerous! i wish people would GET HOW MUCH HORSES LOVE THIS!! and what ever horses love i love! they died doing what they love doing most! watch the race the horses that fall get back up and start running again they would not do that if they didnt want to DOES ANY ONE GET IT STEEPLECHASE IS A BEAUTIFUL SPORT!! DONT DESTROY IT!!

  14. There are two sides of it that are totally right. Side one is that you think they should end it or make them less dangerous, because the horses are basically forced to do it and end up getting seriously injured and it’s basically suicide. Side two is that the rider should have been more careful, or the horses love the sport and at least they died or were injured doing the sport that they simply adore, and mistakes happen, so let the courses go on!
    I agree with both, half and half. I really don’t know what to think.

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