Four horses die at Grand National, as animal charities call for an end to “cruelty” in the race

Animal charities have called for stricter safety measures to end “cruelty” in horse racing after four horses died at a British horse-racing event.

The Grand National is a National Hunt horse race held annually at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool, England.

Eclair Surf was put down on Sunday morning after taking a heavy fall at the third fence of the Grand National, a race in which Discorama also suffered fatal injuries.

With Solwara One dying on Friday and Elle Est Belle suffering a suspected heart attack in another race on Saturday, a total of 59 horses have now died at the festival since 2000, according to the League Against Cruel Sports.

“This death toll is simply unacceptable and a blight on the horse racing industry,” Chris Luffingham, the animal welfare charity’s director of external affairs, said. “We need new safety measures to prioritise horse welfare and to bring about an end to this sickening spectacle.

“We need a new independent, regulatory body which focuses purely on the welfare of the horse and ends the use of the whip and the cruelty and body count associated with the Grand National.”

The RSPCA said:

“The death of any horse is always one too many so it is crucial that steps are taken to reduce the risk of such tragedies occurring.”

The British Horseracing Authority has taken strides to improve safety measures at the Grand National meeting since a review in 2011-12.

They include making fences more forgiving, levelling off the landing site after each jump, investment in the racing surface and new measures to keep horses cool after the race.

“Welfare and safety is an ever-evolving commitment and the BHA works constantly alongside our racecourses to further improve the sport’s safety record and reduce avoidable risk,” said James Given, director of equine health and welfare at the BHA.

“Every incident this week will be reviewed, and this information will then build on the significant evidence and evaluation that took place as part of the 2011-12 review, and in subsequent years. Should any further trends be identified that might be linked to increased risk then we are able to act on them.”

Eclair Surf looked likely to miss out on a place in the Grand National field earlier in the week, but unexpected defections meant he came off the reserve list.

Cruelly, however, he suffered a heavy fall on Saturday. While he was stabilised on course and walked onto transport back to the racecourse stables, he was later referred to Leahurst Equine Hospital and his deteriorating condition overnight led to him being euthanised on welfare grounds.

“We were optimistic when he left the track, but during the night he just got more and more wobbly and as he got more distressed it wasn’t the right thing to do to keep going,” trainer Emma Lavelle said.

“He was in the right place for those decisions to be made and the team both at the races and at the hospital were great.

“You kind of sit there and think of the ifs and buts and why nots, but you can’t sit and think that.

“It’s a real gutter for everybody – his owners and the team. He was an exciting horse for the future, but what can you say?”

The Paul Nolan-trained Discorama was pulled up by jockey Bryan Cooper and later put down having sustained a pelvic injury.

Nolan said:

“I’m devastated. But that is racing and you have to accept those things.

“He was a great servant and he gave us some great days, but all we can do is reflect on the couple of happy days and what he has done for us.

“It is just devastating for the owners and the yard, and it is just one of those awful things, but it is part of racing and that is what it is.

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Peg Fong is also in recovery from newspapers

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