Two horses are dead following the 2011 running of the four-and-a-half mile Grand National, and an animal welfare organisation is comparing the race to bullfighting.
Only 19 of the 40 starters finished the race, which was won by Ballabriggs, a 10-year-old horse ridden by Jason Maguire.
A horse named Ornais died instantly when he broke his neck after a fall at the fourth fence. Dooneys Gate, who broke his back in a fall at the sixth fence, Becher’s, received treatment but was later euthanised.
‘When horses are killed at the Grand National meeting, their deaths are not accidents but entirely predictable," said Animal Aid Director Andrew Tyler. "The public has been conned into believing that the Grand National is a great sporting spectacle when, in reality, it is straightforward animal abuse that is on a par with Spanish bullfighting. This race should have no future in a civilised country.
"The BBC deserves special condemnation for all but concealing news of the deaths. In fact, one of its commentary team described the dead horses as they lay on the course as ‘obstacles’ – which was particularly disgusting and callous."
Julian Thick, Managing Director of Aintree Racecourse, said that safety is the first priority for the organisers of the Grand National, and efforts we be increased to make sure that horses, jockeys and spectators are able to participate safely.
“Now that the meeting is finished, we will, as always, be looking at all aspects of this year’s race to see how we can make the event safer in the future," he was quoted as saying on the Aintree Racecourse website. "We work closely with animal welfare organisations, such as the RSPCA and World Horse Welfare to make sure we are up to date with the latest thinking and research regarding welfare and safety. Our job is to make sure that the horses are looked after properly and that the race is run as safely as possible.”
Animal Aid reports that 20 horses have died on the Grand National course since 2000.
The fences where Ornais and Dooneys Gate suffered their fatal injuries were bypassed when the horses made their second circuit of the track, and the BBC was later criticised for referring to the downed animals simply as obstacles.
The Telegraph reported that a loose horse did jump Becher’s for a second time on Saturday, "with near catastrophic consequences for an official holding up the screen around Dooneys Gate."
In another race during the day, John Smith's Maghull Novices' Chase, 22-year-old jockey Peter Toole was seriously injured when the horse he was riding fell, and he was placed in an induced coma.
Photos from the Grand National can be seen on the Daily Mail website and a video of the entire race can be seen on YouTube.