Animal Aid

Cheltenham Racing Festival: Two horses dead in the first two days of racing at Britain's most lethal course

Posted 16 March 2006

The first day of the Cheltenham Racing Festival claimed its first victim in the Fred Winter Juvenile Novices' Handicap Hurdle. Bayard, a 4 year old horse, was killed in a fatal fall at the third last hurdle. Day two of the Festival has seen a second horse, Nowhere to Hide, destroyed after breaking his leg upon tripping over another fallen horse in the 4pm Coral Cup. This brings to 11 the total horses killed at the Cheltenham Festivals in the past four years.

Last year, national campaign group Animal Aid conducted an analysis of thousands of racing results going back four seasons, and found that Cheltenham topped the list of the country's most hazardous courses. In just 54 days' racing over the 2004 National Hunt season, there were no fewer than 21 fatalities on the deathtrap course.

Animal Aid's research into the racing industry has revealed that around 375 horses are raced to death every year. 30 per cent of these fatalities occur during or after a race. The remainder of the horses are killed due to injuries received in training, or because they are considered no longer profitable. These documented deaths are thought to be just the tip of the iceberg. The fates of thousands of other Thoroughbred animals remain an industry secret.

To mark the first day of the Cheltenham Festival, Animal Aid staged a peaceful protest at the course. As 'Victorian mourners' stood in front of a giant banner stating '375 horses raced to death each year - don't back the cruelty', the reaction from punters was depressingly hostile and dismissive. Upon hearing that horses were likely to die at the week's meet, "so what?", "get a life!" and "then we'll eat them" were amongst the responses.

Says Dene Stansall, Animal Aid's horse racing consultant:

'Cheltenham and other such events do their best to conceal these routine deaths. They are as predictable as they are depressing, because of the demands the industry places on these increasingly overworked animals.'

For more information and interviews, please call Claudia Tarry at Animal Aid on 01732 364546, ext 28. ISDN line available for broadcast-quality interviews.

Notes to Editors

  • Of the approximately 15,000 horses bred by the racing industry each year, only around one third go on to become racers. The fate of those who do not make the grade is unknown. Some end up as pet food, others are fed to hunting hounds. A similar number of racers are retired each year, yet very few go on to lead out their lives in a sanctuary or adoptive home. It is clear the horse racing industry is covering up what happens to its prize assets once they stop making money and are out of the public gaze.
  • For a general report on the horse racing industry, see Riding for a fall.
  • Around 375 horses are raced to death every year. See our horse deaths report.
  • View our powerful 90-second web film.

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