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Death toll rises to seven in 9 weeks on Wolverhampton's death-trap course
Posted 16 January 2007
Animal Aid calls for immediate suspension of racing
Two more horses have died on Wolverhampton's controversial synthetic racetrack. Saturday night's fatalities bring to seven the number of horses who have perished in just nine weeks, and come less than a month after the industry's regulatory authority "investigated" the earlier fatalities and gave the track the all-clear. Animal Aid is demanding that the course is immediately shut down to prevent further carnage.
Despite attempts to bury news of the latest equine deaths, it has emerged that Epices suffered a burst blood vessel, fell and broke a leg, and that Blakeshall Boy also broke a leg when he collided with Epices during the 16.50 race.
Wolverhampton has a 'Polytrack' synthetic surface in which gravel, crushed rock, sand, rubber, synthetic fibres and other materials are layered and bonded together. The evidence points to the surface becoming compacted - and dangerously firm - as a result of the unparalleled number of race meetings staged by the course. There were more than 100 racing days at Dunstall Park during 2006, which is about seven times more than is usual for a flat course. As well as the challenging surface, the oval-shaped course, with its unusually tight bends, encourages horses to bunch together.
Before Saturday's fatalities, the death toll since 9 November stood as follows: 3 horses broke legs and fell (La Via Ferrata, Montage and Money for Fun); Eccollo was struck into (kicked), broke a leg and fell; and Mad Maurice was brought down. There is strong evidence that another horse died shortly after completing a race - bringing the total death toll to eight.
Says Animal Aid's Horse Racing Consultant, Dene Stansall:
'After the first five deaths, the industry's governing body (the Horseracing Regulatory Authority) and the course operators made the astonishing suggestion that the deaths were an unfortunate statistical "blip". On that basis, they refused to suspend racing. The mounting death toll makes nonsense of their cynical and complacent attitude. How many more horses have to die before the industry puts common decency before its headlong pursuit of profit?'
Notes to editors
- An Animal Aid study of available evidence - including 15,000 pages of race results - shows that around 375 horses are raced to death every year. Some 30% of these fatalities occur during, or immediately after, a race, and result from a broken leg, back, neck or pelvis; fatal spinal injuries; exhaustion; heart attack, or burst blood vessels. The other victims perish from training injuries or are killed after being assessed by their owners as no-hopers.
- 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 uncertain. Around 5,000 racers are retired each year, yet very few go on to live out their lives in a sanctuary or adoptive home.
- Read Animal Aid's new report on breeding and slaughter
- View our powerful 90-second web film
- For full background and interviews, contact Andrew Tyler on 01732 364546.
- ISDN line available for broadcast-quality interviews.