Animal Aid

The 'Best' and the 'Worst' Killed at Aintree

Posted 2 April 2009

The first day of the Grand National three-day meeting has claimed the lives of two horses. One was the highly-rated Exotic Dancer, the other was Mel In Blue – a horse with a track record at the other end of the ratings scale.

Exotic Dancer, riding in the 3-mile Totesport Bowl Chase, managed to finish second after being pushed hard for about half the race. Back in the stables, he suffered a fatal heart attack. Mel in Blue was riding in the Foxhunters’ Chase, run over 2-and-3/4 miles of the Grand National course.

The racing pundits have insisted that the lethal sting has been taken out of the Grand National course in recent years, even though it killed three horses last year. In particular, it has been claimed that the notorious Chair and Becher’s Brook are not the fearsome obstacles they once were. However, two horses made heart-stopping falls in the Foxhunters’ at the Chair, one of whom – De Luain Gorm – did a complete somersault and appeared to land on his head. He somehow survived. But Mel in Blue was not so fortunate at Becher’s Brook, where he fell heavily and was seen lying flat out on the ground and kicking – a sign that either his neck or back had been broken.

As usual, the BBC delayed any announcement about what had befallen him and when it did come, it amounted to a single sentence. Mel in Blue, the 200-1 outsider, had not raced for 347 days and in his last two races – in March and April 2008 – he was unable to complete the course. His chances of survival in today’s crowded race were not improved by having an amateur jockey on his back or that he was forced to carry 12 stone, the same weight as the winning horse.

There were fears that Aintree’s first day would also claim the life of Denman, whose star status eclipses that of Exotic Dancer. He was riding in the Totesport Chase alongside Exotic Dancer when he fell heavily at the second to last fence. The nine-year-old, who suffers with heart problems, had been entered into the gruelling Cheltenham Gold Cup just last month – as had Exotic Dancer.

Says Dene Stansall, Animal Aid’s Horse Racing Consultant:

‘With two victims claimed on the first day of the three-day 2009 Grand National meeting, the Aintree organisers are stripped of any justification for the disgusting spectacle they pass off as sport. One of the best-rated horses in the country and a lowly-rated Thoroughbred were pushed to their limits and killed in horrific circumstances. Exotic Dancer was just nine – comparatively young for a horse – and yet suffered a fatal heart attack. Mel in Blue should never have been entered into a race over the cruelly difficult Grand National course. His violent death, barely remarked upon in the BBC’s coverage, is indicative of the racing industry’s greed, arrogance and callousness.’

More information:

  • For full background and interviews, contact Andrew Tyler or Dene Stansall on 01732 364546.
  • ISDN line available for broadcast-quality interviews.
  • Images are available on request.

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