Animal Aid demands closure of Southwell Racecourse

Posted on the 21st January 2014

Four horses dead in just three days of racing

Animal Aid is calling for the immediate closure of Southwell Racecourse, following the third horse death in just two days of racing. Two of the victims died violently in starting stall incidents.

Just a week ago, there was another equine fatality at the Nottinghamshire course, bringing the total of deaths to four in just three days of racing.

Today’s starting stall victim was Equitania. Television footage shows the young filly stumbling out of the stall with a broken foreleg. She tries to get her footing, and staggers and rears up. She then crashes into the stall and falls heavily on her back.

Yesterday’s stall victim was Kellys Eye. As the gates opened, he reared within the stall itself, smashing his head heavily against the overhead bar. Both Equitania and Kellys Eye were ridden by inexperienced apprentice jockeys.

Yesterday’s other victim was Maakirr, who broke his leg coming off the final bend. A similar fate befell Kieltys Folly on January 14.

Southwell has two courses: the All-Weather (Flat) course and the National Hunt (Jump). The first has seen a total of 16 horse deaths since Animal Aid launched its online database, Race Horse Deathwatch, in March 2007. That so many horses should die so quickly in recent days, compared with the course’s overall record, is cause for alarm.

Two more days of racing are scheduled for this week – one on the All-Weather and the other on the National Hunt course. The latter also has an appalling record of horses dying. At least 29 have perished since the start of Deathwatch.

Starting stalls present a hazard to horses, killing two or three around the country every year. To have two die in consecutive days at one course signals a major problem. The stalls are, in effect, narrow cages in which horses are held before the start of the race. When the signal is given, the front gates are opened and the horses are pressed to go from standing to a gallop in a matter of strides. It is not unusual for horses to resist entering the stalls. Various tactics are used to manhandle them into the contraptions, including the use of blindfolds.

Says Animal Aid’s Horseracing Consultant, Dene Stansall: 

‘Four horse deaths in just three days’ racing on an All-Weather course demands action not words. Animal Aid is calling for Southwell Racecourse to be closed down while a genuinely open, independent investigation is undertaken. Our call is supported by the League Against Cruel Sports. Already, the racecourse authorities are passing off the stall deaths as essentially the fault of the horses. This is a particularly outrageous and heartless example of the “blame the victim” phenomenon. Racing’s regulator, the British Horseracing Authority, has a dismal record of dealing with such matters. It is time for government, finally, to stop offloading responsibility for the extraordinary number of deaths on British racecourses and take speedy and decisive action.’

Notes to Editor

  • For interviews and further information, contact Dene Stansall or Andrew Tyler on 01732 364546
  • Race horse Deathwatch can be viewed at
  • The British course that kills most horses is Cheltenham. Its Deathwatch total is 48.

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