Big Fella Thanks – But No Thanks

Posted on the 30th October 2017

No thanks or recognition by the racing industry for this big hearted horse

It is rare to see horses racing at the age of 15. By this time of life by far the vast majority of horses have been retired from racing. But one horse whom many would agree deserved a well-earned retirement long before this age was Big Fella Thanks. He was still forced to run in competitive and demanding races long after his contemporaries were enjoying their days in the field.

Sadly, on 5 May this year he had his final race that proved to be fatal. He fractured a foreleg cannon bone at the notorious Cheltenham racecourse.

By the end of the month on the 30 May, Big Fella Thanks was officially reported as dead.

Big Fella Thanks was one of the big names in National Hunt (jump) racing over the past decade. He had contested the most demanding races, often carrying huge weights in the most testing of ground conditions. Yet, he always gave his all, finishing in one of the top three places in over half of his 41 races whilst never finishing out of the first two in his five point-to-point races.

He was a superb jumper and fell only once.

He contested four Grand Nationals and a further five races over the Grand National course at Aintree, Liverpool. Arguably, an unmatched record of achievement.

Surprisingly, his death has gone unreported in the racing press with no well- deserved obituary. This is presumably due to silence from his connections and embarrassment from an industry that allowed this old stager to continue racing until, eventually, he was fatally injured.

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

‘Big Fella Thanks deserved a long retirement where he was free to graze, relax, be himself and receive care through old age. The reality was that this old boy was exploited, had his life cut short, and most likely died in pain. The fact that this has been kept almost secret suggests a guilty conscience by those connected with him and the racing industry as a whole. Shame on them all.’

Big Fella Thanks – Facts and Figures

Not particularly a big horse as his name would suggest, Big Fella Thanks was named after an Irish hare-coursing greyhound – both of whom were under the same ‘ownership’ of gambler Harry Findlay in their early racing days.

  • Raced from the age of five until the age of 15
  • 9 races over the Aintree Grand National fences – finishing in eight of them – most probably a record for any horse. The races include:
    • 4 Aintree Grand Nationals – finishing: 4th; 6th; 7th; Unseated Rider
    • 2 Aintree Foxhunters’ Chases – finishing: 3rd; 8th
    • 2 Aintree Becher Chases – finishing: 3rd; 7th
    • 1 Aintree Topham Chase – finishing: 7th

41 races under rules:

  • 8 wins
  • 10 seconds
  • 4 thirds

5 Point-to-Point races:

  • 2 wins
  • 3 seconds

Earned his owners and connections £251,964 in prize-money

Read the Guardian article, published in reaction to our press release

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