Death rate at Cheltenham four times higher than average

Posted on the 17th March 2014

Four horses died at last week’s four-day Cheltenham Festival. This is an attrition rate four times higher than that found in racing as a whole, and twice the death rate when only jump racecourses are considered.

There was also bad news for horses on the whipping front at Cheltenham, with double the number of breaches of the British Horseracing Authority’s rules than, on average, would be expected to occur around the country. The total number of offences throughout the event was 13. This figure, it should be remembered, relates to breaches of the rules, which govern how many times and where on the horse’s body a jockey is allowed to hit them.

In the final race of this year’s Festival, eight-year-old Raya Star died after suffering a suspected fractured spine. He was the fourth equine fatality at this year’s four-day meeting. Like many of the 2014 Festival races, the 5.15 Grand Annual Chase, over two miles, was conducted at a furious pace. And it was another crowded field, featuring more than 20 runners. Several horses were bunched around Raya Star when he fell. Their close proximity may have made it difficult for him to make a clean jump.

Channel 4, in its coverage, focused heavily on jockeys who had been injured, both at the Festival and on other courses over the past year. The 2014 meeting did indeed result in a number of bruised and broken-boned jockeys. But it was horses who paid the heaviest price. Our Conor, Akdam and Stack The Deck died during the first two days. Yet during Thursday’s coverage, the Channel 4 racing team failed to mention the names of the previous day’s equine victims when, in barely more than a sentence, it announced that there had been two fatalities after it had finished broadcasting.

Said Animal Aid Director Andrew Tyler:

‘Animal Aid takes no pleasure in seeing jockeys getting hurt. But while it is entirely understandable to report on such injuries, Channel 4 should not do so in order to distract viewers from focusing on the fact that, once again, Cheltenham Racecourse has proved itself to be a death trap for horses. In 2006, eleven horses died and there hasn’t been a Festival since without an equine fatality. There is a simple question Cheltenham and the British Horseracing Authority need to answer: how many deaths at the Festival are too many?’

Notes to Editors:

For further information and interviews, contact Dene Stansall or Andrew Tyler on 01732 364546

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