Grand National review: BHA’s feeble package of ‘reforms’

Posted on the 2nd November 2011

Following public outrage at the death of two horses in the 2011 Grand National, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) undertook a review of the event that was ‘designed to continue enhancing the safety and welfare [of the race]’. Today’s publication of its findings offers little to tackle the realities of a race that is innately cruel and unreformable.

Since 2000, nine horses have died in the event, and 20 while racing on the National course during the three-day April meeting.

The initial four changes that were recommended by the BHA in August this year were:

  • To reduce the drop on the landing side of Becher’s Brook by four inches
  • To level out the ground on the landing side of the first fence
  • To reduce the 4th fence by 2 inches to a height of 4 foot 10 inches
  • To increase the height of the take-off sight boards at fences to 14 inches

(For Animal Aid’s response, see:

Today’s final report calls for 26 more changes, some of which are intent on reducing media and public transparency in relation to future injuries and deaths.

Even the review’s statistical content is questionable. For example, the 2007 race was said to have produced no fatalities. In reality, Graphic Approach fell, ran loose and was further injured – suffering concussion, a black eye and broken ribs. He died soon after from pneumonia as a consequence of his injuries.

The BHA review includes charts showing an upward trend in injury and fatigue in steeplechase races – problems that grow worse as distances increase. A higher injury rate is also evident where greater numbers of horses take part. Yet the BHA chose to ignore these factors in its decision not to insist on a reduction of the extreme race distance of four-and-a-half miles – or the huge number of 40 runners.

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

The Grand National is, by design, an extremely hazardous race, one that routinely kills horses. The BHA, with its package of feeble ‘reforms’, has done nothing to change that reality. Animal Aid’s own research* shows that the Grand National is getting more, rather than less, dangerous for horses. It is quite simply unreformable. The BHA has once again failed horses in its attempt to appease the powerful moneyed figures within racing.


For interviews, please contact Dene Stansall or Andrew Tyler on 01732 364546.

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