New report exposes racing industry’s ‘dirty secret’

Posted on the 3rd April 2011

Eighty per cent of British racecourses saw at least one horse fatality over the last twelve months.

Cheltenham Racecourse is the most lethal in the country, a new study by Animal Aid reveals. Thirteen of the 162 horses killed on British racecourses during the past 12 months perished at the prestigious Gloucestershire venue, according to the national campaign group’s online database, Race Horse Deathwatch. Aintree Racecourse, home of this week’s Grand National meeting, also proved to be a treacherous venue for thoroughbreds last year. Four horses died on a single day at the 2010 three-day meeting – a death toll unmatched by any of Britain’s 59 other racecourses.

Animal Aid established Race Horse Deathwatch in March 2007 because the racing industry, including its regulatory body – the British Horseracing Authority – refuses to publish up-to-date, meaningful information about racecourse deaths. The racing press seems equally reluctant to make available such information. On 14 March, for example, three horses died at Plumpton racecourse in Sussex. There was a half-page report on the meeting in a leading racing paper the following day – and yet it contained no reference to the three fatalities.

While 14 of the 162 thoroughbred deaths over the past 12 months resulted from heart attacks or haemorrhages, the majority of victims died from broken necks, backs or legs, or from pelvic fractures or tendon injuries. In 75 per cent of cases, those injuries were incurred during races over hurdles and chase fences as opposed to on the Flat.

No fewer than 48 of Britain’s racecourses suffered at least one thoroughbred fatality and nine of them witnessed at least two deaths in a single day.

The real number of deaths on British courses is significantly higher than Animal Aid is able formally to confirm. An authoritative industry source has provided the campaign group, in confidence, with data indicating that our total is nearly 30 per cent short of the true figure.

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

‘As the day of the Grand National approaches – a race associated with equine carnage – Animal Aid’s new investigation shows that deaths on racecourses throughout Britain are commonplace. An uncelebrated venue such as Plumpton saw three horses die on a single afternoon and yet their fate seemed to merit not one sentence in the racing press. There can be only two explanations for this silence. Either the industry does not care about the horses it kills, or it is fearful of the truth getting out. Animal Aid’s Deathwatch is determined to make the truth of so much thoroughbred suffering and death known to the public.’

More information:

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

Notes to Editors:

  • Of the approximately18,000 horses who have been bred annually in recent years by the closely related British and Irish racing industries, only around 40 per cent go on to race. Many of the ‘low quality’ newborns are destroyed, while those who do enter racing suffer a high level of fatal injuries and stress-related illnesses, such as gastric ulcers and bleeding lungs. Around 7,500 thoroughbreds have been leaving British racing each year, yet very few go on to a sanctuary or adoptive home.
  • Since its launch in March 2007, Animal Aid’s Race Horse DeathWatch has named 667 horses who have died on British racecourses.
  • Animal Aid has produced a series of revealing reports over the last seven years exposing the welfare problems associated with Thoroughbred breeding, racing and training and the disposal of commercially ‘unproductive’ horses.
  • View our powerful 90-second web film
  • Visit Race Horse Deathwatch

Racecourse Fatalities

Racecourse Fatalities
Cheltenham 13
Market Rasen 11
Worcester 7
Aintree 6
Newbury 6
Plumpton 6
Ascot 5
Carlisle 5
Hereford 5
Kempton 5
Warwick 5
Wincanton 5
Chepstow 4
Ffos Las 4
Huntingdon 4
Lingfield 4
Newcastle 4
Newton Abbot 4
Southwell 4
Towcester 4
Wolverhampton 4
Exeter 3
Perth 3
Taunton 3
Wetherby 3
Windsor 3
Ayr 2
Cartmel 2
Doncaster 2
Goodwood 2
Haydock 2
Kelso 2
Pontefract 2
Sandown 2
Sedgefield 2
Uttoxeter 2
Bangor 1
Catterick 1
Chester 1
Fakenham 1
Fontwell 1
Hexham 1
Leicester 1
Ludlow 1
Musselburgh 1
Newmarket 1
Redcar 1
Stratford 1

Statistical Breakdown

48 of Britain’s 60 racecourses suffered at least one fatality – see chart above

The two racecourses with the highest number of fatalities:

  • 13 deaths at – Joe Lively / Lethal Glaze / Robo / Acey / Yellow Flag / Mad Jack Duncan / Lotta Presents / One Cool Knight / Kennel Hill / Fairyland / Izita Star / Citizen Vic / Casey Jones
  • 11 deaths at Market Rasen – Marjac / Zarinski / Peter Grimes / Wenger / Diaco / Take The Profit / Reel Missile / Mutual Respect / Special Envoy / Kashubian Quest / Foxy Gale

Daily meetings with multiple deaths:

Number of deaths Meeting name and date Names of horses who died
4 Aintree 9 April 2010 Prudent Honour / Plaisir D’Estruval / Schindlers Hunt / Baba O’Curragh
3 Plumpton 14 March 2011 Two Cloudy / Blazing Empress / Chocolat
2 Newbury* 5 March 2011 Eric’s Charm / Karky Schultz
2 Carlisle 21 February 2011 Star Player / Political Pendant
2 Chepstow 8 January 2011 Karanga / Flighty Francis
2 Cheltenham 1 January 2011 Joe Lively / Lethal Glaze
2 Market Rasen 7 November 2010 Wenger / Diaco
2 Cheltenham 16 October 2010 Acey / Yellow Flag
2 Huntingdon 12 October 2010 Lying Eyes / Pinerock
2 Market Rasen 17 July 2010 Mutual Respect / Special Envoy
2 Worcester 23 June 2010 Huguenot / The Real Deal
2 Cheltenham 5 May 2010 Lotta Presents / One Cool Knight
2 Cheltenham 19 March 2010 Fairyland / Izita Star

*This does not include the two horses Fenix Two and Marching Song electrocuted at Newbury 12 February 2011

Numbers of horses killed by race type

All racing disciplines had fatalities: All Weather (AW), Turf Flat and National Hunt (jumping – chasers and hurdlers)

  • 42 Chasers
  • 33 Hurdlers
  • 28 Novice Hurdlers
  • 20 Novice Chasers
  • 20 Flat Turf
  • 11 Flat All-Weather
  • 8 National Hunt Flat (aligned with jump racing)

Total Jump racing fatalities: 121 (75% of total)
Total Flat racing fatalities: 41 (25% of total)

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