Briefing: Grand National still more than five times more lethal than other steeplechases
We are fast approaching what is probably the world’s most notorious race – the Grand National – which is staged every April at Aintree Racecourse.
We are fast approaching what is probably the world’s most notorious race – the Grand National – which is staged every April at Aintree Racecourse. It comprises a dangerously overcrowded field of 40 horses, forced to confront 30 extraordinarily challenging jumps, over a course of almost four-and-a-half miles, invariably amid scenes of chaos and multiple falls. Only around 39 per cent have finished the race in the last 10 years.
- The Grand National is still, on average, over five times more lethal than other steeplechases.1
- Since 2000, 42 horses have perished taking part in the three-day event – 11 in the Grand National race itself.
- Over the past 50 years, 35 horses are known to have lost their lives in the main Grand National race.
- Eight horses were killed (2 per cent) in the main race in the last 10 years (2006-2015).
- While there were no deaths in the main race itself in 2015, two horses died in other races at the three-day event.
- In the 2011 Grand National, shocked viewers watched Ornais fall at the fourth fence, breaking his neck. His tarpaulin-covered body was described as ‘an obstacle on the course’.
- The 2011 Grand National winner, Ballabriggs, was thrashed at the end of a race and left so exhausted, he needed oxygen.
- In the 2012 Grand National, the favourite, Synchronised, and outsider, According To Pete, were both killed.
- The extreme distance – nearly four-and-a-half miles – makes it the longest race in world Thoroughbred National Hunt (jump) racing.
- There are a greater number of fences on the Grand National course in relation to the race distance than on any other British NH racecourse.
- In 2012, changes were made to the core of the fences. Despite those highly-publicised alterations, four horses have died on the course in 15 races since their implementation: Battlefront on 4 April 2013; Little Josh on 5 April 2013; Plein Pouvoir on 7 December 2013; and Balbriggan on 6 December 2014.
- Since 2000 there has been a set field of 40 horses*. This makes the race much more dangerous than in former years when the mean field size, between 1839 and 2000, was 29. (*since 2000 two races had 39 horses take part due to last-minute non-runners)
In short, it is reckless and selfish to require horses to run the Grand National course, whether in the big race or in other lesser events. It remains what it has always been: a grotesque spectacle in which horses’ lives are put at risk.
Notes to Editors:
- Read our detailed Grand National Briefing Sheet
- Animal Aid’s Sanctuary not Cruelty campaign encourages people to donate to a sanctuary caring for horses, rather than to have a bet on the Grand National.
- Additionally, on 9 April, there will be protests outside Aintree Racecourse in Merseyside and at the offices of the Grand National broadcaster, Channel 4, in London.
- Watch our film about Hillside Sanctuary, which rescues horses, including ex-race horses
1. According to the BHA, ‘Jump racing accounts for just over 4 fatalities of every thousand runners.’ This equates to 0.4%. (http://www.britishhorseracing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Equine-Injuries-and-Fatalities-03-02-16.pdf). For the last 999 runners (from 1989 to 2015) in the Grand National, there were 22 deaths (which equates to 2.2%). Therefore, the Grand National is over five times more deadly than other jumps races.