The Cheltenham Festival and Cheltenham Racecourse: The Issues, Facts and Figures 2023
- Horses have died at the Cheltenham Festival every year since 2000, except for 2001 when the festival was cancelled due to foot and mouth disease.
- Cheltenham Racecourse has been at or near the top of the league of Britain’s most lethal courses since 2000.
- A total of 74 horses have been killed as a result of racing at the Cheltenham Festival since March 2000.
- The Cheltenham Festival holds the record for the largest number of horses killed in a single day’sracing – with six fatalities from racing on 16 March 2006. In all, eleven horses died there over the four-day meeting that year.
- Animal Aid has compiled a list of all the names and details of all horses who have died at the Cheltenham Festival since 2000.
- Animal Aid’s Horseracing Consultant, Dene Stansall, analysed the issues surrounding Cheltenham Racecourse and the Festival, in his report entitled Why more horses die at Cheltenham than at any other British racecourse. The 2014 report highlighted many aspects that resulted in the deaths of horses, including crowded races, extreme race distances, novice horses used in demanding events, stiff (no-give) fences and challenging racing ground. The report was mailed to the British Horseracing Authority, the National Trainers Federation, the Professional Jockeys Association, the Racehorse Owners Association, the Jockey Club and Cheltenham Racecourse. Not one of the associated groups gave a response – and deaths have continued at an alarming rate.
- In 2007, Animal Aid launched Race Horse Deathwatch, the only public record of the names and details of horses who were killed on all British racecourses, compiled by Animal Aid’s meticulous research. www.horsedeathwatch.com
- Since the creation of Race Horse Deathwatch in March 2007, 49 horses have died at the Cheltenham Festival and a further 67 horses have died as a result of racing in other events at the racecourse – bringing the total number of horse deaths since that date to 116 (as at 20 August 2022).
- On 28 January 2017, race horse Many Clouds collapsed and died after winning a gruelling race at Cheltenham. Ten months earlier, Animal Aid had warned the regulator, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), that Many Clouds could collapse with fatal consequences if he continued to race. It had been widely reported that the 2015 Grand National winner suffered physically during his races and needed oxygen to recover. In Animal Aid’s view, the welfare of the horse should have been a priority and he should have been retired. Sadly, he was forced to compete in lucrative and challenging events, and ultimately paid the price with his life.
- In 2018, the BHA announced that it would undertake a review of the deaths at the Festival that year. It took the BHA nine months to produce the report, and many of the recommendations fell well short of what is needed (e.g. reducing the maximum number of horses in a race from 24 to 20 does not go far enough) and, above all, failed to address key issues such as the “win at all costs” mentality of many jockeys at the event, the number of obstacles or the gruelling length of some races. There was no such review announced in 2016 when seven horses died at the annual meeting, or in 2017 when four horses were killed.
Animal Aid is calling for a ban on jump (National Hunt) racing as a consequence of the huge death toll.
- Animal Aid has been at the forefront of exposing, and campaigning against, the racing industry for more than two decades. animalaid.org.uk/Cheltenham
- Animal Aid campaigns to ban the use of the whip in racing for ‘encouragement’ or any similar term, so that it may be carried for safety purposes only. A 2020 Early Day Motion calling for a ban on the whip was supported by 97 MPs.
- In 2021, BBC Panorama used Animal Aid’s undercover footage from a UK abattoir that slaughters horses, in a programme entitled The Dark Side of Horseracing. The programme showed that horses, including horses from the British and Irish racing industries, were being slaughtered for their meat. As a result of the programme, the British Horseracing Authority introduced regulations that makes it compulsory for any horse racing in Britain to be signed out of the food chain. Animal Aid wants the government to go further and to introduce limits on the numbers of horses who can be produced, because this will result in fewer unwanted horses. One of the horses featured in the programme was top race horse Vyta Du Roc, who was killed for his meat. For more information, visit: animalaid.org.uk/horse-slaughter
- Animal Aid’s campaign for the creation of an independent body to be responsible for race horse welfare, led to a Parliamentary debate on race horse welfare in 2018. The debate came about as the result of more than 105,000 compassionate people signing a government petition. It called for the British Horseracing Authority to be stripped of its responsibility for race horse welfare, and instead for that vital job to be awarded to an independent body of professionals who would hold the industry to account over the shocking rate of race horse deaths and injuries. We continue to campaign for this goal.