Grand National faces questions over safety after another two horses die

OFFICIAL investigations into the deaths of two horses during the weekend’s Grand National are “reasonably advanced”, according to the British Horseracing Authority (BHA).

The Scottish Society for the Protection of Animals (SSPCA) is among the animal protection organisations which have been consulted following the tragedy on Saturday, where several of jockeys were injured.

However, other animal welfare groups have questioned the safety of the race after Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Synchronised and National favourite fell jumping the iconic Becher’s Brook fence on the first circuit and then negotiated several more fences before suffering a broken leg. The second horse to lose its life at the John Smith’s Grand National was According To Pete, which was brought down at Becher’s second time round and also had to be put down by veterinary staff.

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The RSPCA, which operates south of the Border, has called for a further review of Grand National conditions.

“We’re very concerned and we never try to justify the death of a horse,” said the organisation’s equine consultant David Muir. “There is an impetus for change, which started last year and included changes to whip use, and now the impetus has to be taken on board by the BHA and Aintree to look at all the elements.”

This year’s National was the first to be run since an extensive safety review was carried out into various elements of the race in the wake of another two equine deaths last year, leading to a number of changes to fences and race conditions.

“At this stage, we believe it would be premature to suggest that modifications to the course and other changes have not been effective or will not yet prove to be effective,” said BHA chief executive Paul Bittar.

Since the review and the implementation of changes, four races have been held over the course without incident prior to Saturday’s Grand National.

“We will be collating all the relevant information and data from this year’s Grand National meeting so that it can be reviewed in conjunction with the statistics and findings of the review.”

He added: “We are reasonably advanced in the process of examining the incidents which led to Synchronised and According To Pete being put down.”

SSPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn said it had last year been asked to provide a submission to the BHA following the Grand National and had recommended that the number of runners was reduced.

“As the Scottish SPCA operates in Scotland it would be inappropriate for us to make comment on an incident that has occurred in England,” he said.

“We have already had initial discussions with the British Horseracing Authority following Saturday’s race and we will participate in any review if requested.”