Animal Aid

For the fourth year running, three horses die at the Cheltenham Festival

Posted 19 March 2005
Racing casualty

Racing authority challenged over disputed horse death statistics

For the fourth year in a row, three horses have died at the Cheltenham Racing Festival. The fatalities come as national campaign group, Animal Aid, prepares to publish the results of a major investigation naming the Gloucestershire course as the most deadly in the country.

The group's survey, titled This Unsporting Life, and published Tuesday (March 22), reveals that around 375 horses are raced to death every year in Britain, and that of the 59 courses in the country, the four most lethal are run by racing's own governing body, the Jockey Club (JC). After Cheltenham at the top of the Death League, come Aintree, Warwick and Carlisle. Despite its appalling record, the JC regularly claims that horse welfare is its 'highest priority'.

On Wednesday, Persian Waters collapsed and died shortly after finishing the gruelling three mile Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Chase. The following day, Laska De Thaix was brought down by the fallen horse Sixo, at the 14th fence during the 4.40pm race, and was destroyed having broken a foreleg. The penultimate race of the Festival, the Grand Annual Chase, took the life of a third horse, Great Travel. This six year old gelding, ridden by AP McCoy, was killed in an horrific first fence fall.

Another racing casualty

Animal Aid has issued a public challenge to the Jockey Club, after it disputed the campaign group's findings that are based on a careful study of more than 15,000 pages of race results. The JC insists that its courses are not the worst - citing unpublished data 'proving' that other racecourses are even more dangerous.

What the regulatory body refuses to do is to publish its own clear statistics relating to horse deaths on and off course. Instead, it refers evasively to 'fatalities as a percentage of runners'. It also seems to be seeking to confuse the issue by failing to distinguish between deaths and injuries.

Animal Aid is confident that its statistics are accurate. It challenges the Jockey Club to publish its own data on horse deaths, naming - as Animal Aid has done - the animal victims and specifying which course they died on; or whether they died or were destroyed off course.

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