Animal Aid

Little Brick Falls Victim to Cheltenham's Festival of Death

Posted 14 March 2007

Cheltenham lived up to its reputation yesterday as the Festival of Death when Little Brick broke a shoulder while racing in the William Hill Trophy Handicap Chase on the first day of the four-day meeting. He appeared to be in great pain when destroyed. The event organisers had promised smaller fields, but Little Brick was one of 23 horses in the 3 mile-plus race.

Last year 11 horses died from injuries sustained during the Cheltenham meeting.

French-bred Little Brick was eight years old and had been raced exclusively in France until being bought by British-based Thomas Barr; his new trainer was David Pipe. He was out of action from October 2005 until being entered in a February 2007 chase at Wincanton. There are important questions as to whether Little Brick was dogged by an old injury and whether he was prepared for the rigours of Cheltenham, given that French racecourses are far less taxing than those in Britain. A review of the race shows that he was having special difficulties with ditch-fences and it was one of these obstacles that caused his death.

Cheltenham has consistently shown itself to be Britain's most lethal racecourse for horses, with a death rate twice that of the average National Hunt racecourse. The Festival managers promised major safety improvements for this year's event, but there are still dangerously high numbers of horses entered into many races, and many of the animals are novices and unable to compete safely.

Says Animal Aid Director Andrew Tyler

'Little Brick's death on the first day of the Festival proves that, despite so-called major safety improvements, it remains a lethal event. Horse deaths at Cheltenham are not accidents. They are as routine as they are depressing. Hundreds of horses are raced to death every year in Britain, and Cheltenham has the grim distinction of being the most deadly course of all. We urge the public to stop supporting the Cheltenham Festival of Death with their betting money and their attendance fees.'

Animal Aid staged a demonstration at the racecourse on Tuesday, which included a tombstone with the names of last year's 11 Festival victims.

Notes to editors

  • Around 375 horses are raced to death every year. Animal Aid has produced a report showing that 30% of these deaths occur during or after a race, with the remainder killed due to injuries received in training, or because they are considered to be no longer profitable.
  • Of the approximately 16,000 horses bred by the racing industry each year, only around one third go on to become racers. Many of the 'defective' newborns end up slaughtered for meat, 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 5,000 racers are retired each year, yet very few go on to lead out their lives in a sanctuary or adoptive home. It is clear that the horse racing industry is covering up what happens to its prize assets once they stop making money and are out of the public gaze.
  • Read Animal Aid's report on breeding and slaughter
  • View our powerful 90-second web film on horse racing.

More information

  • For full background and interviews, contact Andrew Tyler on 01732 364546 or Dene Stansall on 01724 278608.
  • ISDN line available for broadcast-quality interviews.
  • Images are available on request.

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