Animal Aid

Three horses killed on first day of Cheltenham Festival

Posted 13 March 2012

The Cheltenham Festival, which has killed nine horses in the last five years, produced three more fatalities on the opening day of the 2012 event.

The victims were 11-year-old Scotsirish, 13-year-old Garde Champetre and 7-year-old Educated Evans. The first two, were both racing in the gruelling 3-mile 7-furlong cross-country handicap chase. Educated Evans had been entered into the final race of the day – the two-and-a-half mile novice chase.

Scotsirish broke a hind leg at an especially hazardous fence modelled on Aintree's Canal Turn. TV viewers could clearly see the damaged limb swinging ominously after the horse was pulled up. News that he was killed by a vet merited one sentence from the Channel 4 commentary team. Garde Champetre suffered a serious injury in the same race. The online racing press later confirmed that he had been destroyed.

Like Scotsirish, Educated Evans is also reported to have broken a hind leg.

Like the three-day Aintree Grand National meeting, the Cheltenham Festival puts horses under enormous pressure, due to the big, noisy crowds and hyped-up frenetic atmosphere. In addition, many of the races at both meetings feature a large number of horses, making it difficult for them to judge their jumps. The event in which Educated Evans died had 19 other thoroughbreds entered. Scotsirish and Garde Champetre were among 16 horses racing in the 4pm chase, which appeared to have been completed in record time.

Says Animal Aid Horse Racing Consultant, Dene Stansall:

‘What kind of so-called sporting event is it that kills three horses in a single day, and yet those involved pretend either that it didn’t happen or that the deaths are of no consequence. This is an industry that doesn’t stop insisting on how much it cherishes the horses upon which all its glory and riches depend. What we have seen today, in response to the tragedy of these deaths, is rank hypocrisy and callousness.

‘The race in which Scotsirish and Garde Champetre were killed should never have taken place, given that it was run on dangerously firm ground. The layout of the cross-country course does not allow the operators to soften the going by watering what was officially termed “good to firm” ground. Rather than take the precautionary step of calling off the race, officials risked the lives of the horses, and two paid the ultimate price. Novice horse Educated Evans was unable to survive in an extremely crowded race that tested his ability to breaking point.’

More horses have been killed at Cheltenham Racecourse than at any other in the country over the past five years. Animal Aid protestors will be at Cheltenham Racecourse tomorrow (Wednesday 14 March) to remind race-goers of the heavy price paid by horses at this notorious event.

More information

  • Harry Handsome was also killed today, at Sedgefield Racecourse. He was also just seven years old.
  • For interviews: contact Andrew Tyler or Dene Stansall on 07132 364546
  • For more information on horse deaths, visit Race Horse Death Watch.

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