Animal Aid

Our Conor dies on the first day of Cheltenham Festival

Posted 11 March 2014

Cheltenham Racecourse, which Animal Aid’s Race Horse Deathwatch has identified as the most lethal in the country, saw another fatality today (11 March 2014) in the fourth race of the 2014 Cheltenham Festival.

Our Conor, a five-year-old who was sold for €1m in 2013, took a crunching fall and slammed into the ground at the third hurdle of the main event of the day – the 15.20 Champion Hurdle race. He had been ridden at a furious pace, contesting the lead with Captain Cee Bee when he came to grief. In fact, it is reported that the race was run in a record fast time.

Screens were put up around Our Conor as he lay prone. He was treated by vets, who reportedly administered painkillers, before it was announced on Channel 4 that he had been destroyed. During the race, the commentary team acknowledged briefly that Our Conor had been seriously injured, but they did not let the news interfere with their ebullient, excitable celebrations on behalf of the winner and his ‘connections’. And, at the end of the day’s broadcast, one of Channel 4’s race-day pundits said it was a ‘brilliant first day’ that ‘lived up to all expectations’.

Animal Aid’s new report, Why more horses die at Cheltenham than at any other racecourse, notes that, before today, 48 horses had lost their lives racing at the Gloucestershire venue since the national campaign group’s online database, Deathwatch, was launched in March 2007. Fifteen of those fatalities have occurred at the Festival. Deathwatch itself was started after a record 11 horses perished at the 2006 Cheltenham Festival.

Says Dene Stansall, Animal Aid’s Horseracing Consultant

‘The 2014 Cheltenham Festival had barely got underway when it had killed one of the most highly-rated horses in the country. It will be an outrage if the racing authorities declare once again that this tragedy was “an accident” and “could not have been foreseen or avoided”. Animal Aid’s new report sets out in clear terms some of the reasons why Cheltenham is such a prolific killer of horses. It is now time for decisive action and not more complacency and cynicism.’

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