Yet another disaster yesterday at a big horse race. At the U.K.’s infamous Grand National, where the contestants race around a dangerous obstacle course, two of the contestants stumbled, broke their legs, and were put down. One of them was the favorite, Synchronised. The name of the other was According to Pete.
Both horses went down at the sixth fence of the 4½-mile, 30-fence race. Another two horses also fell and were receiving veterinary treatment.
Synchronised threw his rider while jumping a particularly dangerous obstacle, Becher’s Brook, then galloped away, tried to jump another fence and broke his leg. According to Pete was pushed over at Becher’s Brook by another horse on the next circuit.
Including yesterday’s deaths, the toll of horses killed on racecourses this year has already reached 41, according to the British Independent newspaper. In March alone, 23 horses were fatally injured.
Trainer whose horse won says it’s OK for horses to die in races
Julian Thick, the managing director of the Aintree race course, said he was “desperately sad” and that “safety is our first priority. … Since last year’s race [when more horses died in the race], we have made further significant changes to the course and there have been four races run over the course without serious incident since then. After today, we will, as always, be looking at all aspects of this year’s race to see how we can improve safety further.”
In fact, there’s no way of making the Grand National into a “safe” race – any more than you can make rodeos or bullfighting safe. The whole point of it is that it’s dangerous. Even the racing establishment agrees on that.
“[The race] has inherent risks,” admitted Tim Morris of the British Horseracing Authority. “But, working closely with Aintree and other stakeholders, we do all we can to minimize these risks while maintaining the unique character of the race.” And by “unique”, of course, he means dangerous.
The race was won by long-shot Neptune Collonges, whose odds were 33-1. That certainly pleased his trainer, Paul Nicholls.
“When you are in competitive sport,” he told the BBC, “whatever you do, motor racing, hockey there is an element of risk. … We have to live with that and get on with it. We have to grow up, basically. A lot of people have to grow up, and realize that it is life, and get on with it.”
Mr. Nicholls seems to miss the point that if people like him want to risk their lives – on bicycles, skateboards, skis, or any other inanimate object, that’s their business and they’re more than welcome. But we don’t have to “live with” putting the lives of unconsenting animals at risk – indeed in extreme danger. We simply have to put a stop to it.
And it is the likes of Paul Nicholls and the racing establishment who need to grow up and move on to better ways of entertaining each other than injuring helpless animals.