By Madeleine Ross
Three horses have died during the Grand National festival this year, sparking fury from animal rights campaign groups including Animal Rising.
Hill Sixteen died after breaking his neck in a fall at the first fence during the main steeplechase on Saturday afternoon. Tarpaulins were immediately brought on to the course to offer privacy to the horse and rider.
The ten-year-old horse had completed the course twice before and started the race with odds of 66-1.
The death comes after Dark Raven was put down following the third race on Saturday having suffered life-threatening injuries in a fall, becoming the second horse this year to die at Aintree after Envoye Special in the Foxhunters’ Chase on Thursday.
Protesters sparked anger at the event on Saturday afternoon by storming the course just minutes before the race was due to begin, prompting police to intervene and arrest several intruders.
Corach Rambler, ridden by Derek Fox, stormed to the front of the pack at the final hurdle to take the victory this afternoon.
Hill Sixteen became the third horse to die during this year’s Grand National after a fall early in the main race
The horse pictured before the race. Animal rights activists stormed the course at Aintree before the start of the main steeplechase on Saturday afternoon
Animal rights groups were quick to condemn what they see as the poor treatment of the horses involved in the festival after the deaths.
Animal Aid’s horse racing consultant Dene Stansall said: ‘Jump racing must be banned to prevent the brutal horrors seen today at Aintree and this week, from happening again. Innocent race horses’ lives takes from them in the name of entertainment and gambling.
‘Aintree, the worst of all racecourses, is a disgrace and the Jockey Club and British racing should hang their heads in utter shame at what we have seen over the past three days.’
In a statement, Aintree Racecourse said their ‘heartfelt condolences’ were with the connections of Hill Sixteen.
Dickon White, who runs Aintree Racecourse as North-West Regional Director for Jockey Club Racecourses, said the horse had been ‘immeditately attended to by expert veterinary professionals’.
White said: ‘Hill Sixteen was immediately attended by expert veterinary professionals during the Grand National, but sadly sustained a fatal injury. Our heartfelt condolences are with his connections.’
‘Recite a Prayer and Cape Gentleman were assessed on course by veterinary teams in race six. Both horses walked onto the horse ambulance for further assessment in the stables. Further updates will be provided in due course.’
Contentious campaign group Animal Rising, who delayed the start of the main steeplechase on Saturday afternoon as protesters tried to glue themselves to fences, said they were ‘heartbroken’ about the death of the six-year-old brown gelding.
Animal Rising said: ‘We are heartbroken to hear that ANOTHER horse has died at the Grand National. Today Dark Raven fell at a hurdle and shortly after was put down.
‘This is the second death of this year’s Grand National after Envoye Special was killed on Thursday.
‘This horrific ‘sport’ continues to take lives right in front of our eyes. It’s time to BAN this horrific industry.’
In another tweet after the conclusion of the main steeplechase on Saturday afternoon, the campaign group shared a video of an injured horse with the words, ‘THIS IS WHAT WE WERE TRYING TO STOP FROM HAPPENING’.
Dark Raven was destroyed following the third race on Saturday after suffering injuries in a horrific fall. Animal Rising said they were ‘heartbroken’
Envoye Special, ridden by James King, clears the Water Jump in the Randox Foxhunters’ Open Hunters’ Steeple Chase on Thursday before a horrific fall
The League Against Cruel Sports also described the death toll at the Grand National Festival as ‘bleak’ following the death of Dark Raven on Saturday (pictured, the fall that injured the horse)
The militant vegan group said more than 49 horses have died in horse racing events in the UK in 2023 and denied that the delay caused by attempted course invaders contributed to the falls during the race.
The League Against Cruel Sports also described the death toll at the Grand National Festival as ‘bleak’ following the deaths.
Emma Judd, head of campaigns and communications at the charity, said: ‘The tragic death of Dark Raven at the Randox Grand National Festival today – the second death in only three days – shows entertainment and gambling taking precedence over animal welfare and the lives of these horses.
The League Against Cruel Sports said there have been 61 horse deaths at Aintree since 2000 – including 15 in the main race
Envoye Special (horse in foreground) became the first fatality at this year’s festival after suffering a fatal fall in the Foxhunters Chase on Thursday
‘It’s time for change and for the introduction of tighter safety measures at Aintree and at racecourses across the UK.’
The League said the death toll at the Aintree Festival was now 62 horses since 2000 – with 16 killed in the Grand National, including two last year.
Ms Judd said: ‘One death is too many but this second death simply adds to the bleak death toll at this so-called festival in the last 23 years.
‘We’re calling for a new independent regulatory body that bans the whip which pushes horses beyond what they can safely do, and has horse welfare as its number one priority.’
Dickon White said: ‘While racing in the third race, Dark Raven was immediately attended by our expert veterinary professionals.
‘After assessment, sadly they concluded the necessary course of action for the horse’s welfare was to put him to sleep. Our sincere sympathies are with his connections.’
The British Horseracing Authority confirmed on Thursday that the nature of Envoye Special’s injury led to the horse being put down.
‘Our thoughts are with everyone connected to Envoye Special,’ a British Horseracing Authority spokesperson said.
‘No one will be more affected by this news than the trainer, owner and stable staff who have provided the horse with first-class care throughout his life.
‘Following his fall he was attended immediately by one of the 13 veterinary surgeons on site, but the nature of the injury meant that, sadly, the horse had to be humanely put down.’
Four horses died during last year’s festival, with Discorama and Eclair Surf put down following injuries in the Grand National.
It was the first time two horses died as a result of injuries in the race since 2012 after which a number of changes to the fences were implemented.
The deaths prompted animal rights campaigners to call for further changes to the headline race.
Published by Associated Newspapers Ltd
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