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RSPCA urge National scrutinity

Sat, 14 April 2012

Officials at Aintree and the British Horseracing Authority have been urged by the RSPCA to look at all elements of the Grand National in the wake of the deaths of Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Synchronised and According To Pete during the race.

Synchronised, trained by Jonjo O'Neill and ridden by Tony McCoy, had got loose before the start and fell at Becher's, the sixth fence, before running on riderless. The Malcolm Jefferson-trained According To Pete was brought down at Becher's on the second circuit. The horses suffered leg fractures.

"There are many elements to the Grand National and I believe we need to look at them all to see which ones need addressing. We need to consider the number of runners, the number of fences, the length of the race and the type and design of the jumps," said RSPCA equine consultant David Muir.

"I am not happy about drop fences and Becher's is a drop fence. Before the race I said let's see how horses cope (with modifications made since last year) and it appears they still had difficulties coping with that fence, but it is a work in progress.

"I've been accused of encouraging the fences to be made easier which results in horses going faster, but if you look at the standard times you will find that is not true.

"Regarding the number of runners, if the race was cut to 20 and there was one death, rather than 40 with two, would that be acceptable? I didn't see a lot of jostling, bumping and boring during today's, but I want to look at it again.

"To be fair, the BHA and Aintree management will look into the race and I believe we will see a rolling change without taking away the ethos of the Grand National over the next few years.

"We need to reduce risk levels and see more finishers. We've had three days' racing and one horse that died on the flat and now two in the Grand National. The faller rate is too high and needs to be addressed.

"Is the race cruel? No one put a horse into this race to see it suffer or die for their own gratification. That would be a definition of the word 'cruel'.

"We're very concerned and we never try to justify the death of a horse. We've said it before, the death of a horse is the unacceptable face of horse racing. There is an impetus for change, which started last year and included changes to whip use, and now the impetus has to be taken on board by the BHA and Aintree to look at all the elements."