|It was the kind of scene that has happened many times in the past, which was hardly surprising for such a polarising sporting event as the Grand National. Animal rights activists stormed the grounds at Aintree before the steeplechase event. At times they even stuck themselves to obstacles. The start was delayed. There were numerous incidents in the race itself and, unfortunately, one death was not left out. And of course tabloids like the BILD reported on it, while they are otherwise not particularly suspicious of taking on major gallop events.
In England itself, the topic is being dealt with offensively. Here are some details and reactions. British gallop racing must rise to the challenge of those who want the sport to end, according to the chief executive of the Jockey Club. Merseyside Police said 118 people were arrested on Saturday. Orla Coghlan, spokeswoman for animal rights group Animal Rising, warned that the protests were just the "beginning".
Nevin Truesdale, chief executive of the Jockey Club, which owns Aintree, on Sunday praised the actions of police and security staff and called on the sport to respond decisively to Saturday`s events.
"We feel that racing needs to take a lead on this issue because we have such a good story to tell and such a good record in this area in terms of the changes that we have made," Truesdale said.
"I think what happened in Aintree, with the narrative around the protests and the breaches of the law, meant that we had the platform to go out there, almost by right, to state the case and add some of the facts against some of the misinformation that we`re getting from some of these people. As racing people, we`ve done that well, but we need to keep doing it. We should be proud of our love for the thoroughbred and point out that the thoroughbred does not exist without racing.
It goes on to say, "These people have no idea how the horse works, how it is cared for and bred. At the end of the day, there is no Thoroughbred without racing and that impacts on 80,000 jobs and the British economy. I think there are some people who just won`t listen, but we shouldn`t tire of trying to convince them and show them what we do."
Following extensive changes to the Grand National course after the 2012 race, there were no fatalities between 2013 and 2018, but Up For Review in 2019, The Long Mile in 2021 and Eclair Surf and Discorama last year all suffered fatal injuries, while Hill Sixteen 2023 suffered the same fate when he fell at the first fence.
Sandy Thomson, Hill Sixteen`s trainer, said his horse had been "over-excited" during the delay in the race and said the actions of the protesters had contributed to his horse falling for the first time in his career.
This time, 17 horses finished, which is consistent with recent years, with 15 in both 2022 and 2021 and 19 in 2019. Four falls in 2023 also matched the previous three races, although 11 riders without a placing was more than nine last year, four in 2021 and two in 2019.
The biggest difference in 2023 came in the first two fences: Eight horses got no further than the second fence, compared with two, one and two in the previous three races, with the delay in the race possibly affecting the early stages.
World Horse Welfare (WHW), the charity that promotes the responsible use of horses in sport and acts as the BHA`s independent advisor on equine welfare, said that "much more needs to be done" following the three deaths during the three-day meeting at Aintree.
Educate and respond and ensure even better protection, that is the only way racing can respond to what happened at Aintree.
The Racecourse Spy