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The Grand National has the reputation for being Britain’s most dangerous horse race. There is this negative stigma with the race where people associate the race with death. However, the race isn’t exactly the same race it was in the past so does it still deserve the negativity it gets each year?
The race has changed so much since it’s first run and even since Grand National Legend Red Rum ran in it. The fences are smaller and safer. Look at these two photos of Beecher’s Brook.
On the left is the 1973 Grand National and on the right is a recent Grand National. Look at the difference in those 2 jumps. Doesn’t the present day photo look safer? Less scary? Less likely to cause an injury?
And why have these made these changes to the fences? To make the race safer. For whatever reason you choose to believe, no one in the racing industry wants horses to die at the racetrack. If you believe that everyone in racing is cold-hearted and don’t care about the needs of the horses, then just think about the amount of money they lose if one of their horses gets put down at the race track. Surely that is incentive for them to push for safer racing.
It’s also important for me to point out that despite animal rights organisations broadcasting how many horses have died in the National since 2000, none of the 40 horses in this years race died. And one source I read said no horses have died in the last 5 Nationals. This would mean that 200 horses have run in the most dangerous race in Britain and all of them survived, not quite the death race the media would lead you to believe.
How many other big races can claim no fatalities in the past 5 years?
I was really impressed this year with the brand new cooling system in place. It looked similar to the systems they used at Rio and I’m sure that the Grand National is the first race in the UK to use this new technology to help cool the horses. This is another example of how British Racing is striving to improve the care and welfare for the horses running in the National.
Other improvements made to improve the race and welfare include; widening of the course, veterinary surgery built on stable yard and mobile x-ray machines.
I also see people calling for there to be stricter entry requirements for horses entering the Grand National so that only horses capable of completing it are entered. This system is already in place. All horses must be 7 or older and must have placed 4th or higher in a similar length steeple chase. Most years over 100 horses are entered into the National. The 40 runners are picked based on their ‘score’. This score is calculated by their form and level of races they have been running in. The horses with the best scores get to run. The horses’ aren’t having accidents because they aren’t experienced and capable of what is being asked. They are having accidents because accidents happen.
When you consider safety and horse welfare, the Grand National is a different race than it was 30-40 years ago. If they continue to make new improvements to the race, and the recovery procedure then I can easily see the Grand National becoming the safest horse race in Britain and paving the way for the rest of the racing industry to follow.