Today there was a sweepstake at work for the Grand National horse race tomorrow. It’s a huge event that the whole country, race fans or not, gamblers or not, seems to get involved in.
The Grand National is a steeplechase race held annually at Aintree Racecourse, in the north of England. It’s a three-day event – with the major race taking place on the closing Saturday – where (far too many) horses are made to race around a track, jumping obstacles such as hedge fences and ditches.
When my colleague came around to collect money from those who wanted to participate in the sweepstake, she looked at me and said, “I’m guessing you’re a ‘no’?”Affirmative.
Although it was an in-office sweepstake with no money actually going towards the event, I don’t want anything to do with something I believe is inherently cruel.
I’m not a fan of any form of horse racing as I don’t believe animals are here for our entertainment, but the Grand National is in a league of its own. In flat track racing, the fatality rate of horses is around 0.6 per 1000. For jump races, it’s around 4 in 1000. However, for the Grand National, this increases to 15 in 1000.
Although safety measures have increased in recent years, they are clearly not enough. Here’s some more off-putting statistics:
- In 2012, only 15 out of 40 horses finished the race; 13 horses fell or were pulled down; 2 died
- In the last decade, only 36 per cent of horses have actually been able to finish the race
- Since 2000, 11 horses have died in the main race; 35 have died over the course of the events
One of the most alarming comments I have read in relation to the race came from jockey Kate Walsh, who placed third in the event last year. Earlier this week, she stated the following in defence of the event:
“I hope to God there are no accidents this year, but these things happen, and they are horses at the end of the day … it would be a lot worse if it had been two jockeys who lost their lives. I think everyone should remember that.”
One of Kate’s horses, Battlefront, died yesterday.
He suffered a heart attack during a race and became the first fatality of Aintree 2013. Hopefully but unlikey the last.