Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Opinion: The Grand National 2012

Like many fans of National Hunt Racing, I was looking forward to the Grand National from Aintree last Saturday. Beforehand in the parade ring, I was particularly taken with the beautiful Gold Cup winner Synchronised and shocked and saddened at his tragic end and that of the much-loved, home-bred According to Pete.

Experienced horsewoman and commentator, Clare Balding's reported remarks that Synchronised "did not look up for it," and "I don't think he fancies it much," when he was shown the first fence by his jockey after unseating him before the start, were sadly shown to be prescient, as was the view of pundit, John McCririck that racing should review whether horses should be allowed to take part in a race if they get loose and run free beforehand.

Neptune Collange's winning performance was superb, as was that of Katie Walsh in finishing third, but as a racing fan I still find it difficult to get past the question of whether the race is worth the death of even one horse. The race will go ahead next year, but racing needs to consider improvements. In particular, I would like to see the following THREE changes:
  • Horses should be withdrawn from the race if they have unseated their rider or become loose and run free,
  • the number of runners should be reduced to say, thirty, to increase room for safer manoeuvre, and
  • further safety work should be carried out, such as making fences such as Becher's Brook less demanding.
I know risk is implicit in the sport and that both horses and their jockeys are brave and talented athletes, but none of these changes need rob the Grand National of its spectacle or fascination for the sporting public and status as the world's greatest steeple chase.



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