BHA Chief Julie Harrington Condemns Grand National Protests

British Horseracing Authority [BHA] chief executive Julie Harrington has condemned the actions of protestors who delayed the Grand National and also announced a “painstaking” analysis will take place in a bid to  try and understand what caused three fatalities over the three days of the meeting.

The Sandy Thomson-trained Hill Sixteen suffered a fatal fall at the first fence in the race that was delayed by around 15 minutes after animal activists stormed the track. Two more horses were killed at the meeting.

In a statement released on Sunday, Harrington said, “Our thoughts are with everyone connected to the horses who suffered fatal injuries this week. No one will be more affected by this news than the trainers, owners and stable staff who have provided these horses with first-class care and attention throughout their lives..

“The BHA and Aintree racecourse will now analyse the races in painstaking detail, as is the case every year, to build on our existing data and help us understand what caused these incidents.”

She added, “British racing works tirelessly to improve the sport’s safety record and reduce avoidable risk. Every incident is reviewed by the BHA alongside the racecourse and other bodies. As a sport we have for years shown great determination and commitment to improve welfare standards by taking measured scientific, evidence-based, regulatory and education-based steps.

“It is for this reason that the fatal injury rate in the sport has reduced by over 1/3 in the last 20 years, to 0.2% of runners.”

Merseyside Police said 118 people were arrested during the protests. The response of racegoers at Aintree was also hailed after they played a role in deterring those who protested the race but Thomson blamed the 15-minute delay for driving the ill-fated Hill Sixteen “hyper” before the showpiece event.

Davy Russell, whose Grand National mount Galvin exited the race at the first and later collided with a ladder that had been left on the side of the racetrack by protestors, said that the delay caused by the animal rights activists had a detrimental effect on the horses. 

Speaking on Luck On Sunday, Russell said, “I’m not sure that the people who protested yesterday realised the damage they were doing. The experience they were laying upon the horse was unnecessary, and the experience they were laying on the trainers and the jockeys.”

Commenting on the protests, Harrington said, “We respect the right of anyone to hold views about our sport but we robustly condemn the reckless and potentially harmful actions of a handful of people in disrupting the race at a time when horses were in the parade ring.

“Those involved in British racing are rightly proud of our sport and the role it plays in providing an unparalleled quality of life for horses bred for racing. Love and respect for horses is at the heart of everything we do.

“The Grand National is and always will be an iconic sporting event and the actions of a small number of people will do nothing to diminish its huge and enduring international appeal.”

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