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The Dark Side of the Grand National
Posted by on Monday, April 1, 2013
Under: Horse Racing
When I visited the Grand National Festival for the first time in 2011, there were a couple of things that struck me; the first thing was the enormity of the event, the buzz around the grandstands of
and in the city of Liverpool. The second thing that struck me was the animosity outside the course from animal rights protestors, call me naive but coming from not the most avid of race-goers, I simply had no idea how passionately against horseracing these groups were. Of course you see these things on television but to witness such a fervent protest in front of your eyes is something that can’t help but make you think.
Unfortunately the things that those protestors rally about are the very things that make the Grand National such a spectacle, the number of horses in the starting line up and the size of the fences to name a couple. Becher’s Brook and The Chair are the two fences synonymous to the highlight of the jump racing season in what’s known as the World’s Greatest Steeplechase. Last year deaths at the National made the front and back pages, not least that of Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Synchronised, but if you took away certain elements of the race then it simply wouldn’t be the same event.
That said, certain efforts are made every year to ensure that the National becomes safer for the horses and jockeys. Before this year’s event, organisers have urged riders to slow down before major fences in a bid to clear them without danger, safer plastic fences have been manufactured in Ireland which should help to eliminate heavy falls, and the start has been moved by 90ft away from the crowds to stop a number of false starts which have plagued the race in recent years.
There is no doubt that animal rights groups will welcome the changes, and every year they will carry out their protests in an orderly and well-controlled manner, however, if the Grand National continues to make the headlines for the wrong reasons, then there is a huge risk that it won’t be long until more extremist groups take further action to get themselves heard.
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