Pressure Builds on Cheltenham and the British Horseracing Authority to Suspend Racing as Three Horses Killed


On the last day of the Cheltenham Festival, two more horses lost their lives, one of whom died in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

In the first race of the day, Sir Erec, a 4-year-old colt, who was hot favorite to win the Triumph Hurdle was killed. There had been rumors before the race that the horse had had a set-back last week. Minutes before the start of the race he had to be re-shod on his off-foreleg. That leg was seen to shatter just minutes into the race.

Later during the afternoon, eight-year-old gelding Invitation Only was killed in the Gold Cup when falling at a notorious downhill fence.

The negative publicity surrounding the Festival Meeting is growing ever stronger. The mainstream media had already publicized calls to stop racing at the Gloucestershire course after the death of Irish race horse Ballyward on the first day of the 2019 event.

This Animal Aid initiative is now a key focus as the only option to stem the tide of deaths at the notorious racecourse. Animal Aid’s Horse Racing Consultant, Dene Stansall, said, “Animal Aid demands an end to all future racing at Cheltenham, and calls for the British Horseracing Authority to be removed as the welfare regulator of race horses as a third horse is killed at the Festival Meeting.”

A race horse seen between races at the Cheltenham racetrack. Image credit DP-J, CC BY-SA 3.0.

The names and details of all horses killed at Cheltenham since 2007 can be viewed can be on Animal Aid’s website Race Horse Deathwatch. 

Ballyward, who was killed on the first day of the 2019 Festival, was a seven-year-old gelding who was competing in the notorious National Hunt Chase – a demanding 4-mile race for novice horses and amateur riders – when he fell with fatal consequences. This particular race has, historically, been a death trap for horses and little has been done to improve its abysmal safety record.

Welfare concerns for race horses around the world are growing, with public outrage against the racing industry. Two weeks ago in the United States, top racecourse Santa Anita suspended racing after a succession of deaths at the track, though they controversially now plan to resume races on March 29th.

In October 2018, a debate took place in the United Kingdom Parliament after 105,000 people in the UK signed a government petition to remove the British Horseracing Authority from their welfare role and replace them with a truly independent body who would have horse welfare as their only remit.

Featured image: horses racing at Cheltenham racecourse. Image credit Charles Dyer, CC BY-SA 3.0.

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Animal Aid was founded in January 1977 to work, by all peaceful means, for an end to animal cruelty. Our vision is a world in which animals are no longer harmed and exploited for human gain, but allowed to live out their lives in peace. We work hard to bring an end to practices that involve animal abuse and exploitation, but we also take a pragmatic approach and call for measures such as CCTV in slaughterhouses, that will help to reduce suffering in the meantime. Click to see author's profile.

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