Grand National to lower 2 of its iconic fences

The famous Aintree racecourse will have the height of two of its iconic hurdles lowered after the death of two runners in this year’s Grand National.

The deaths of Dooneys Gate and Ornais at the fourth jump and Becher’s Brook hurdle respectively led to the track’s first changes since ditches were filled in back in 1989.

A reduction of between almost 13cm to the drop on the landing of Becher’s Brook is among the alterations.

The fourth jump has also been reduced to 1.47 metres in a bid to reduce risk following a review of the race and the incidents by authorities.

Four horses died at the three-day meeting in 2010 and five died the year before.

Since 2000, 33 horses have died at the spring festival, prompting regular protests from animal welfare groups.

Television viewers could clearly see Dooneys Gate and Ornais lying prone as horses galloped around the circuit during the second lap of the event this year.

“It is not possible to completely eliminate risk in horse racing,” Aintree managing director Julian Thick said.

“However, I am confident the course changes we are announcing will, over time, have a positive impact.”

“Raising the landing zone at Becher’s Brook is undoubtedly a positive step forward,” RSPCA equine consultant David Muir said.

“However the RSPCA remains concerned about drop fences.”

Donald McCain, trainer of this year’s winner Ballabriggs and whose father Ginger is a four-time winner thanks largely to Red Rum, gave a guarded welcome to the plans.

“I have no problem with Aintree trying to make the race safer but I just wish we could see that the National is one of the best races on the planet,” McCain said.

“It is a shame that the opinions of people who have no experience of livestock or are once-a-year racing viewers are able to have so much influence.”

by Buford Balony

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