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Whew! That was a finish.
Not often you see the Grand National won by a short head. Or by a grey - the first one since Nicolaus Silver in the 60s. First National for Paul Nichols, too.

However, there was some truly awful riding by some of the jockeys, though not those who rode the first three. Katie Walsh did a super job on Sea Bass.

Later: The fatalities - Sychronised - that is why you do not have your Gold Cup winner run in the Grand National - inevitably with top weight - a few weeks later. And According to Pete, who was the featured animal in Horse and Hound and who was bred by his owners. Well, it could equally have happened in the stable yard - and often does. These horses are tough, but it's a matter of judgement.

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I *do* wonder if they're breeding them with leg bones that are too fragile these days....

It is certainly true that a lot of US-bred flat horses have been breaking down at a very early age, and that I think the French put their jumpers on the track far too early.

But then you had Red Rum, who was bred to be a sprinter and ran extensively from age 2, and Kauto Star, who has been winning since he was four over jumps in France and has never missed a season through injury. Denman may have retired but he is going team chasing - which is dangerous for horse and rider - to replace the crack steeplechaser Earthmover, who died last year at 23 after team chasing for ten years or so. Today's winner is 11 and hasn't been off the track for any long periods, and was giving the second a stone in handicap weight.

Hell, dressage horses break down regularly, the working life of a competition cutting horse is no greater nowadays than a flat racehorse, and more horses die on the roads or in the paddock...

In the National, the injuries and deaths seem to get worse the easier they make the course. I am beginning to think that it is because the jockeys have less respect for the fences than they used to. Certainly they went a heck of a crack today.

I suppose also that if you make the fences easier, you make the horses faster - so maybe you (theoretically at least) reduce the number of falls but when you do get a fall, it's more likely to lead to a serious injury.

This year the going would have been very firm too, due to the unusually dry weather, hence perhaps a faster race? But you may have a point about the easier it gets, the worse the injuries and fatalities. I wonder if anyone has analysed the statistics?

I'm not sure what the stats are on horses dying during or after races across the country as a whole, and have no idea if the National really is worse or just gets bad press. But if the National wasn't the 'most dangerous' race in the season then another race would be. And the National is a one-off. Was it Desert Orchid that was never entered and it never really harmed his career.

I do think you have a point about 'easier' not necessarily being safer in many things. Horses race and get injured and have to be put down. I'm not belittling the sadness of that occurrance but it's by no means unique to the National. Just heard a headline about the RSPCA wanted the race to be 'looked at'. :(

As far as I am aware, the actual number/percentage of horse deaths on the steeplechase and hurdles tracks remains much the same as it has in the past.

There is also the question of faster ground - the ground was good, which means the race was run faster, but the horses were less tired. The field may have to be reduced again and the rules changed so that horses who throw their riders before the start are withdrawn.

I remember that in the 1960s it was expected that some horses would die in the race, but the worst accidents I've seen have been in flat races. (The horses yesterday did not actually die from their injuries but were put down because it is so difficult to keep a horse alive while a broken leg heals.) I have seen horses actually break their necks jumping fences - though not in the National (you can always tell when they hit the ground dead.) But that - and heart attacks - happen everyday in all the horse sports, and on the road, and in the paddock. And one of the reasons the horses went so fast yesterday was that most of them enjoy racing. When they don't, they just refuse to start, or to jump.

On the other hand, any horse (even one that has won a Gold Cup, though possibly a sub-standard one) with the champion jockey on board (though I believe Ruby Walsh to be a better horseman) can break a leg, as Sychronised did yesterday. Furthermore, it is not surprising that no horse has won both the Gold Cup and the National in one season since the superlative Golden Miller, who may have been better than Arkle...

The RSPCA can keep its collective trap shut.

Edited at 2012-04-15 08:20 am (UTC)

The RSPCA can keep its collective trap shut.

Precisely what I thought when I discovered the form for volunteering at their rescue centres wants you to declare whether you support hunting sports.

It is interesting that I have been involved, moderately, with the cat breeding and showing world (and every cat club has to have a welfare officer and be responsible for rehoming animals of their breed), the dog breeding and showing world, the agility and obedience world, and, to a lesser extent, with the horse world - and in each of those area, while there is vast admiration for the Dogs Trust, Cats Protection, SNIP, Wood Green, Redwings etc, there is little love for the RSPCA.


Now I'm wondering whether the Countryside Alliance has a section on its form asking whether you support the RSPCA.

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