Last Saturday’s Grand National was one of those rare watershed moments. The deaths of racehorses Ornais and Dooney’s Gate, as well as the serious injuries sustained by jockey Peter Toole, sent shockwaves around the country. The response from the general public and in the media has been quite simply phenomenal.
All the major papers, including The Guardian, The Daily Mail, The Independent, The Daily Express, The Daily Mirror and The Times have ran with stories questioning whether the race should be allowed to continue in its current form, and the League’s phones have hardly stopped ringing all week with journalists and members of the public requesting interviews, information and advice.
The case for reform of the Grand National, and of steeple chasing more generally, is becoming increasingly unanswerable. The statistics speak for themselves: out of every one thousand horses which start a steeple chase, six will die. This is the equivalent of someone who drives a car every day having a fatal car crash every six months.
So what does the future hold for the Grand National? The League is calling for swift and decisive action: the height of the jumps must be lowered, the length of the race must be shortened and the number of participants must be decreased.
The groundswell of opposition to this race is becoming bigger with each passing year. Indeed, opinion polling shows that 65% of people in the UK think the course should be changed to lessen the risks. When punters and sponsors begin to vote with their wallets, race organisers will have no choice but to reform this most deadly of races.