Trainer blames protestors for horse's Grand National death as 118 activists bailed by police

17 April 2023, 06:56

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has said it will investigate the deaths of three horses at the Grand National meeting "in painstaking detail", as it condemned protesters who disrupted the event.
The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has said it will investigate the deaths of three horses at the Grand National meeting "in painstaking detail", as it condemned protesters who disrupted the event. Picture: Alamy

By Danielle DeWolfe

The trainer of a horse who died after suffering a fatal fall at Saturday's Grand National has blamed "ignorant" protesters for the death of the prized animal.

The pinnacle of the horse racing calendar, the Aintree race had been delayed by almost 15 minutes after protesters attempted to enter the racecourse using ladders and attach themselves to the jumps.

118 protestors who were detained by police at the racecourse and nearby M57 protests have since been bailed.

Hill Sixteen, who was trained by Sandy Thomson, fell at the first fence after a delay which led to a number of the horses becoming frightened and "hyper".

Following the fall, the horse suffered a broken neck and was put down as a result.

Police detained a total of 118 people at the two protests in Aintree, with protesters blocking both stretches of the M57 motorway
Police detained a total of 118 people at the two protests in Aintree, with protesters blocking both stretches of the M57 motorway. Picture: LBC / Alamy

The Scottish trainer described the horse as "hyper" due to the protests and blamed the activists for the fall, saying even bathing the horse in water failed to calm him.

"He just hasn't taken off at the first fence; he's got so bloody hyper because of the carry on," Thomson told the Racing Post.

"Unfortunately, it's a statistic we're all trying to avoid... He's jumped round here twice and never had a bother. I don't know when he last fell.

"I know how ignorant these people are and they haven't a bloody clue. They just cause more problems than they ever solve."

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It followed the deaths of Dark Raven after falling in the Mersey Novices' Hurdle earlier on Saturday, and Envoye Special, who died on Thursday after a fall in the Foxhunters' Chase.

BHA CEO Julie Harrington said: "Our thoughts are with everyone connected to the horses who suffered fatal injuries this week.

"No one will be more affected by this news than the trainers, owners and stable staff who have provided these horses with first-class care and attention throughout their lives.

"The BHA and Aintree racecourse will now analyse the races in painstaking detail, as is the case every year, to build on our existing data and help us understand what caused these incidents."

Protesters being detained by police at the race on Saturday
Protesters being detained by police at the race on Saturday. Picture: Alamy

But she condemned protesters who disrupted the race, branding their actions "reckless".

"We respect the right of anyone to hold views about our sport but we robustly condemn the reckless and potentially harmful actions of a handful of people in disrupting the race at a time when horses were in the parade ring.

She added: "Those involved in British racing are rightly proud of our sport and the role it plays in providing an unparalleled quality of life for horses bred for racing. Love and respect for horses is at the heart of everything we do."

It comes as 42 animal rights activists were de-arrested the day after a large group of protesters attempted to enter to the track at Aintree, delaying the race by 12 minutes, campaigner group Animal Rising said.

Police officers respond to Animal Rising activists attempting to invade the race course ahead of the Randox Grand National Handicap Chase
Police officers respond to Animal Rising activists attempting to invade the race course ahead of the Randox Grand National Handicap Chase. Picture: Alamy

Merseyside police said 118 people had been arrested on Saturday on suspicion of offences which included conspiracy to cause public nuisance, obstructing highways and possession of controlled drugs, after protesters scaled fences and at least two people attached themselves to a jump with glue and lock-on devices.

Others glued themselves to the M57 motorway, causing traffic delays.

The people arrested were men and women aged between the ages of 18 and 66, and came from as far as Kent, Southampton, London, Essex, Swansea, Falkirk and Glasgow, police said.

65 of those arrested were taken into custody and are being processed and will be bailed pending further enquiries, the force said earlier on Saturday.

Assistant Chief Constable Paul White said: "As you can understand, the safety and wellbeing of everyone is of paramount concern when dealing with large-scale public events such as this, and this includes those who are protesting."

Riders compete during the Randox Grand National Handicap Chase
Riders compete during the Randox Grand National Handicap Chase. Picture: Alamy

ACC White said though the force respects the right to a peaceful protest and expression of views, "criminal behaviour and disorder will not be tolerated".

Animal Rising spokesperson Nathan McGovern said the protests had been staged to "prevent harm from coming to horses", adding that Hill Sixteen would not have died "if the race had not been run".

"Supporters of Animal Rising do not take the risk of arrest lightly, but taking action to protect animals and nature is more important than upholding business as usual," Mr McGovern said.

"This is just the start of many peaceful actions to really create a national conversation about our fractured connection with animals and our natural world this summer, whether they result in arrests or not."

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