A team of British RSPCA equine inspectors will attend the three-day Grand National meeting this year.
They will be joined at the Aintree course by an RSPCA superintendent, a chief inspector, and the charity’s equine consultant, David Muir, to monitor horse welfare.
Some animal advocates have been scathing of the feature race of the meeting, the Grand National steeplechase, arguing it is too dangerous for horses. In last year’s race, two horses died and just 19 of the 40-strong field finished the course, prompting Animal Aid to liken the race to Spanish bullfighting.
Chief inspector Cathy Hyde, the charity’s national equine co-ordinator, said the RSPCA recently formed its team of equine inspectors to deal with growing numbers of horses being abandoned and neglected.
“We have about 500 horses and ponies in our care, 70 per cent more than this time last year, which cost more than £2.5 million a year to look after,” Hyde said.
The equine inspectors will be at Aintree throughout the three-day meet in the run-up to the Grand National – widely regarded as the world’s most testing jump race.
The move comes after the tragic deaths of five horses at the Cheltenham Festival.
Muir said: “The British Horseracing Authority and Aintree management have agreed to continue to take into account the RSPCA’s concerns and explore the means of further reducing the risk factors to horses.
“Once again I would like to remind jockeys although I am aware of their desire in wanting to win, it must not be at all costs.
“Overly tired horses and those not in contention should be pulled up to ensure their safe return to stables, the paramount factor in racing.”
Muir said that, with relatively few exceptions, he was satisfied jockeys endorsed the new whip rules in the spirit of the changes at the Cheltenham Festival.
He praised stewards for the manner in which the rules were enforced and said he hoped it would continue at Aintree.