A fifth horse has died from injuries suffered during jumps racing at this week’s Cheltenham Festival in England.
Three horses died in separate races on the first day of the hugely popular jumps meeting. The Govaness, aged 7, died in a fall at the last jump during the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle; Pont Alexandre broke down during the National Hunt Chase for amateur riders; and Rezorbi, a 5-year-old gelding, suffered fatal injuries over a jump in the closing stages of the Close Brothers Novice Handicap Chase.
The second day of racing claimed Irish racehorse No More Heroes. The seven-year-old gelding broke down near the finish of the RSA Chase, in which he was placed fourth.
No More Heroes was taken to a Cheltenham veterinary hospital, but was euthanized that night because of the severity of his tendon-related injury.
The third day of racing saw the loss of Niceonefrankie, who fell heavily at the fourth last fence of the 4.10pm handicap chase.
The fourth and final day of racing today will include the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The festival is known for its big betting, with about £600 million likely to be wagered across its 28 races.
The animal advocacy group, Animal Aid, condemned the latest deaths, saying the number of horses lost at the festival since the year 2000 now stood at 51.
Its racing consultant, Dene Stansall, said horses were being pushed to their absolute physical limits, resulting in fatal injuries.
“Despite all the assurances about horse welfare being of prime concern, Cheltenham remains a graveyard for horses,” Stansall said.
Such racing was barbaric entertainment at its very worst and the deaths should come as a shock to no-one, he said.
The British Horseracing Authority’s chief veterinary officer, Jenny Hay, said after the three deaths on the first day: “We are sad to hear of the fatal injuries received today by The Govaness, Pont Alexandre and Rezorbi.
“Our thoughts are with the owners, trainers and all the staff who have cared for these horses.
“The BHA works closely with Cheltenham, and indeed all British racecourses, to ensure that the highest possible standards of welfare are in place at all fixtures.
“Each of the horses injured today were attended to promptly and received a high standard of professional veterinary care from the team at Cheltenham Racecourse.
“We record and monitor all injuries and fatalities that occur on the racecourse to provide a benchmark from which the industry continually strives to reduce injury rates. Over the last 20 years the equine fatality rate has fallen by a third, and in 2015 was the lowest on record, falling to just 0.18% of runners.”
Hall, commenting further after the loss of Niceonefrankie, said: “We make every effort to ensure the highest standard of welfare for all horses in our sport, and set the highest standards for all licensed participants, including trainers and jockeys and racecourses.
“British racing employs more than 6000 people to provide first class care and attention for all 14,000 horses in training, who enjoy an exceptionally high quality of life.
“We remain committed to ensuring that our sport continues to maintain world-class standards of equine care, and working to continually improve them in order to reduce the inherent risks involved so that racehorses can do what they are bred to do and the sport can continue to be enjoyed by more than six million racegoers each year.
“As is the case with all equine injuries, we’ll work with Cheltenham to assess the incidents that took place this week and see what we can learn from them.”