Three horse deaths spark course criticism

June 16, 2011

Three horses died at Britain's Sedgefield racecourse on Monday after falls in two jumps races, prompting a call to close the course.

In the Handicap Chase, eight-year-old Best Horse and 10-year-old Troodos Jet both fell at the fifth fence and broke their necks within seconds of each other. Troodos Jet was carring 70.3kg and Best Horse 73.5kg. Two other horses were also pulled up, leaving six finishers.

Half an hour later, in the handicap hurdle, Provost, the heaviest weighted in the race at 75.3kg, fell and was fatally injured. Three horses were pulled up, also leaving six finishers in the race.

Animal welfare advocate Animal Aid said the three brought the total to six horses who had been killed in the recent weeks at the course in County Durham. It said 33 horses had perished at the course since March 2007, when it established Race Horse Deathwatch, an online database of equine fatalities on Britain's 60 racecourses. There have also been 33 deaths at Cheltenham Racecourse in that time.

"Sedgefield's record of race horse deaths is second to none," said Animal Aid Horse Racing Consultant Dene Stansall.

"Neither the racecourse, its owners Northern Racing, nor the welfare regulator, the British Horseracing Authority, seem willing or able to deal with what is a major welfare problem. There should be no second chances with this racecourse. There is only one logical course of action to stop further horse deaths, and that is to shut the place down."

A British Horseracing Authority report into 12 fatalities at Sedgefield between March 2007 and the end of March 2008 concluded that there "is no common theme to the 12 equine deaths and that the course is not unsafe for racing to continue". The review covered maintenance of the course, the career profiles of the horses, the ground conditions and the location of the injuries.

The report said:

Animal Aid's Deathwatch website reveals that 706 horses have been killed on British racecourses in just over four years. However, an "authoritative industry source" has supplied Animal Aid with data indicating that the Deathwatch total is nearly 30 per cent short of the true figure, it said.